Little mermaid song stirs up controversy at Princeton University

Little mermaid song stirs up controversy at Princeton University
Scene in “The Little Mermaid” when “Kiss the Girl” is performed. YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT (Youtube Screenshot)

CHARLOTTE, NC (Mark Prince/Charlotte Observer) - Disney’s beloved song “Kiss the Girl” from “The Little Mermaid” may have become the latest casualty of changing social standards in the #MeToo era.

“Kiss the Girl” has been dropped indefinitely from performances of Princeton’s male a cappella group, after a critic at the school’s newspaper blasted it for being “misogynistic and dismissive of consent.”

“By performing the song multiple times each semester, the Tigertones elevate it to an offensive and violating ritual,” said Princeton sophomore Noa Wollstein in a Nov. 26 Daily Princetonian editorial.

Its lyrics raise some serious issues. The premise of the song, originally sung in the Disney film ‘The Little Mermaid,’ is that the male Prince Eric, on a date with the beautiful female Ariel, should kiss her without asking for a single word to affirm her consent.”

Charlotte native and Princeton senior Wesley Brown, president of the Tigertones, responded to the criticism Nov. 30 by pulling the song from their repertoire “until we can arrive at a way to perform it that is comfortable and enjoyable for every member of our audience.”

Brown’s guest column in The Daily Princetonian went on to apologize to “audience members for whom our performance of this song was uncomfortable or offensive.”

The #MeToo movement was not mentioned, but it has been cited in a similar situations, including a Cleveland radio station’s decision this month to ban the 1940s Christmas song “Baby, its Cold Outside.”

WDOK host Glenn Anderson was quoted saying the song “seems very manipulative and wrong... in a world where #MeToo has finally given women the voice they deserve,” the newspaper reported.

“Kiss the Girl” is featured in the 1989 hit ”The Little Mermaid,” which is among Disney’s most popular animated films and an Oscar winner for best original song (“Under the Sea”).

The Tigertones have been performing it years, Brown said in his column, typically by pulling a man and woman from the audience to act out the song’s lyrics, including “a peck on the cheek.”

Wollstein’s column criticized that, too, noting “there is no way to guarantee that the random people picked from the audience are members of a happy couple who both want to act out a very public expression of affection.”

Brown agreed in his guest column and believes the song can be performed in the future, if the Tigertones find a new way to stage it.

“In the last few years, we have taken intentional steps towards ensuring that audience participation is more voluntary and consensual,” wrote Brown, who is attending Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs. “These steps have clearly not succeeded.”

Response to Brown’s decision appeared to be divided, with some applauding the move and a few accusing the Tigertones of giving in to a “heckler.”

Many also blasted Noa Wollstein.

“People like you are seriously ruining good childhood memories,” said a commenter to her column named Jay.

“Charlie Brown is racist. ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ promotes date rape. ‘Kiss the Girl’ takes away consent...Rudolph is about bullying and bigotry. Santa promotes breaking and entering, thievery and obesity....It all sounds stupid because it is stupid,” he wrote.