October 19, 2012

What if men sang about longing for life in the larger world the way the Little Mermaid did?



Via Metafilter, where I think people are experiencing this as really sweet, because these are — presumably — fathers and the fathers are warm and fuzzy and must love their daughters. We see the man at the end singing with a little girl. That's why these men know the song, and that's why they work diligently at jobs during the day. And they really are "part of [the daughter's] world," so the longing expressed in the song has nothing to do with leaving this place, which is what the lyrics are talking about: "I wanna be where the people are... When's it my turn? Wouldn't I love, love to explore that world up above?"

That song, as presented in the movie, is a female's longing for a deeply satisfying life achieved by getting out there into the wider world. There's a very similar song in "Beauty and the Beast," another Disney movie of the same period, in which the central female character sets up her narrative arc by singing about her need to get away from all the tedious people in her "provincial town." This is an American pop culture template that applies to women. These cartoon females supposedly inspire the female dream to have it all. The Little Mermaid's song begins with the observation that she pretty much looks like "the girl who has everything." But she wants more, more, more. (Song cue.)

But men? Our culture doesn't want you saying such things anymore. There was a time when Marlon Brando and James Dean were icons, and they seemed to be all about rejection of this humdrum life in your sad little town. But they have been swallowed up into the past. In the American pop culture of today, the admirable man cannot seriously express such longings and expect love and admiration. It can only be a joke, comic dissonance with the reality of the good man's life, scrambling eggs at the kitchen table with his adorable little girl (who is, herself, permitted to internalize the female dream of getting out of this dreary, constricting place to get what she deserves — the bigger, brighter, better life).

67 comments:

John said...

That may be the way they want it. But I have three words to say to that f*ck pop culture. I refuse to be some bumbling beta male they want me to be. I will continue to ride motorcycles, own firearms, tell my children that they are not the center of mine or anyone else's universe but that their time in life will come, and generally dream and do whatever makes me happy within the confines of meeting my responsibilities as an adult.

Tim said...

I don't need any of this. I don't need this stuff, and I don't need *you*. I don't need anything.

Except this ashtray.

And that's the only thing I need is *this*. I don't need this or this. Just this ashtray...

And this paddle game. - The ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need...

And this remote control. - The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all I need...

And these matches. - The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control, and the paddle ball... And this lamp.

The ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, and the lamp, and that's all *I* need. And that's *all* I need too.

I don't need one other thing, not one... I need this. - The paddle game and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches for sure. Well what are you looking at? What do you think I'm some kind of a jerk or something! - And this. That's all I need.

The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, and this magazine, and the chair.

And I don't need one other thing, except my dog.

I don't need my dog.

Tim said...

And Football.

I need my Football.

13-6; 5-2.

Brent said...

Loved it!

As to the cultural implications: blah blah blah blah blah

It's Friday . . . lighten up!

BTW, the black janitor has a voice good enough to compete on Idol or X Factor or the Voice . . .

traditionalguy said...

Dreams are not actually entitlements. Popular culture just pretends that one. The wider world is just a dream or a vision we need while we defer gratification awhile for someone else like a child or a parent.

Since the love of men and fathers are what create families, that is not going to change. Girls and boys will always need their fathers.

Shouting Thomas said...

Yes, feminism was always a lie.

And, it still is.

Leland said...

I actually use "Part of Your World" as the ring tone for my wife calling me. Specifically, this part:

And ready to know what the people know
Ask 'em my questions and get some answers
What's a fire? And why does it
What's the word? Burn


I figure if she's calling, she wants to know what I'm up to, ask her questions and get answers. And I, of course, want her to be part of my world.

As for wanting more, it fits my wife too; and it is why I love her. She knows she wants more, and thats her motivation for working hard. I think that's true of these men too. They want their daughters to have more, and so they work hard. At least, that's a motivation for myself.

I agree Professor, that some seem to reject this notion. We should have what we need and not want more. I disagree with these people and have no interest in their world.

bagoh20 said...

It sounds like nobody wants to stay home with the shorties watching Disney anymore. Maybe our culture only really loves kids when we can use them as political bludgeons.

I blame the education system and the weakening of the American industrial base. In the 50's, the wife kept getting new and exciting appliances, but now all the new technology is mobile. Lets pass a law requiring all new electronic devices to weigh at least 200 lbs. Maybe someone will wanna stay home.

Nathan Alexander said...

The reason girls always want out of their small, humdrum town is hypergamy.

In a small town, there are plenty of average-to-good men, but very few Rich/Powerful men. Money and Power tend to collect in urban centers.

