Thirsty Thursday: Sinking Ships and the Mermaid Myth

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Last week, I talked about how there are two kinds of people in this world; people that leap at new opportunities, and the people that run out of fear of failure. Well, I thought of another dichotomy; people that know the true story of The Little Mermaid, and people that have been fed a bunch of dancing lobster Disney nonsense. If you had fire crotched, impossibly proportioned breaded fish stick, Ariel, thrust upon you as a child, I’m truly sorry, and I hope I can provide you with a chance to make up for lost time. But if you actually sit down with a bucket of Orville Redenbacher seasoned with HC Andersen’s tears and willingly watch that shit? You’re a lost cause and you should probably switch back to your Facebook tab where your profile says you studied potions at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Sorry if this is a little bit of a touchy subject for me. I’ve probably hit an all new level of white girl. But, to be fair, I had a consultation yesterday to get my Danish-made mermaid tat touched up and spiced up, so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about our finned friends, the draw of the nautical world, and the bridge between myth and nature. So let’s dive in! Did I just make a dad pun? Ugh.

I was lucky enough to sprout my tail way back before I ever had beers with the Hans. Despite being gifted a Disney VHS for every holiday as a tot, I had this random anime-looking version of The Little Mermaid from the 70s that’s actually true to the fairy story. Lord knows where it came from. You know how you had those weird maybe possessed toys as a kid that seemed to just sort of appear? It was kind of like that. I’d like to think some kind of spoopy siren forces dropped it into my life. I would literally watch this thing over and over with the same fixation as your cat watching you pee. That shit just spoke to my soul. In the spirit of my soon to be pimped out fish-lady and my dedication to quality investigative journalism, I made a bunch of Cajun food, drank a bunch of red moscato, and sat down with my favorite childhood film for the first time in a decade.

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No VCR? No problem. The whole bootlegged thing is on YouTube, complete with wavering audio volume. God bless. Basically the thing starts and there’s a bunch of real life footage of little Danish kids in bellbottoms running around and eating exotic cheese wedges while some Dick Van Dyke-sounding motherfucker prefaces with the legacy of Andersen’s fairytales. My ugly crying about missing Denmark shifted to chuckles as it cut to the beginning of the actual cartoon and I was reminded of how all the mermaids are topless. This is a film so next level that it was freeing the nipple 40 years before the hashtag campaign. And people wonder why I turned out the way that I did. So yeah, MARINA, which is the protagonist’s real name, not Ariel, raises all kind of hell with her little dolphin friend Fritz. Think Cheech & Chong meets Free Willie. Her dad is like some juichead Poseidon-looking dilf and gets frustrated because she doesn’t act like all of her other rainbow-haired basic Tumblr bitch sisters that talk like Luanne from King of the Hill.

But Marina has this super amazing voice that makes everyone STFU, and likes to perform this super rad haunting melody that becomes a reoccurring score throughout the movie. It hit me that I totally had it stuck in my head when I was meandering all over Copenhagen, but hadn’t really made the connection about where it was from or where I had heard it before. Truly, it’s a great song. None of that “under the see, down where it’s moist” crap. Where else would you be? You’re a lobster. If there’s one thing obsessively watching YMS reviews has taught me, the worst films are the ones that feel the need to repeatedly tell rather than show, and we shouldn’t let children’s films off the hook from receiving that kind of criticism. Kids aren’t dumb, and even if some points go over their head, they’ll probably come to appreciate them when they go on nostalgia trips as an adult (because I know I’m not the only one that does this shit).

So basically Marina is just living her life, swimming around, and for some reason, moans sexually while doing so. But things start to go awry when she sneaks up to the surface one night with Fritz and sees there’s a prince having some type of bourgie boat party. She falls in love with him at first sight, saves him when the boat sinks in a storm, and gives up her angel voice in exchange for a pair of legs so she can go get that D. The only problem is that the Sea Witch, who’s nightmarish compared to that Rosie O’Donnell Ursula thing, attached the condition that she can only have a mortal soul if she wins the prince’s heart, and the prince mistakenly believes it was some ebony-haired chick that rescued him, so she can’t really play the whole “I saved your life” card. Not that she can even talk anyway.

This is this point where I started to nod off, because you know you’re getting old when you realize kids movies are only an hour when they used to feel like four, yet you find yourself unable to stay awake through the whole thing. I have also started carrying dried dates in my purse and can’t go anywhere without a sweater anymore. I’ve got one foot in 21 and the other foot in the fucking grave. Luckily for y’all I bucked up with some Metamucil powder and finished things off tonight.

So Marina fails and is left with the choice of killing the prince in order to receive the soul that would qualify her for a spot in heaven, or let him live and marry Priscilla Presley, but be killed and turn into seafoam like every other mermaid. She opts for the second because she doesn’t suck but life does, and Fritz chases after the bubbles she becomes while heartbreakingly yelling “Marina, Marina!” The lines of the written story and the film get kind of blurred at the end when it comes to how Marina was just sort of let into heaven anyway for being selfless, but as the narrator returns to explain, part of Marina will always reside in the waves, where “she has guided the wayward hearts of men, and so she shall forever.”

