I had the pleasure of seeing Disney’s The Little Mermaid out at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, IL last Friday. One of the gals in my Perfectly Magical Disneybound group was able to reach out to her costume creator friend for some comp tickets, and the four of us ladies set out for an evening of adventure, romance, and fellowship.
Not knowing what to expect from suburban theatre, I am so pleased to report that I was blown away. The show was spectacular! It hit every mark of a classic Disney production from surreal spectacle to fervour of heart. I won’t review it here because the show had already opened to rave reviews and unfortunately closed this past weekend, but I was truly astonished by its grandeur.
Anyone who knows me knows that The Little Mermaid and The Princess Bride shaped my childhood. From the moment I met Ariel, I felt destined to be a stubborn mermaid-princess with insurmountable passion and an ambitious obsession to guide me in pursuit of my dreams.
Most people get over these childhood fantasies as they approach adulthood. If they are well adjusted they can even look back on their Disney years with a sense of childlike fondness and enthusiasm. Somehow, along the way, I decided not to give up on this fairy-tale dream and it has stalked me into my late twenties, both saving me and drowning me.
Here are some take-aways I have from seeing Paramount Theatre’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid:
Why are so many women obsessed with mermaids? Well, besides the fact that any woman between the age s of 25-35 grew up engulfed in The Little Mermaid, I think that mermaids are the quintessential female creature. They are mysterious, alluring, beautiful, often times talented, and yet dangerous, wicked, egotistical, and manipulative and THEY OWN IT ALL. Often, girls growing up are characterized into certain categories. You’ve heard it (and unfortunately participated in it)-
“Oh she’s the smart one of the group. And she’s really good at the tuba. But Janine is so cute.”
And on and on and on and on.
For some reason we struggle to see females, especially young females, as fully dimensional human beings.
But mermaids have it all- and on top of that, they have the special ingredient that land-dwelling daughters just don’t have- TRUE FREEDOM. To love a mermaid is to love the concept of being free, thwarting authority, reaching beyond your scope, and defining yourself.
Mermaids inspire me to cast off my doubts in pursuit of adventurous dreams.
But what happens when you dreams don’t come true? Ariel took a major risk. She gave up her family, her talent, and her identity for an opportunity at love. It’s an insane premise, and even more terrifying in the original Hans Christian Andersen story. However, in the end (of the Disney version), she wins. She gets everything she wants and her risk is rewarded. Granted, it helped that she is the most beloved daughter of the KING OF THE ATLANTIC- that her Disney-fied genes are the perfect combination of impossible thinness, hair as thick as a lion’s mane, a perfectly drawn face- and that her talent, earnest nature, and curiosity are all portrayed with endearing sweetness.
But that isn’t life and DAMN that’s a hard lesson to learn (especially for an aspiring actress who swims through a life filled with rejection). As it turns out, what works out for Disney characters doesn’t always work out for us real life humans.
I am still working through what this disconnect means for me. Some days it gets me really down. I’m not a Disney princess. My father isn’t a Sea King. I’m not going to get that castle, those talking animal friends, the gorgeous gowns, or a “happily ever after”.
I might just get a “happily some times after” if I am lucky. I guess I do find comfort in the fact that we never see Disney couple’s lives post marriage. I would love to do a web-series where it’s all about that- maybe call it RHoD, aka Real Housewives of Disney! Please let me know if that’s something you’d watch because I am 100% interested in creating it.
Wouldn’t you love to see the real, married life arguments and triumphs between Ariel and Eric, Belle and Adam, Elsa and herself, etc?!
My point is that reconciling our dreams with our reality is so hard and something I work on every day. I realize this is a major first world problem. Like, people are starving and dying and losing their health insurance because we elect egomaniacs with no concept of justice, compassion, or advocacy to our country’s highest positions of power… but isn’t that part of it too? Part of the inconsistency with the fairy-tales we’ve been fed?
If the 2016 election were a Disney movie, Donald Trump would’ve been drawn to scale (I imagine he’d look something like Pocahontas’ Ratcliffe but orange) with his wicked deeds made clear as the day is bright. In the Disney version, Trump would’ve been outsmarted, outplayed, and outvoted by a bright, ambitious woman.
Oh wait. That’s exactly what happened. AND THE VILLIAN STILL WON.
This is NOT a Disney outcome.
How do we learn to appreciate the dreams we never even knew we had? I’ve performed as Ariel a lot in a wide variety of ways and still continue to do so with my cosplays, but I have never had the great honour of playing her in the actual musical. I always thought I would. In fact, I thought I would be performing at that level by now. I thought I would be scraping by, but making a modest living as an actress. After all, I have the ambition, heart, stamina, and a wee bit of talent. But…
Guess what? I’m not. I am not even close.
That epic childhood dream has not come true.
But some unexpected dreams have- like this blog, a job that I actually love, the beautiful group of friends and family I’ve made here in Chicago, Otherworld Theatre Company which feeds my artist soul, my boyfriend who continues to surprise me, and countless, countless other things.
I know several new parents who didn’t realize that bringing a child into the world was their epic dream until it was actually happening. Alternately, I know several people who achieved their epic dream and it did not bring them the happiness they expected.
As Wicked’s Galinda says – “Cause getting your dreams, it’s strange but it seems a little, well, complicated- there’s a kind of a sort of cost, there’s a couple of things get lost, there are bridges you cross you didn’t know you crossed until you’ve crossed.”
My mission this week, and what I leave you with (after my insane ramblings about dreams and mermaids), is this:
- List the dreams you’ve made that your childhood self did not expect.
- Take a big step toward your epic dream, even if it amounts to nothing. In the end, you can look back knowing you’ve done everything you can to be “part of that world”.
Do these things THIS WEEK and let me know how it feels. I believe in you, epic dreamers.
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