If there is a rich, powerful man in a small town, he is probably old, and certainly already married to an extremely self-protective wife.

For a woman to be able to achieve her success (higher position on the social ladder), she must go somewhere with more people, where there is a better chance for her to "marry well", to find a man more powerful or richer than her current status, and either single or susceptible to being lured out of a marriage.

Or if you deny this Princess fantasy is pervasive, and girls are fully or mostly buying into the self-fulfillment, feminist view, a girl still must desire to leave the small town, because for a woman to achieve a higher social standing through work, it must be in a place with more clerical, administrative, and managerial opportunities. A woman is not very likely to get rich by buying land and building a successful farm or ranch by the sweat of her brow and callouses on her hands.

bagoh20 said...

Women who truly are driven to get out, take risks, get physical, test themselves and drink deep of the physical rather than solely the intellectual world are incredibly sexy. Very rare, intimidating, and wonderful. Yes, they sweat, and that's hot.

Shanna said...

Those Disney movies are based on fairy tales. I read a book that posited that all fairy tales are about the good mother/bad mother relationship and most of them are female centric. The men tend to be more of a means to an end.

I don't think that means men aren't allowed to dream anything. I would say country music has a lot of earnest dreaming, but much of it not focused on getting out of your small town...it's more about how much you love it. So I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for.

This video was adorable though, and the guy pushing the mop was very nice looking.

Shouting Thomas said...

bagoh,

I fashioned my work schedule, when my kids were young, so that I was there as much as possible.

For about 15 years, I limited my ability to achieve my ambitions so that I could be with my kids.

Best time of my life. During the summer, we walked down to the lake to go swimming every day. During the school years, I was there when they came home.

There isn't anything better to do with your life.

Joshua R. Poulson said...

The bottom line people keep missing is that Ariel is a hoarder.

Shouting Thomas said...

And, ladies, if you have your children when you are still in your early 20s (as I did), they leave home when you are still in your early 40s.

Leaving you plenty of time to do the things you want to do, and to prosecute your ambitions.

Hagar said...

What is more parochial than ABC/NBC/CBS?

deborah said...

And yet, Tim sings 'I feel pretty' in the shower.

Jay Vogt said...

Cue Judy Garland singing "Over the Rainbow". Game. Set. Match.

Mitchell said...

In the American pop culture of today, the admirable man cannot seriously express such longings and expect love and admiration.

I must have missed those movies where Marlon Brando and James Dean sang show tunes.

edutcher said...

Brando and Dean were the precursors of the hippy dippy types and, later, the Occupiers, rejecting the all-American way of life.

Rebel Without A Cause became rebel without a clue (think Hatman).

The feminists are the female counterpart.

Jay Vogt said...

Also, Jimmy Stewart's reading of the line, " I'm gonna shake the dust of this crumby little town off my feet and see the world".

Men have have just the right amount of anger to pull this off.

MayBee said...

Aladdin sings of being in a new world because he is together with Jasmine:

I can open your eyes
Take you wonder by wonder
Over, sideways and under
On a magic carpet ride
A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us no
or where to go
Or say we're only dreaming


Aladdin is happy because he gets to show the beautiful Jasmine the world outside her castle. He is a simple man, and what he has to give Jasmine is love.

deborah said...

Correct, ST. I had my two at almost 30 and just past 33. Of course, I wouldn't change that, but if asked, I'd tell anyone to go younger.

I have a friend who had hers, three in a row, by about 22. When they were all in school, she went to college to be a teacher. The 'I want to live before I have children' needs to be seriously re-thought.

Chip Ahoy said...

That's the sweetest thing I've seen all week. I told you about Geraldo's parent's house all feminized. I bet their houses haver girl stuff all over the place.

I can see how having a little girl can do that to you, if you're involved with them. The little girl at the home I bought the steam cleaner from got me in minutes.

She had a toy like a giant flexible air duct out there in the center of their capacious (immaculately clean) living room carpet and being precocious, curious, and coyly shy, climbed into it and her head poked out the other side. I said, "OMG, you turned into a caterpillar!" From then on she crawled along like a caterpillar muttering she was a caterpillar until her mum told her to knock it off and go in the other room.

And that bummed me out.

We could have conversed, steam cleaner purchasing stranger to caterpillar.

But no, it was all business and get out of there, which was fine but we could have played with the kid through that. I bet there are a lot of other silly little girl songs besides that one those dads know too.

Dan in Philly said...

