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Why The Little Mermaid Made Changes To 'Poor Unfortunate Souls'

Disney has carried on its trend of offering audiences live-action remakes of its beloved animated classics. While one could debate the purpose of such an action (outside of making billions of dollars), such remakes offer an opportunity to correct what could be seen as problematic material from the past. Cultural sensibilities are always changing, and Disney movies definitely aren't immune from having material that may make one cringe nowadays, even if the film in question only came out a few decades ago.

That appears to be the case with the live-action remake of "The Little Mermaid." Two songs from the original — "Kiss the Girl" and "Poor Unfortunate Souls" — will have slightly revised lyrics for the adaptation. This is due to certain misogynistic lyrics that may rub audiences the wrong way in today's climate. Alan Menken spoke about such changes to Vanity Fair, "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]." It's a natural reaction, especially in a post-#MeToo world, and that's not the only thing Menken had to revisit.

'Poor Unfortunate Souls' was redid to not give young girls the wrong idea

When it comes to "Poor Unfortunate Souls," it's easy to see how some of the lyrics could be taken the wrong way today. In the original "Little Mermaid," there are lyrics in the song that go, "The men up there don't like a lot of blabber, they think a girl who gossips is a bore, yet on land, it's much preferred for ladies not to say a word." Obviously, young girls should be encouraged to speak their minds, so changing up the lyrics may be warranted in this case. 

Alan Menken thought so, as he continued with Vanity Fair, "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 original lyrics certainly make sense within the context of the movie. Ursula is the villain, so her viewpoints shouldn't exactly be taken to heart. However, if there's a way to convey that Ursula is bad while avoiding any unwanted misogyny, all the better. 

It isn't the first time a Disney live-action remake has adjusted songs from older movies to appeal to modern sensibilities. And hopefully, a new generation of young girls walk away from 2023's "Little Mermaid" feeling empowered. The film hits theaters on May 26.