"Kiss the Girl" is a song from the 1989 Disney movie The Little Mermaid, which was the film that restarted Disney's success as an animation studio. The movie's production values were high, and one of the things it is best remembered for was its music. Along with Under The Sea and Part of Their World, "Kiss the Girl" was one of the most popular songs from the movie. The song was written by Howard Ashman (lyrics) and Alan Menken (music).

In the movie, the titular mermaid, Ariel, has been transformed into a human by magic, but in doing so, has lost her voice. She must get a kiss from Prince Eric to regain her voice. Since she is mute, this is somewhat difficult. During this song, she and Eric are floating along in a boat. Ariel's custodian, the crab Sebastian, sets up an orchestra of water creatures, and softly coos this song, suggesting Eric kiss Ariel. It is a slow, romantic song, which perhaps self-consciously lists out a list of romantic clichés. Like all the music in the film, it is very well done, and some of the visuals (ducks using turtles as bongos, for example) are clever and funny. The song was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost it to another song from the film, Under the Sea.

Like much of what Disney does, it is great, but problematic.

Because this song is about kissing a girl who is unable to agree. Of course she wants to, which the viewer knows. She is unable to signify her desire due to muteness put upon her by a curse. While this is a fantasy situation, the underlying idea, that verbalization interferes with romance (and, although the film is targeted to preteen children, the implication is that verbalization also interferes with sexuality), is a common belief, and a problematic belief. In lieu of being able to ask Ariel about her feelings, the song suggests other ways that Prince Eric can know that Ariel is interested in kissing:

There is one way to ask her
It don’t take a word
Not a single word
Go on and kiss the girl
Don’t be scared
You got the mood prepared
Go on and kiss the girl
Music play
Do what the music say
You wanna kiss the girl
Without being able to obtain verbal confirmation, Eric has to rely on Ariel's body language, the fact that they are in a "romantic" location, and the "command" of the music. To quote my first ex-girlfriend, herself a huge Disney fan, romantic behavior in movies is frightening in real life. The idea that a woman's interest in sex can be guessed by the setting and "cues", and that directly asking or stating interest is unromantic, is something that has caused tragedies, but it is also something that seems to be tacitly believed by many people of both genders in contemporary culture.

Although I don't want to come down too hard on this song: it is a well done song, and within the plot of the story, it makes sense. "The Little Mermaid" is a romantic fantasy. On the other hand, the problem is that this song was learned by a generation of girls (and boys) before they could critically think about the message, and the idea that talking ruins romance is a terrible message to accept.

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