Ok, I have to post this somewhere, because it goes through my mind every time my kids watch this stupid movie. (Including some thoughts from the even worse sequel, which we rented once. Just once.)
First off, King Triton is a pathetic king, and an even worse father. Why?
- He very obviously has a favorite child. Strangely enough, Ariel's sisters don't seem to mind, but I have a hard time believing they wouldn't be making the life of Daddy's little princess absolutely miserable.
- When told his daughter needs supervision, he grabs the first underling available and tells him to tail her 24/7. Now, I suppose I should cut him a little bit of slack -- he is a king and has a lot to deal with, and hiring a nanny wouldn't be unheard of -- but you'd think he would actually put some thought into it and send someone trained to watch kids instead of just ordering the court music composer to stalk his daughter.
- After he goes ballistic and destroys Ariel's hidden treasure trove (which I'm not sure was inappropriate, given how thick she was being -- although the appropriateness of the rules themselves could be called into question), and Ariel runs away, he makes the rest of the kingdom suffer because of his family problems -- he sits on his throne and commands that no one in the kingdom sleeps until she is found.
- When the contract with Ursula is revealed, he offers to give up his entire kingdom, power, freedom, etc. to pay for Ariel's mistake. While this may seem noble at first, it's completely irresponsible, for not only is he sacrificing himself, but he's subjecting his entire kingdom to rule by the sea witch (knowing what kind of ruler she would likely be). Besides the fact that, once he did this, Ursula's first thought was to get Ariel anyway; so he didn't save anyone from anything.
- He repeats this same mistake at the very beginning of Little Mermaid 2 -- when Morgana tries to steal Melody, he instantly offers himself up in her stead.
Now, let's take the title character herself.
- I'll try really hard to cut her some slack about being curious about humans, after being told that they are evil and it's forbidden for her to have any contact with them. She definitely lets her curiosity get the best of her, however, completely ignoring dangers. "I don't see how people who make such wonderful things could be bad" -- and yet her collection includes cannons and guns and fish hooks. The mind boggles.
- Then she gets infatuated with Prince Eric. Her eyes get all puppy-dogged when she sees him, then, after saving him from the storm, sings of her determination to be "part of his world". She knows just about Jack Squat about him at this point.
- Then there's the contract with the sea witch, where she risks her entire soul for just the chance to be with this human she knows nothing about. Small mitigating factor here: she did this after Triton destroyed her cave. However, to take advice from this woman, obviously there's not much going on under that red hair of hers. One wonders (or at least I do, because it's fun), if Chef Louis looked like Prince Eric, and it was him she saw and fell in love with, what would have happened when she realized that she had signed her life away to be with the very fish killer her daddy warned her about.
- Then, when the contract comes due, she pleads with her daddy to save her so she doesn't have to live with the consequences. "Daddy, I didn't know!" she cries. No, the correct answer is, "you didn't think" -- you didn't think you wouldn't be able to persuade a perfect stranger to fall in love with you inside of three days, you didn't think you'd actually be expected to live up to the contract, take your pick.
Now let's consider this Prince Eric, the young man who marries the 16-year-old girl simply for her voice. He wasn't even interested in her when he discovered that she couldn't talk, and as soon as someone who *did* have "that voice" showed up, he dumped her like a rock and chased after the chick with the voice. Now, you may be thinking that he was simply under a spell -- there was the yellow glow in his eyes when Ursula/Vanessa was present before the shell broke -- but even right before Vanessa appeared, Grimsby was still having to convince Eric to "settle" for Ariel, even without the voice.
Then, consider Ariel's decisions (or Eric's decisions and Ariel's capitulations) that Melody be denied knowing about the sea, merpeople, etc., even going so far as to build an enormous physical wall. You would think that Ariel would at least recognize that it's no better than what her father "did to her" when she was a child.
My theory is that Eric is not a good husband. Ariel has realized this mistake and has built the wall not only for Melody's supposed protection, but as much for herself to keep herself from being reminded of the sea and all that she gave up for the male chauvenist pig she found herself waking up next to. [Although of course instead of dealing with it for herself, she has to inflict this separation not only on her daughter, but her entire kingdom. Like father, like daughter, I suppose.] I'd also bet that Eric has been cheating on her for several years with one (or several) of the sopranos in the court choir, especially after Melody was born and Ariel's body didn't retain its 16-year-old shape (or maybe even before, when her voice started to change with age). It also wouldn't surprise me if Ariel has to spend a lot of time explaining that the bruises are due to accidentally falling down the stairs.