The little mermaid is a terrible role model, terrible. It's got the same basic storyline as "Dirty Dancing."

Young daughter rebels against her father’s quite sensible advice and instruction, choosing to follow her heart. Both secretly see men who are technically committing rape (in DD) or just being creepy (in LM) by seeing minors when they are adults. Through her rash and foolish decisions, she endangers everyone around her, family and friends alike, to the point where they run to their fathers/boyfriends to save the day, which of course the men do rather than let them suffer the consequences of their folly. At the end of the day, despite all proof to the contrary, the fathers of both girls admit they (the dads) were wrong and the girls were right.

There is no logical coherence to either movie, and I fail to see either girl as any kind of a role model for feminism, traditional values, or anything other than irresponsible hedonism, and they still win. Terrible movies.

campy said...

I must have missed those movies where Marlon Brando [...] sang show tunes.

You missed Guys and Dolls? Pity.

SteveR said...

I have three daughters and I've never regretted any sappy, disneyesque, emotional moment. When my oldest daughter was about 5, we were watching the 1995 version of The Little Princess, and at that moment when the girl realized that she was being reunited with her father and everything was going to be good, my daughter was crying and snuggled into my arms. I don't think life gets any better.

bagoh20 said...

"The little mermaid is a terrible role model, terrible. It's got the same basic storyline as "Dirty Dancing."

Maybe the writers were hoping to improve the pool of available young girls looking to piss of dad to the writer's advantage.

Fprawl said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7NyrnmzJzrk

Here she is singing it in 43 different languages, which brings up my question, do translations of Disney Mermaid songs rhyme in foreign languages?
I think Swedish did.

SunnyJ said...

I did like the video. I've seen tough hard core mens-men stop to do the itsy bitsy spider with a 9 mos old, or ask a 3 yr old who her "designer" is, and a crusty 78 yo hired farm hand after a year of hearing a 6yo read "Lilys Purple Plastic Purse" respond to her with "excellent choice" when asking her what screwdriver has the correct end to use.

It's a 2 way street. When confronted by mom, same child smacks her fist into her hand, signals a punch and says "Pow, to the moon Alice..to the moon". When asked to sing for her Gramma, she elects "Your Cheatin Heart" and when bringing a wet and muddy pumpkin in from the field, proudly announces "Isn't it a big Son of a B**ch?"

The goal is the intersection. Where generations and gender meet and learning and relearning happily occur. We just need to trust the process and not over think it.

Tibore said...

I'm not so sure I agree with the notion that men are no longer encouraged to shake off a broader life outside the mundane world. I still see the notion of the "adventure" being posited as a desireable thing. It just tends to take place in less realistic settings now i.e. Frodo's, and in the upcoming movie, Bilbo's adventures in Middle Earth.

Remember, too, there's the semi-satiric "World's Most Interesting Man" character out theretoo, and he's well traveled. The archetype he represents may be tongue-in-cheek, but it's hardly one that's intended to be sneered at or otherwise disrespected.

I don't see the expansion of the representations of male roles in pop culture to be an indication that it's being limited elsewhere. I simply see it as an acknowledgement that there's always been the home life dad who's been the more numerous sort of person in life. The downturn in the adventurous, Leave The Small Town guy being represented in cinema is simply a reflection of what's happening in the real world. I don't see it as a refutation or a push back of the notion.

Tibore said...
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Gordon said...

"Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack. I went out for a drive, and I never went back."

deborah said...

Just watched the vid. Adorable.

Dan, I recall telling my daughter the same thing...she was disrespecting her Dad when she went to the surface :)

deborah said...

"There must be 50 ways to leave your lover."

phx said...
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Tim said...

deborah said...

"And yet, Tim sings 'I feel pretty' in the shower."

Lol. Naw.

Ugly game, but my Niners won.

*They* are sitting pretty, at 5-2 atop the NFC West, with one game in the next 24 days, that against the Cardinals in Arizona.

My Giants?

Ugh.

Scott M said...

In a world where a father who raised a child that wasn't his, get's it proven via paternity testing, and still can't get out of child support payments (because he started paying them before he knew of the fraud), you expect a Little Mermaid analogy to make sense?

Fathers, your run of the mill guys working for a living, raising their children, paying bills, and ensuring the upkeep of house and home, are getting screwed every which way.

furious_a said...

My favorite is 'Mulan', (girl so loves her father that she ends up saving China from the Huns -- true folk tale), whereas hers, at the moment, is 'Ice Age 2'. Sigh.

