Gender Performance in the Little Mermaid

“Part of Your (Patriarchal) World”: Gender Performance in Disney’s The Little Mermaid

By: Michelle Cho

This photo essay delves into The Little Mermaid by contrasting the beneficence of protagonist Ariel and the malevolence of villainess Ursula, along with looking at the heterosexual systems of power that alienate a possibly queer Ursula and propagate a heterosexual Ariel to the status of being a royal princess.

Click on the photos to read the analysis.

Works Cited:

Bell, Elizabeth, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells. “Where Do the Mermaids Stand?” From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1995.

Butler, Judith. “Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions.” Gender Trouble.New York: Routledge, 1999. 128-41.

Giroux, Henry A. “Animating Youth: The Disneyfication of Children’s Culture.” Socialist Review 24.3 (1995): 23-55.

Lacroix, Celeste. “Images of Animated Others: The Orientalization of Disney’s Cartoon Heroines From The Little Mermaid to The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Popular Communication 2.4 (2004): 213-29.

Martin, Karen, and Emily, Kazyak. “Hetero-Romantic Love and Heterosexiness in Children’s G-Rated Films.” Gender & Society 23.3 (2009): 315-36.

McNeal, Keith E. “Behind the Make-Up: Gender Ambivalence and the Double-Bind of Gay Selfhood in Drag Performance.” Ethos 27.3 (1999): 344-78.

Moi, Toril. What Is a Woman?: And Other Essays. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999. 72-83, 93-99.

Pinsky, Mark I. “The Little Mermaid (1989): Upward Mobility.” The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2004.

Taylor, Verta, and Leila J. Rupp. “When the Girls Are Men: Negotiating Gender and Sexual Dynamics in a Study of Drag Queens.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 30.4 (2005): 2115-139.

The Little Mermaid. Ron Clements and John Musker. Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc, 1989.

Wohlwend, Karen E. “Damsels in Discourse: Girls Consuming and Producing Identity Texts Through Disney Princess Play.” Reading Research Quarterly44.1 (2009): 57-83.

Young, Iris Marion. “Lived Body vs Gender: Reflections on Social Structure and Subjectivity.” Ratio 15.4 (2002): 410-28.


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