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Now that we have the story straight, it becomes evident, at least to me, that there’s a lot to admire about the kvlt Little Mermaid. Most of Andersen’s fairytales were short, understated, but also innovative for his time, and very much open to interpretation. Fairy stories pack a lot of important messages without being all preachy and morally superior like their close cousin, fables. What really struck me about re-watching the film was the extent to which Marina was really doomed from the start. Yeah, good luck trying to seduce a dude with no voice and a three day time table.

When you’re young you try to overlook these hardships and believe that there will be a happy outcome, but then there isn’t, and then you don’t anymore. And that’s a hell of an important lesson to learn. Then there’s another great point a few YouTube commenters pointed out; fuck codependency, in a nutshell. The sea was Marina’s oyster (oh god, another dad pun), but then she got all distracted by prince charming everything got fucked up. True strength and happiness must be found within yourself, and don’t give up your voice for anyone.

Then there was Marina’s choice to return to the sea – a notion so beautiful that I can’t help but incorporate it into my tattoo by adding the line “I’d rather spend eternity at sea than ascend into heaven.” I mean it in the abstract sense of choosing a life of fluidity and independence. But I mean it in the literal sense as well. Heaven doesn’t seem so appealing to me. Unless it has bottomless guacamole, fountains of cherry sangria, and Charlie Hunnam fanning me with palm leaves, I’m just not really interested.

I don’t want my soul to linger around the astral sphere with the souls of a bunch of other annoying people. I’d rather stash my soul in an organic paradise, or better yet, just have it quietly die and have my body return to nature and be done with it. It was when Marina lived in accordance with her own morality, her own will, and the bribe of heaven was rejected, she transcended the confines of the religious system that placed a gap between humanity and nature.

Echoing some of the concluding points in my atheism and the paranormal article, I think we can go one step further and consider the humanist and pragmatic value of chasing mermaids and fairies and shit. In one of my scenes of the film, Marina takes Fritz to the surface for the first time after dark, and he’s overwhelmed by the glory of the moon and how it serves as the guiding force of the evening in the same way that the sun serves as the guiding force of the day. It takes me back to my 14-year-old Wiccan days when even though I knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn’t really praying to any type of divine moon spirits, I came to enjoy my daily reminder of nature’s simple yet profound dualities.

These occasions also placed me in the proper meditative state to contemplate humanity’s relationship with nature. I’ve also been thinking about Bae Leo’s Oscar acceptance speech and how we got to the point where our earth is sinking further and further into environmental to decay. The problem seems to be that we reached a tipping point a while ago in human history where our institutions went from utilizing nature in such a way that we had a clear place in the natural order, to exploiting it in such a way that we conceptualize ourselves as being outside of and dominate over the natural realm. When the symbolism of mermaids is considered—half woman, half fish—our schemas are adjusted in such a way that humanity and nature are thought of as being one again. Like how just a far glimpse of Marina removed the prince’s mind from the confines of the ship, myth calls out to us like a siren song, penetrating our pseudo-rational pride, and lures us back to the roots of it all.

 

A few of my favorite (nautical) things

 I like to keep a few memento we-all-just-turn-into-seafoam objects around. These are the ones I’d be the first to grab in the event Varg sets my house on fire:

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This super rad alter candle jumped off the shelf at me at Reverend Zombie’s Voodoo Shop in the French Quarter. Reading “the goddess of the ocean,” I couldn’t help but take this piece of Nola spoop back home with me. What I also really enjoyed was the under the display there was this sign pretty much saying “yeah guys, these aren’t scented, so uh, stop trying to sniff them.” I had a nice chuckle as I pictured Debbie from Des Moines complaining to the workers about how they don’t have any that smell like pumpkin spice while her kids are running around breaking shit.

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I feel a little weird talking about this one, because I feel like it can hear me. After my great aunt died, my family and I were allowed to take pretty much whatever what we wanted from her house before the rest went to an estate sale. Hanging on the wall in a tiny nook, it instantly spoke to me. But after hanging it close to my bed, I fell into one of those “my body is asleep but my mind is very much awake” traps around 2-3 in the morning, and I felt like someone was watching me. I enjoyed it aesthetically too much to take it down, and fortunately things have been quiet since then, and hopefully quiet they will stay.

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Behold! The only piece of jewelry my ex ever got for me. Not that I really care, honestly. It’s just fun to get “petty” sometimes, as the kids say. I’m glad that if he did get me a necklace it was this and not some diamondy Jared disaster. I had been looking for an anchor necklace for a long time, but had never found one that was really my style, so when I opened it I was pretty jazzed to see one with this unique pewter-looking finish. I still love it and wear it from time to time when I feel like being salty (one last dad pun for good measure).

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