When she's old enough I hope she'll sit with me and watch 'Whip It', 'The Secret of Roan Innish', and 'Whale Rider'.

phx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott M said...

My favorite is 'Mulan', (girl so loves her father that she ends up saving China from the Huns -- true folk tale), whereas hers, at the moment, is 'Ice Age 2'. Sigh.

Cross-dressing is the ONLY WAY to save China.

I was very satisfied to find that my 3-, 5-, and 8-year-olds all laughed themselves silly at the exact same moment in The Avengers as I did.

Shanna said...

I must have missed those movies where Marlon Brando [...] sang show tunes.
You missed Guys and Dolls? Pity.


Now I'm going to be singing 'Luck be a lady tonight' all afternoon.

I remember my hopes were she'd sit with me and watch 'Bird Man of Alcatraz'. Not a chance.

My dad used to make me watch Top Gun, but only the part with the planes taking off and flying around. Ugh.

prairie wind said...

I've seen tough hard core mens-men stop to do the itsy bitsy spider with a 9 mos old, or ask a 3 yr old who her "designer" is, and a crusty 78 yo hired farm hand after a year of hearing a 6yo read "Lilys Purple Plastic Purse" respond to her with "excellent choice" when asking her what screwdriver has the correct end to use.

It's a 2 way street. When confronted by mom, same child smacks her fist into her hand, signals a punch and says "Pow, to the moon Alice..to the moon". When asked to sing for her Gramma, she elects "Your Cheatin Heart" and when bringing a wet and muddy pumpkin in from the field, proudly announces "Isn't it a big Son of a B**ch?"


This made me teary, SunnyJ. Thanks.

Ann Althouse said...

"Cross-dressing is the ONLY WAY to save China."

What's really promoted in these movies? The Little Mermaid risked everything for a leg-change operation. She hated her "fins." She was a mermaid trapped in a human being's body.

Ann Althouse said...

""Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack. I went out for a drive, and I never went back.""

That was 30 years ago.

nonrandom set said...

Scrambling eggs? The dad and daughter at the end are obviously mixing up pancake/waffle batter, which I think fits the picture your painting better anyway.

campy said...

Now I'm going to be singing 'Luck be a lady tonight' all afternoon.

Sue Me. ;-)

ricpic said...

Can we blame the consuming desire to consume on the culture? That's the conventional wisdom. But my experience has been that there are some people who are driven to have "everything" from a very early age and there are some that aren't so driven. It's inborn.

sleepless nights said...
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sleepless nights said...
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deborah said...

"Find yourself a girl, and settle down
Live a simple life in a quiet town

When you have completed what you thought you had to do
And your blood's depleted to the point of stable glue
Then you'll get along

Well here we go again, you've found yourself a friend that knows you well
But no matter what you do, it always feels as though you tripped and fell"

http://www.youtube.
com/watch?v=Q7aOWIFgIZQ&
feature=related

Dan in Philly said...

ricpic said...
"Can we blame the consuming desire to consume on the culture? That's the conventional wisdom. But my experience has been that there are some people who are driven to have "everything" from a very early age and there are some that aren't so driven. It's inborn."

ricpic, the desire to consume is absolutely driven by the culture. There was once a time when men who abstained from consuming were thought to be quite literally saints, much admired an emulated. If such men walked around today they would be thought strange or insane.

Those who pretend culture doesn't matter are not paying attention. My rant about TLM is a good example of this. A good fun kids movie? Sure. But like all kids stories it teaches a moral, and that moral is exactly what I described - irresponsibly hedonism is rewarded. I am old enough to see some of the young girls who teethed on TLM choose leave their responsibilities and obligations in a pursuit of self-fulfillment.

When the consequences of their own foolishness came home to roost there was usually no white knight, daddy or prince to save them, and they have become part of a lost and sad generation, raising (or all to often having other raise for them) children of their own who hopefully will make wiser decisions. While all of this is not the fault of TLM, the movie reflects and affirms a certain world view which, when embraced, usually leads to tragedy on the part of the ones embracing it and all their loved ones.

Aridog said...

Chip Ahoy ...

We could have conversed, steam cleaner purchasing stranger to caterpillar.

For G-d's sake, Chip...never change, you are rare. Admirably rare.

Last weekend I attended a celebratory dinner with some 30+ other people at one long narrow table. At my end, where I sat 'cuz I was a bit late, was a 4 year old little girl I didn't know.

