Since no one watches actual TV anymore , the last remaining hope is reverting to, ironically, one of the most reliable ratings ploys stretching back to the dawn of television: the live musical event. All jokes aside about the Disney musical about a year-old girl with eye-popping cleavage who risks her life to in order to, quite literally, spread her legs for a prince with a jawline so chiseled it turned an entire millennial generation gay on-site, The Little Mermaid Live!
Everyone involved should be embarrassed and proud! I hated it as much I loved it! What a miserable triumph! The approach Tuesday night was among the most innovative, while at the same time the safest. Considering that interpretations of The Little Mermaid since the animated film fall on the spectrum to your niece running screaming around the house in her Party City Ariel costume to the fever-dream Broadway production in which actors wore rolling heely shoes , the en vogue footwear of , The Little Mermaid Live!
I mean, it was. The blessing? The music! The curse? Well, in the end—and especially when this story is brought to life with humans—you kind of just want Ariel and Eric to bang. As polarizing reviews and roller-coaster ratings have marked previous experiments in the live musical genre, with everything from Grease , Rocky Horror Picture Show , A Christmas Story , and Rent being staged with mixed results, each ensuing entry is a test case. Having covered these things since The Sound of Music Live!
How do you reinvent a classic Disney property—perhaps the most hallowed of all pop-culture nostalgia—while still reinventing it? Well, as The Little Mermaid Live! The conceit here is that, as the original voice of Ariel, Jodi Benson, explained at the top of the two-hour production a very classy move to include her! Is this what Martin Scorsese is referring to when he talks about cinema? People are so protective of these musical properties, Disney especially, that, in concept, this is a perfect solution to the problem of adaptation.
Again, the last time we tried this we got Ariel on heelies. In practice, however, the whole thing was an exercise in lunacy. For one, you are reminded of the imitable brilliance of the original voice cast. Queen Latifah stopped the show multiple times, ostensibly perfect: devilishly stuffed into her rubber octopus costume with her sky-high shock of blond hair and oodles of lascivious, royal succubus energy as Ursula. Blame, again, the randy animators who decided this teenage Disney princess should be the platonic ideal of nubile prey, with her unreal proportions, shampoo-commercial-ready hair, and inappropriate attire.
Did the two have any romantic chemistry?
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A travesty considering the entire premise of this story, which is centered on a horniness so great even Triton, King of the Sea, concedes to it. Was it adorable to watch them sing? But over the next few weeks, as I dive deeper into the world of mermaids, I discover the whole magical, mystical movement is not just about getting fit.
From its origins in the wake of the film Splash! Brexit, maybe. The current trend for grown women to don a tail has mushroomed in the past two years, with a staggering plus mermaid instructors in the UK alone. The reason? You can be strong and beautiful. I meet Tyler Turner, a year-old trainee counsellor, who has travelled from Prestatyn in North Wales for our photo shoot in London.
She seems sorted today, comfy in her own skin.
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So I took a month off, and I started to reminisce about my happy childhood. It got me thinking that, instead of being an adult, I wanted to be a mermaid. Liz with her teacher Tracey Minney, a swimming instructor with a sideline in mermaiding. Tyler went online and bought her first tail. That was two years ago. A strong swimmer, she got a part-time job as a pool attendant.
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Go with what you love. I feel more real as a mermaid than I do in real life. Under water, time stops.
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People might laugh. Does her family think her odd? They carried spears. She tells me mermaiding is big in the LGBT community. So, yeah, there are merpeople, as we call them. It is about creativity and swimming ability, breath control, how to pose underwater. I often go to my local aquarium to watch how the fish move for inspiration. It was Tyler who introduced mermaiding to her best friend Lolly, her wing woman on our shoot.
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They swim together often. It helps my confidence. Common to all the mermaids I meet is a love of dressing up. Tyler shows me photos of herself on the beach as a mermaid, covered in plastic fishing lines, to raise awareness of what we are doing to our seas. Conservation drives many to mermaid. I visited a school to speak to some five-year-olds; I was in my tail and they were enthralled. What made her start? I wanted to get into swimming, but I felt self-conscious. However, with a tail on I feel different. People are looking at the tail, not my body.
It turns out that mermaiding can even be a career: Laura Evans lives in Cornwall and, having bought her first tail four years ago, is now resident mermaid at St Ives. But when I meet Alison Farina, a playwright and director from Bath, I find out mermaiding has its roots in the emancipation of women. Alison, 46, spent her childhood in the US and was drawn to stories about mermaids. I would make seascapes in the bath and imagine myself underwater.
As I got older, I started searching for mermaid pictures online; I called it Fish Friday, a game a friend and I started to amuse ourselves. It was a door to another world. Returning to the US to care for her ailing parents, Alison used mermaiding as a way to escape. Anything that takes you out of your head is good for mental health, but when you are in the water, you only hear the lapping, you see the light on the bottom of the pool; your hair is floating, you feel weightless.
The feminist poet Sappho found the goddess Aphrodite, transformed into a woman out of sea foam, to be the ultimate sex object. And she founded a mermaid swimming club! Swimming baths for women had just opened, and she and her friends were called the Mermaid Swimmers. Did they wear fins and tails? This was and it was illegal for women to be seen naked: female swimmers had to be fully clothed.
Members of her club wore bathing costumes as a protest, to claim back their bodies.
So swimming and the suffragette movement go hand in hand.