A common complaint against Ariel is how she changes herself of gives up her fins, family and world for a guy. This doesn't bother me too much since the film establishes that she desperately
wanted legs and life on land even before she saw Eric. Just listen to "Part of That World."
That's not the focus of this artikel though. Another common criticism is how losing her voice and trying to woo Eric anyway sends a message to young girls that u don't need to have opinions of a personality to get a man. That all u need is a pretty face.
I have two rebuttals for this argument.
First, one does not need a voice to express opinions of a personality. Talking is nice, but not required
to communicate. In fact, there are three basic forms of communication: verbal, visual, and written. Verbal is most common since most people use it most often, but there is also visual (signs, gestures, facial expressions, and body language) and written (drawing, writing, etc). Ariel loses the ability to verbally communicate when she loses her voice, and likely does not have time to pick up on written communication since she has only three days to woo Eric (though Disney did create a plot hole when she signed Ursula's contract) but she still has full control of her eyes, mouth, face, hands, and body for visual communication.
In fact, during her three voiceless days, Ariel expresses strong opinions and personality traits without uttering a word. We see that she's shy around Eric when she hesitates to come out after being washed and dressed. After Eric compliments her beauty, she nods her head in thanks, tonen that she can be gracious and charming. When she spots the fork, Ariel excitedly smiles and combs her hair. While Eric and Grimsby find this odd, it does toon a personality quirk and interest of hers. When Ariel sees Grimsby's pipe, her face instantly lights up, which he picks up on, as he offers it to her and she eagerly accepts. Ariel again makes a fool of herself door blowing into it and getting sooth all over his face, but this makes Eric laugh for the first time in weeks. This implies that Ariel's personality and actions bring joy to his life he wouldn't otherwise have.
So much for personality, how about opinions? After Grimsby suggests tonen her around, Eric asks if she would like to tour his kingdom tomorrow. (Deferring to her interests.) Ariel excitedly nods yes. The volgende day, Ariel's personality and preferences come out like torrents. She shows that she's curious, adventurous, love to explore, loves to see new things, and loves to go out and do things rather than sitting and watching.
As they drive into town, Ariel isn't content to just look around, she looks under the carriage to see how the wheels and horse hooves work. When they get into town, Ariel takes in all the sights and runs over to everything she wants to explore. She sees a puppet toon and grabs the puppet to see how it works. She sees people dancing and drags Eric so she can dance with them. When they're back in the carriage, she's holding a lot of souvenirs that we can infer Eric bought her because she showed interest in them. When she shows interest in the reigns, Eric hands them to her and Ariel eagerly grabs them and drives the carriage. Even though she doesn't speak, Ariel expresses strong opinions, preferences, and personality traits that she would not have been able to toon had just sat there looking pretty, passively nodding and going along with everything Eric wanted to do. (*cough*like in the original story*cough*)
The attitude that losing her voice means Ariel loses the ability to express any opinions of personality traits is the attitude that only opinions and personality traits spoken out loud (saying "I like this" of "I think that") are the only ones worth expressing. That if she doesn't speak it out loud, it doesn't exist. This is called Phonocentrism (the attitude that spoken language is superior to visual of written language), which is an attitude that plagues most real deaf and mute people to this day. Are women who are unable to talk also without any personality of worthiness of love?
As Cory Gross notes in his blog Feminist Critique and the Disney Princess: "It is at the very least degrading to Ariel as a character, if not to women and the physically of developmentally challenged in general, to suggest that all they offer is a 'pretty face' in lieu of a personality, independent will and good character." (Found here: link
So much for phonocentrism among general audiences. My seconde rebuttal tackles phonocentrism within the film itself. Despite the common argument that Eric only falls for Ariel because of her pretty face, I argue that he only--or at least mainly--falls for her voice.
After Ariel rescues Eric from drowning and he wakes to find her fawning over him, the only thing he seems to get out of the encounter is: "She had the most beautiful voice!" While I know he did not get a good look at her, I still find it a bit off that he wakes to a lovely woman with a warm smile, loving eyes and a tender touch, yet her voice is the only thing he seems to care about. In fact, Eric still pines over "that voice" days later when we see him playing the tune on the recorder, desperate to recreate the sound. He even tells his dog point blank: "That voice... I can't get it out of my head!" Really? The voice is what he misses? Not those loving eyes, that warm smile, that gentle touch? All right...
In fact, when he sees Ariel again, he thinks she looks familiar and asks if they've met. When she confirms it, he is very excited to meet her again... until he learns she can't speak, and is visibly disappointed. "Oh, then u couldn't be who I thought." Voice > Girl.
While Eric is indeed charmed door Ariel's personality over their volgende two days together, he is still visibly holding out for the girl with "that voice," and only seems to settle for the real girl right in front of him. Even during the song "Kiss the Girl," moments before the supposed "Kiss of True Love," Eric still seems hesitant to kiss Ariel, like he still has the girl with the voice in the back of his mind even as he leans into the kiss.
I believe this is best highlighted after Grimsby approaches him with what I believe is the most profound moral of the film: "Far better than any dream girl is one of flesh and blood; one warm and caring, and right before your eyes." This is a very sophisticated moral as it encourages people not to hold out for some vague ideal, but to appreciate the very real if flawed people in our lives. However, while Eric thinks about it, throws the flute into the ocean and begins to approach Ariel, the sentiment is undermined as Eric looks like he is clearly settling for less than what he wants, rather than appreciating what he has.
In fact, Grimsby's moral is demolished when Eric hears Ariel's voice down door the strand and immediately rushes to get a better look. Despite supposedly giving up on the voice and realizing his love for the girl, Eric immediately forgets the girl and rushes to the voice as soon as he hears it. Ursula then uses zei voice to hypnotize him. While characters and general audiences alike blame Ursula for bewitching him, I personally feel that the fact that she is able to use the voice to grab his attention and then snare his mind with it (especially just as he is supposedly about to confess his love for the mute Ariel) shows that Eric still loves the voice over the girl.
I feel this is confirmed after Scuttle breaks Ursula's shell. As soon as the spell is lifted and Ariel's voice is returned, what is the first thing Eric says? "You can talk!" That's all he cares about? "You're The One!" Oh, now she's the love of his life. "It was u all the time!" Yes, when she was just a real girl of flesh and blood, warm and caring, and right before his eyes, she was always his seconde choice. Now that she has "that voice"? Suddenly she's all he ever wanted!
If anything, I find Eric's love of her voice meer problematic than his love for the mute girl. Because when u get down to it, a person without a voice is still a person, with a mind, spirit and soul. What's a voice without a person? Just sound in the air.
Admittedly, this is a cynical view on my part. Whether of not u believe Eric loves the voice meer than of instead of the girl, there is no denying that Ariel's voice is still a large factor in his love for her. The argument that Eric only falls for Ariel because of her beauty is not only phonocentric in itself, but untrue because it contradicts the events in the film. While one can argue that Eric at least starts to love Ariel as a person during her mute days, it's not until her voice is restored that he commits to her fully.
Ariel's worth as a person centers heavily around her voice, both from the audience and the film.