I'm a grump a lot of the time, but that little 4 year old told me stories and sang little songs of fancy. Her parents, part of the celebratory family, kept trying to shush her, so I, being also a notorious prick, kept encouraging her....until mum and dad gave up and let us have the end of the table for fairy tales and giggles.

I could not have stayed through that evening without little Sophie for company...the various relatives, had me nodding off with the old traffic cop war stories and one guy whose sole combat experience was a video game holding forth on PTSD causes...blah blah Zzzz.

For a brief evening I recalled my own daughter at 4, now 40, when she smiles and giggles simultaneously, even now, for a few moments, she is like Sophie....or Sophie is like her. No matter. Joy is easy to absorb.

SteveOrr said...

Shanna just reminded me of Hal Ketchum: Small Town Saturday Night

furious_a said...

I was very satisfied to find that my 3-, 5-, and 8-year-olds all laughed themselves silly at the exact same moment in The Avengers as I did.

After seeing Thor together, Chris Hemsworth is officially off-limits until she's off to college where I don't have to know about it.

Shanna said...

Shanna just reminded me of Hal Ketchum: Small Town Saturday Night

"Bobby told Lucy the world ain't round, drops off sharp at the edge of town, lucy you know the world must be flat cause when people leave town they never come back."

I know there are more.

Scott M said...

What's really promoted in these movies?

The girl cross-dressing to be a man so she could fight is one thing and trope going back a long way. However, validating the men doing the same thing, ie wearing dresses as the only means left to them to accomplish their mission, was just a cell too far.

Scott M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sydney said...

The beginning of the video says "Becoming a dad changes everything." Maybe those dads are singing that song while they work because they long to escape the drudgery and responsibility of family life.

But, becoming a dad does change everything for a decent and good man. So, I like to think they are singing that song because they long to leave their jobs and go spend time with their family, like the guy at the end. It's not demasculating to love your family. It's manly!

Methadras said...

Jay Vogt said...

Cue Judy Garland singing "Over the Rainbow". Game. Set. Match.


Queens everywhere swoon.

Unknown said...

One thing people tend to miss about Belle's song is that the director and animators are to some extent undercutting her. She's singing about being trapped in her small town while the animation is showing that it (and especially the surrounding countryside) is essentially paradise.

Yes, she is the heroine, but the full implication is that she suffers a bad case of teenage angst.

(In Airel's case, the animation and director are more firmly on her side).

Bernard Brandt said...

With all due respect for the author of this estimable essay, men do not sing of longing for a larger life.

We go out and seek it.

Those who do not are not men. They are either children of whatever age, or geldings.

Now I hope you will pardon me, as I go off to pursue my own dream.

R.C. said...

I have to say, I'm okay with my daughters watching "Beauty and the Beast," but I'm tempted to have them wait until they're adequately cynical to watch "The Little Mermaid"...at which point I'll encourage them to write me a little report about what a useless, entitled, prima-donna, bratty little waste of oxygen* the title character is.

Okay, maybe I won't be that mean. I'm not one for creating boy-in-the-bubble kids. They need something to help them build up an immunity against the Disney toxins.

But, really, you have to admit: What an utterly merit-less character to put in front of kids. Consider her behavior, consider the plot of the movie, objectively, for a moment. If it weren't for the background music and the fact that she's drawn to look pretty (red hair! big eyes! strategic shells!), would anyone make time for the little twit?

* Yes, it'd still be oxygen, even if she grows gills underwater or whatever.

Eric said...

The real problem is these little girls get a sense of entitlement that never goes away. Some significant percentage of them become profoundly unhappy when life doesn't work out like Ariel's.

Maybe that was always true to a certain extent, but I think the percentage is larger.

Micha Elyi said...

Oh, I get it. Althouse is asking what if men had equal rights too!

shoosh said...

Parents buy movies for their daughters and games for their sons.
Duh.

Bill Dalasio said...

" There was a time when Marlon Brando and James Dean were icons, and they seemed to be all about rejection of this humdrum life in your sad little town."

And they were jerk-offs, too. Just like the little mermaid princesses we're producing today. The facts of life are that the universe doesn't owe you a damned thing and it's largely a struggle just to get by, let alone thrive. Those who can get the "more more more" are largely going to be those who come to terms with those facts and find a way to generate value in that context or those who can get someone who has done so give them stuff.

Trashhauler said...

Leland wrote: "I actually use 'Part of Your World' as the ring tone for my wife calling me."

My ring tone is "I'm a Barbie Girl" because my son thought it cute to change it as a joke. But the joke's on him, as I've refused to change it back and he cringes every time he hears it in public.