The Little Mermaid remake changes lyrics in two iconic songs to emphasise consent

5 April 2023, 12:56 | Updated: 26 May 2023, 18:16

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By Katie Louise Smith

'Kiss The Girl' and 'Poor Unfortunate Souls' will feature updated lyrics that reflect the importance of consent and the empowerment of women.

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Disney's highly anticipated live-action version of The Little Mermaid is almost here, and fans of the original might notice some key changes when it's finally released in cinemas.

Halle Bailey, who plays Ariel, has already shared that the new, live-action adaptation will be more "modern" than its 1989 animated counterpart. "I’m really excited for my version of the film because we’ve definitely changed that perspective of just her wanting to leave the ocean for a boy," Halle told Edition. "It’s way bigger than that. It’s about herself, her purpose, her freedom, her life and what she wants."

It now looks like Ariel's story is not the only thing that's been updated in the new film. Legendary composer and lyricist Alan Menken, who is behind some of Disney's most iconic scores and songs, has shared that two standout songs from the original film have been updated, in order to empower young women and emphasise the importance of consent.

The Little Mermaid live-action will change lyrics to 'Kiss The Girl' and 'Poor Unfortunate Souls'
The Little Mermaid live-action will change lyrics to 'Kiss The Girl' and 'Poor Unfortunate Souls'. Picture: Disney via YouTube, Disney via Alamy

Speaking to Vanity Fair in a new interview, Menken revealed that there were some parts of his original music and lyrics that he altered to better fit with the new interpretation of the Disney classic.

"There are some lyric changes in 'Kiss the Girl' because people have gotten very sensitive about the idea that [Prince Eric] would, in any way, force himself on [Ariel]," he said.

Menken then went on to add that a couple of lines in Ursula's big number have been revised too: "We have some revisions in 'Poor Unfortunate Souls' regarding lines that might make young girls somehow feel that they shouldn't speak out of turn, even though Ursula is clearly manipulating Ariel to give up her voice."

The lyrics to 'Kiss The Girl' will be changed for Disney's live-action Little Mermaid
The lyrics to 'Kiss The Girl' will be changed for Disney's live-action Little Mermaid. Picture: Disney via YouTube

Menken didn't reveal which specific lyrics in those songs have been changed, but based on his comments, there's a few likely candidates.

In terms of 'Kiss The Girl', it's probable that a clear message of consent may have been added in place of Sebastian urging Prince Eric to kiss Ariel without asking her. Ariel is also unable to speak during this number in the original movie.

In 'Poor Unfortunate Souls', Ursula manipulates Ariel into giving up her voice by telling her that "men up there don't like a lot of blabber" and that "on land it's much preferred for ladies not to say a word". The lyrics continue: "But they dote and swoon and fawn / On a lady who's withdrawn / It's she who holds her tongue who get's a man."

As mentioned above, Menken notes that these lyrics are sung on purpose by Ursula to Ariel, but have been revised with the new generation of young viewers in mind.

We'll have to wait and see what lyrics have been changed when the film is released on May 26th.

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