As a girl, my VHS of choice was The Little Mermaid — it was truly the only thing in my tiny life that mattered. I watched it until the tape deteriorated, and then I forced my mom to buy another. I watched that one on a loop until it met the same fate as its predecessor. To this day, I know the blocking of every crustacean and fish in “Under the Sea”; King Triton still scares the hell out of me (patriarchy, am I right?), and I get chills every time I see Ursula slither out from the shadows and onto the screen.
The thing is, I was supposed to be obsessed with Ariel. She was the ingenue, the star, the love interest, the princess who finally gets her man. For a chubby, regularly bullied eight-year-old, though, it was hard to see myself in Ariel. In fact, her appearance and storyline sometimes made me feel terrible: I worried I’d never get to be as pretty and beloved as she was.
Ursula, though? She was a different story.