‘Little Mermaid’ Changes Iconic Lyrics to Be More “Sensitive”

in Movies, Music

Ariel looks over an unconscious Eric on the beach

Credit: Disney

Disney’s latest live-action remake is just around the corner. In May, audiences will finally get to go under the sea once again with the release of The Little Mermaid (2023).

Just like the 1989 animation, this will tell the tale of Ariel (Halle Bailey) – a mermaid determined to explore the human world, despite being forbidden by her father, King Triton (Javier Bardem). After encountering the human Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King), Ariel plots with the sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) to finally make her dream a reality.

Halle Bailey as Ariel in The Little Mermaid 2023
Credit: Disney

As a remake, fans can expect plenty of callbacks to the original film. That includes the music. While Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda joins the animated movie’s original composer Alan Menken to pen four new songs, the film will also feature re-recordings of “Part of Your World,” “Kiss the Girl,” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls” – but with a twist.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Menken confirmed that he and Miranda have changed some of the original lyrics in a bid to be more “sensitive.”

Ariel stares straight ahead
Credit: Disney

According to Menken, “Kiss the Girl” has undergone revisions to ensure audiences don’t get the wrong idea about Prince Eric’s intentions. “There are some lyric changes in “Kiss the Girl” because people have gotten very sensitive about the idea that [Prince Eric] would, in any way, force himself on [Ariel],” Menken explained.

The original lyrics to “Kiss the Girl” see Sebastian – unheard by Eric – encourage the Prince to kiss Ariel during a romantic boat ride.

Yes, you want her

Look at her, you know you do

Possible she wants you too

There is one way to ask her

It don’t take a word

Not a single word

Go on and kiss the girl 

“Kiss the Girl” isn’t the only song to get a revamp. “Poor Unfortunate Souls” – the song sang by Ursula to Ariel as she agrees to give her legs in exchange for her voice – has also received some amendments.

Ursula looks up at Ariel
Credit: Disney

“We have some revisions in “Poor Unfortunate Souls” regarding lines that might make young girls somehow feel that they shouldn’t speak out of turn,” said Menken, “even though Ursula is clearly manipulating Ariel to give up her voice.”

From Menken’s interview, it’s safe to assume that the lyrics in question are those referring to Ursula’s explanation that men on land don’t like “a lot of blabber.”

The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber

They think a girl who gossips is a bore!

Yet on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word

And after all dear, what is idle babble for?

Come on, they’re not all that impressed with conversation

True gentlemen avoid it when they can

But they dote and swoon and fawn

On a lady who’s withdrawn

It’s she who holds her tongue who gets a man

Fans quickly took to Twitter to share their thoughts on the edits – and they were far from positive.

 

 

 

As Menken says, the lyrics are all part of Ursula’s manipulation. What Ursula says isn’t true – it’s just her way of making Ariel believe that handing over her voice is the best way to get what she wants up on land.

We’re all down for positive changes in Disney’s remakes. However, editing “Poor Unfortunate Souls” ignores the purpose of the song entirely. Turning a villain’s song into an opportunity to empower young girls isn’t just poor timing but, depending on how the new version plays out, poor storytelling. Speak about “unfortunate.”

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