Disney's The Little Mermaid will be 25 years old this year. I remember the first time I saw it and how I became instantly mesmerized. Afterward, I kept thinking "I want more..." I saw it countless times over the following years and was thrilled when it came back to the big screen in 1997. I even lined up outside Best Buy to purchase it when it was released on VHS a few months later. Nowadays, I hear Ariel's haunting ballad voiced by my two year-old daughter in an endless loop.
Women Float, here to talk about The Little Mermaid. She talks about mermaids in her novel, which is why we thought it was perfect to have her visit during Fairy Tale and Disney month!
Maureen Foley is an artist, writer and teacher who grew up in Carpinteria, California. She received a Masters of Fine Art in Prose from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. She also studied drawing, painting, printing and bookmaking techniques at Kenyon College and Naropa University.
Her stories and poems have appeared in the New York Times, Wired, Skanky Possum, Santa Barbara Magazine, Santa Barbara Independent and elsewhere. Besides working as a freelance writer, she has also edited various journals and weekly newspapers. She taught English, creative writing and creativity at Pacifica Graduate Institute and Louisiana State University. She continues to lead workshops in the community.
Currently, Maureen makes and sells jam at Santa Barbara County farmers markets through her company, Red Hen Cannery. She lives on an avocado ranch in Southern California with her husband, their daughter and their dog.
Thanks to the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, we have a copy of Women Float for a lucky US reader!
Visit Maureen at her website and follow her on Twitter!
Mermaid-O-Rama: Thoughts on Disney’s The Little Mermaid
by Maureen Foley
Mermaid longs for human love. Mermaid meets prince. Mermaid gets her man. We all know this mythic story, whether in Disney or any other form. I remember watching the Disney movie The Little Mermaid and even singing some of the songs to myself later. At age 13, the film was a guilty pleasure, an attempt to tap into some of my younger girl cousins’ innocence. But no one in junior high could know that I enjoyed the cartoon, with its faux reggae rhythms and mermaid-o-rama. And it wasn’t all affection I felt for the film. I resented its basic message that a strong, beautiful woman needed a stupid dude to complete her. As if.
I was already a real mermaid. I’d started swimming competitively the summer before that film came out, after years spent lounging by chlorine pools and at the Pacific Ocean’s edge. I appreciated boys, flirted with them sort-of, but the whole game of sex seemed so lame and obvious. I felt too smart for the spin-the-bottle nonsense. When some of my friends launched the game for the first time, I fled to the condo complex’s pool and tested myself to see how far underwater I could swim.
Swimming made me feel strong and I could beat most boys at the butterfly stroke or at the 500-yard event. Sure, once those clumsy surfers transformed their hang-ten moves into freestyle, I was toast, but when I first practiced next to them I saw their awkward arm and leg movements, casting out in all directions and slowing them down. I swam better, more gracefully, and I judged them the lesser species because of it. They were no princes. Just creatures growing hair who flapped raggedly and splashed me when they flip-turned.
Of course, my first love affair later played out at the beach we called Jelly Bowl and that changed everything. Who needed princes when punk rock took over town? He sang for a band and I swam and lifeguarded. Later, I tried surfing. Later still, I held my future husband’s hand at Santa Claus Beach and we pledged to make some attempt at a life together, despite divorce, distance and fear.
Mermaids were entirely forgotten until my husband dredged my watery manuscript, Women Float, from the forgotten depths of underwater slush-pile-land and shook it, foam and seaweed dripping off, and said, “Here. Take this. Make it into a book. It’s good.”
I’d written Women Float as a single, lonely undergrad, lifeguarding to be close to the water in a landlocked Midwestern state. I wrote about a woman falling for another woman because that seemed more interesting, more surprising, than any Little Mermaid schmaltz. And in my story there were failed mermaids and wannabe mermaids and fear and mermaids disguised as mothers who disappear back to the sea. I wanted to show life as complication and fairy tale, all at once.
I hope that Women Float can show girls like my nearly two-year-old daughter that girls are not cartoons, but complicated, delectable, individual collections of stories and that their ideas should be considered valuable to everyone, not just females. I’ll tell my little mer-daughter all of that someday, but for now her beginning-middle-end has yet to be written. I look forward to hearing her voice and I hope she finds something like mermaids to provides her with a strong archetype to wrap her imagination, wit and spirit around, like seaweed binding a woman to the lighthouse of her soul’s desire.
Thanks to Maureen for an intriguing post and to Chicago Center for Literature and Photography for sharing Women Float with our readers.
~Introduction by Melissa Amster
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Visit the other stops on the Women Float blog tour:
1/13 Booked in Chico
1/14 Love at First Book
1/15 Words, Notes, Fiction
1/17 Little Fiction
1/20 The Relentless Reader
1/21 Curbside Press
1/23 Lovely Book Shelf
1/27 Gaper’s Block
1/28 Guiltless Reading