“The Little Mermaid” is suddenly relevant again because of Disney’s live-action remake and the recent announcement that Ariel will be played by “Grown-ish” actress Halle Bailey. It’s a perfect time to reflect on the animated tale about a mermaid longing for love, but there’s actually more to the story than most people know. Surprisingly, it’s a much gayer story than you probably thought.
A recent article by LGBTQ Nation notes that Hans Christian Anderson, author of the original “The Little Mermaid” fairytale, was bisexual and wrote the story as a love letter to a man who rejected him. So not only is it gay, but it’s the story of unrequited gay love. Is anything more heartbreaking than that? Absolutely not. Is anything gayer than that? Absolutely not. The revelation has caused us to re-evaluate one of our favorite films in terms of queerness. Of course it means all of the characters (well, most) are at least a little queer.
In honor of the new film and of the newly released subtext, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to rank “The Little Mermaid” characters by lesbianism (spoiler alert: number one probably isn’t who you think it is).
10. Prince Eric
Prince Eric claims our bottom slot for being the literal definition of a straight man. The first time we see him, he’s throwing his birthday party on his big fancy yacht. We can only assume that some of the things he said during that party included “Yeah, this one’s big, but you should see my OTHER ship” and “Of course my father bought this for me.” Even the weather couldn’t deal with how big of a straight douche he probably was and tried to throw him overboard, and Ariel had to save him. Oh, don’t forget he obsesses over this mystery woman who saves him based on only her looks and singing voice—very straight. What about her personality, dude! Plus, he easily forgets about Ariel when Vanessa (Ursula in straight-girl drag) sings to him! Also, he’s really weirdly attached to his dog. Straight as hell.
9. King Triton
It really shouldn’t surprise you to see King Triton at the bottom of this list. For one, he is an overbearing, über masculine, godlike-muscled (in his defense, he is a literal god) man who yells and sets overprotective limits on his daughters. How very straight of him. He gives off very frat boy vibes, but the kind where he’d make out with another dude drunk at 2 a.m. and then pretend it literally never happened. The only thing that makes him number nine on this list instead of number 10 is that he has like 15 daughters and seems to parent them alone—aka there’s no wife in the picture.
8. Ariel’s Sisters (Attina, Alana, Adella, Aquata, Arista, and Andrina)
There are too many sisters. There, I said it! Why did they have to give Ariel so many sisters when they’re just background characters? But in order to understand why these girls take the 3rd straightest spot, we (unfortunately) have to break it down person by person.
Attina is the oldest sister and is really the only reason these girls aren’t number 10 on the list. Surprise, Attina may actually be a real lesbian! She owns a cat(fish), she’s super gung-ho about saving the oceans, she digs the sweet sounds of the harp, and her biggest fear is letting her father down (daddy issues, anyone?). The least straight of them all.
Alana is the straightest version of a looks-obsessed chick. With a fear of getting scaly skin, she loves picking flowers and making DIY beauty creams. She’s boy-obsessed, though, so no dice. She does play the tambourine, though, so she may be down to try something out, if you know what I mean.
Adella is the boy crazy sister. Seriously, she can’t think of anything else. Apparently, her biggest dream is to dance with, and later kiss, a boy. Is she overcompensating? Maybe. But who are we to police her sexuality? If she wants boys, let her have them!
Aquata, Arista, and Andrina aren’t really too noteworthy in terms of this ranking. They’re adorable! But they’re probably straight. Maybe one or two will figure it out later in life, but for the purpose of this list, we’re calling them straighties.
Scuttle is an interesting conundrum; he’s like the person at the function you stare at all night because your gaydar just can’t give you a solid answer. So what’s the lesbian energy he radiates? Well, he loves to pretend he knows stuff that he doesn’t. Oh, have you had a number of encounters with humans that make you an expert in their material possessions? Well, Scuttle has! So, he’s obviously super knowledgable on “dinglehoppers” and “snarfblatts.” What lesbian doesn’t know the basics of something but says they’re an expert?
