The Little Mermaid’s Queer Origins Are More Chaotic Than We Thought
The Little Mermaid's Queer Origins Are More Chaotic Than We Thought
Disney has nothing on this.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid live-action reboot has been facing unwarranted blowback before even being released, with racists lamenting the shift from the “original” white, red-haired Ariel to Halle Bailey’s Black Ariel for absolutely no reason other than the change in skin tone.
Adaptations regularly change aspects of the original story, especially when a lot of time has passed and a story has been adapted again and again in different ways. There’s no reason to make claims that the source material needs to be diligently followed, other than using it as an excuse for racism.
That said, if we were to take any of this seriously, the actual source material dates back much farther than Disney’s 1989 film. In fact, Hans Christian Andersen originally wrote the fairy tale in 1837, and it has widely been interpreted as a story about Andersen’s own longing to be with his longtime friend Edvard Collin, after finding out he was engaged to marry a woman.
That The Little Mermaid has queer origins is nothing new, but a thread making the rounds on Twitter dives into just how chaotic those origins are.
Writer Dana Schwartz initially brought up Andersen’s obsession with and intrusion upon Charles Dickens, culminating in a bizarre extended stay at Dickens’ house — definitely worth a read.
@teaberryblue expanded on this by pivoting directly back to The Little Mermaid and its queer ties, calling Anderson “a Disaster Bi Trash Fire.”
“So it’s important to know that Andersen was what we would probably call bi or pan now but more importantly [that] Andersen had crushes on basically everyone he met and had A Lot Of Feelings and almost always took it badly when those feelings weren’t returned,” she wrote.
\u201cSo anyway one of these crushes was on a guy named Edvard Collin, who happened to be the son of Andersen\u2019s patron in Copenhagen when Andersen first moved there as a teenager so firstly, important to know they grew up in the same house for a period.\u201d— Tea Berry-Blue (@Tea Berry-Blue) 1663374602
\u201cAnyway, Andersen was convinced that they were madly in love and society was keeping them apart and Collin, who was convinced that Andersen was a perfectly nice friend who just had some really weird ways of showing affection, went about living his life and eventually got engaged.\u201d— Tea Berry-Blue (@Tea Berry-Blue) 1663374602
\u201cCollin wrote a letter to Andersen (you can find all these letters online) and was like \u201cHey I\u2019m really hurt, I\u2019ve always regarded you as a friend why are you doing this?\u201d And Andersen wrote back basically HOW COULD YOU SAY THIS WHAT DO YOU MEAN \u201cFRIEND!?\u201d\u201d— Tea Berry-Blue (@Tea Berry-Blue) 1663374602
\u201cAnyway Collin married his fianc\u00e9e and Andersen responded by writing The Little Mermaid and MAILING IT TO HIM.\u201d— Tea Berry-Blue (@Tea Berry-Blue) 1663374701
\u201cI feel that this gets overlooked so often in explaining the context of the story, like yes, it is Andersen working out his feelings about the object of his affection not being returned and feeling like an outsider for loving a man but IT WAS FOR MAKING THAT MAN FEEL BAD.\u201d— Tea Berry-Blue (@Tea Berry-Blue) 1663374918
\u201cThe irony is that a lot of historians disagree on which people he actually did have relationships with because Andersen was so bad at reading other people\u2019s intentions toward him that his diaries are totally unreliable.\u201d— Tea Berry-Blue (@Tea Berry-Blue) 1663375383
So there you have it. The deepest origins of The Little Mermaid are actually gay, but that doesn’t mean having a Black mermaid pursuing a heterosexual relationship is an inaccurate representation that destroys the story in any way.
That said, a movie about Andersen’s own life with a focus on his queer yearnings — and keeping it as chaotic and messy as it sounds like it actually was — sounds like the next best move for Hollywood. And then maybe a gay adaptation of The Little Mermaid to go along with it. Let’s see bigots try to hold a logical argument against that.