Faculty Writing: On the Troubling Evolution of the Little Mermaid, and the Reformed Dads of Bridgerton

In the latest issue of The Drift, Sophie Lewis asks “Can the Sireniform Speak?”—an exploration of the imperial and colonial history of the mermaid alongside its equal and opposite service as a figure of queer and trans expression and solidarity. Tracing various adaptations of The Little Mermaid across two centuries, from Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale “Den lille havfrue” to Rob Marshall’s recent cinematic re-adaptation, Lewis observes, “the live-action Mermaid, ultimately, is an attempt to shoehorn Andersen’s queer, gothic narrative into a liberal feminist frame it just won’t fit.”

Then, in a fun little double feature, we are pleased to share Lewis’s “horrified” discovery, described in the latest edition of Lux magazine, that the Bridgerton television franchise—“one big opulent spectacle of wet shirts and heaving bosoms”—is, after all, about “strong women mak[ing] weak men into good daddies.” An intriguing critique can be traced within, in how “the show’s liberal feminists and post-racial centrists just happen to live in a brutally sexist and homophobic patriarchal structure”—and yet, Lewis observes, by relishing in the transformation of wayward men into father figures in a conservative familial order, “Bridgerton fantasizes about the girls restoring patriarchy for their own benefit.”

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