A mysterious, non-verbal character? Gay—well, hopefully at least. Now, I know you’re thinking “But shouldn’t a cat be a lesbian?” Well, joke’s on you because there’s no cat in this movie and also because dogs can be gay too, people! What makes Max so lesbian, though? Let’s examine the evidence. For one, he initially tracks Ariel down by scent. Is there anything more gay and intimate than obsessing over a girl’s scent and recognizing her from that alone? Max is also smitten with Ariel immediately and follows her around for the rest of the movie. Let the girl breathe, goodness! He’s also the real reason that Ariel and Eric end up together. Like a true fairy gaymother, Max tries to push the two together as much as possible. Between fending off Ursula and acting as a groomsman in the couple’s wedding, Max is the maternal lesbian who knows what’s best for us. We could all use a Max in our lives.
Flounder is the true neutral of “The Little Mermaid”—the three of the aquatic kinsey scale. Everyone loves him! He’s Ariel’s best friend in a way that’s almost too close, giving off a very “this is a strong platonic relationship between two gays” vibe. Flounder will also always be the first to tell Ariel that she’s doing something wrong or dangerous, but he will also stand up for her when other people tell her the same thing. Nice try, other people—that’s what a GBF is for! What else makes this little guy gay? His intense anxiety and general hatred of adventure are very lesbian traits, my friend. Sure a lesbian will go on a hike, but will they try something new? Of course, Flounder isn’t totally gay. He doesn’t like to be treated like a little guppy (all gays are baby, of course), he acts as a “voice of reason” (what gay knows anything?), and he offers Ariel unconditional support (we all know a gay will leave your ass if you cross any one of a number of lines). I could see Flounder getting a bit cozier with the 4 and 5 side of the spectrum later on in life, but this cute little fish is a solid in-betweener.
via Oh My Disney
Let’s get one thing straight: butlers are always gay. I’m talking always. There’s just something about the appeal of a tight and classy work uniform and the ability to always really be in charge that draws in gays like a sea siren. Grimsby in “The Little Mermaid” is a classic example of such a troupe. A kind, old gay who wishes he has kids is now the caretaker of the prince! It’s perfect! Plus, when Eric tells him that a girl rescued him, all Grimsby can say about her is that she’s beautiful. If you asked me to describe any woman I’ve ever met, the first thing I’ll say is how beautiful they are. There’s something about his warm, maternal, and mama bird nature that Grimsby exhibits—just like any proud lesbian.
3. Sebastian The Crab
Sebastian the Crab is a tricky character because there’s very obviously a bit of queer-coding going on. A man with a higher-pitched voice who loves dancing and singing, is inexplicably sassy, and needs to be in charge all the time? Gay. But he does exhibit a lot of gay man traits, so how lesbian is he really? Does he begrudgingly (but without being asked) step into the momma bear role? Does he over-exaggerate everything and is constantly overwhelmed/on the verge of passing out from stress? Is he given a job that he then feels the need to go above and beyond in even though it was a very simple task? Does he fantasize about retiring somewhere remote where he’s alone but blissfully happy? Maybe Sebastian’s more lesbian than gay man after all!
Our girl Ursula is ringing in at number two on this list for so, so many reasons. We already touched on a few of them in the general Disney villain lesbianism rankings, but we’re happy to remind you what makes this villain such a lesbian icon. First off, she’s got the dyke look down. From the bleached and quaffed ‘do to the stout frame that screams sporty, there’s nothing about her appearance that doesn’t say “gay” (except her nails, but maybe she’s a bottom?). Oh, and let’s not forget that her design was directly inspired by the iconic drag queen Divine. She’s gay, gay, gay!
Surprise! I bet you thought good ol’ Ursula was going to be number one, huh? Well, thanks to all the new information we have about “The Little Mermaid” story, Ariel has swum her way up to number one. According to literary and cultural critic Rictor Norton, Hans Christian Anderson wrote the original “The Little Mermaid” story after a failed attempt to woo a straight man. It appears Anderson wrote Ariel to be himself. In the story, she’s a mermaid, a non-human. In real life, he was a queer man, which would have been othered in his time. Ariel falls for a man unlike herself, but he ends up marrying a different and human woman. This is an allegory for the object of his affection choosing to marry a woman and live a heterosexual life, rather than choosing him and queerness. At the end of the story, Ariel’s so sad she turns into seafoam, and I can only assume that’s what Anderson wished he could do. Knowing what we know about Ariel, she’s the gayest out of the whole story in terms of subtext. And lesbians love subtext.