The Little Mermaid, The Series: Metal Fish

Wha’ Happen’?

There’s an episode of Blackadder Goes Forth where Captain Edmund Blackadder is being courtmartialed for eating a carrier pigeon. He’s not worried, though, as he tells his jailer that he’s retained the services of Massingbird, the greatest lawyer of the age:

Jailer: I hear he’s a dab hand at the prosecution as well, sir.

Blackadder: Yes, well, look at Oscar Wilde.

Jailer: Ol’ butch Oscar.

Blackadder: Yep! Big, bearded, bonking, butch Oscar. The terror of the ladies. 114 illegitimate children, world heavyweight boxing champion and author of the best-selling pamphlet “Why I Like To Do It With Girls.” And Massingbird had him sent down for being a whoopsie.

That scene kept running through my mind as I watched Metal Fish with its depiction of Hans Christian Andersen as a flame haired, barrel-chested adventurer of the deepest depths of the sea and not, as he was in real life, a wee Danish pastry who spent much of his life in an undisclosed location hiding from his own erections. But I get ahead of myself.

So as our episode begins Ariel is swimming into part of the ocean called “the wilderness” to meet with a merman named Archimedes. Flounder asks her why this dude is living like an unfashionable leper and she explains that other merpeople shun Archimedes because he is, like Ariel, a human stan.

“What? Does that make us crazy? Just because we love humans and want to be human and have legs and eat delicious fish?! HOW DOES THAT MAKE US CRAZY FLOUNDER, YOU TELL ME!!!”

Meanwhile, overhead, dashing rugged adventurer Hans Christian Andersen is on a daring sea voyage in between wrestling tigers and having proper sex with girls.

Andersen, who has no more lands to conquer, has set his sights on the sea herself. He says that he wants to know whether these legends of “mermaids” are true or just the manatee sightings of horny Italian sailors. He then draws a picture of what these mermaids might look like which just so happens to be a picture of Ariel with the most eighties hair you’ve ever seen.

Back in the ocean, Ariel has met up with Archimedes who…okay, tell me…am I the only one who sees this?

Is it just me? Anyway, Ariel shows him a “biggamajigger” that she found and he tells her that it’s actually called a “telescope” and graciously does not call her a filthy casual. Archimedes has actually met humans and spoken to them and tells Ariel that they believe that mermaids are mythical creatures with really eighties hair.

Ahhhhhh…it all makes sense.

While all this is going on there’s a subplot with Sebastien teaching a group of crab kids how to be scouts which I refuse to dignify with comment even though it takes up around half of the episode’s runtime. Instead, let’s check with Hans “The Man” Christian Andersen as he prepares to conquer the sea in his submarine, the Metal Fish.

I dunno. It rocks pretty hard, but I don’t know if I’d call it “Metal”.

Andersen takes the Metal Fish below the surface and marvels at the wonders of the deep. He passes Ariel and Archimedes who are obviously as freaked out as you would be if you were passed in the street by a haddock in a man suit. Suddenly, the Metal Fish springs a leak and sinks to the ocean floor while Andersen wrestles manfully with the controls.

“Curses! I’ve only I’d spent more time on my submarine instead of seducing all the crown princesses of Europe!”

As the Metal Fish comes crashing down it causes Sebastien to fall down a ravine and injure his claw. He goes to the palace and tells Triton that he’s been the victim of a USO (an Unidentified Sinking Object) and Triton immediately blames this on Long Nosed Echidnas I am of course joking he blames it on humans as he always fucking does. I mean fine, he’s right, but still…I don’t know what point I’m trying to make here. Anyway, Sebastien says “Humans! My worst nightmare! Apart from the one where you’re yelling at me…”

So…your life? That’s the nightmare you’re describing? Your life?

Meanwhile, the Metal Fish is filling up with water and all I can think about is why Hans has a portrait of some random dude hanging on the wall of his submarine.

Who are you? Why do you look so disappointed? What is going on here?!

Ariel asks Archimedes what’s going on and he explains that the human is running out of air that he needs to breathe. This leads to a line from Ariel that I consider a nadir for her character and for writing itself.

“Breathe? Air?”

You…you know what air is Ariel. You’ve been to the surface multiple times. And you weren’t gasping like an anti-Vaxxer in the ICU which means you MUST HAVE BEEN BREATHING AIR. UNLESS YOU HAVE GILLS IN YOUR ASS. DO YOU, ARIEL? DO YOU HAVE GILLS IN YOUR ASS? ALL THIS TIME?! ALL THROUGH MY CHILDHOOD YOU HAD GILLS IN YOUR ASS!? THIS EPISODE HAS RUINED EVERYTHING.

Archimedes tells Ariel that to save the human they’ll have to get Triton who conveniently has just arrived. And you know what I really dislike how passive Ariel is in this episode. She does absolutely jack shit in what’s supposed to be her story. Anyway, she asks Daddy to solve all her problems for her and Triton reluctantly agrees. Triton uses his trident to Deus ex Machina the Metal Fish back to the surface while make this face:

PLEASANT DREAMS

Hans Christian Andersen returns to the surface and gives up his life of devil-may-care sex adventuring to become a children’s author as we all all must eventually. And the episode ends with him reading from his latest book to a group of children while a narrator just throws his head in to remind us that “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen is available at your local library if you’re ever in need of a depressive and can’t get your hands on some bennies.

Oh, and then we cut to Ariel sitting on a rock in the pose of the famous statue of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagan. Except, she’s just a painting and the only thing they bothered to animate was her hair and the whole effect is unspeakably creepy.

“What is this strange…not water?”

How was it?

For such a weird, gonzo premise, it’s pretty boring.

The moral of the story is: Aw, don’t you worry your pretty little head about the moral of the story. Daddy will take care of everything.

Does this violate continuity?:

So not only HAS she seen a human this close, but we’re to believe that she could ever find another man attractive after encountering the awesome masculine paragon of virility that was HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN? Boy, I hope someone at Disney was fired for that blunder!

21 comments

  1. As a Swede I don’t get to claim I’m AS offended as a genuine Dane, but even back when I first saw this I knew well enough who Hans Christian Andersen was and his very melancholy life story, and saw this little nugget of Big Mouse-revisionism as the Some Bullshit that it was. I feel like putting HC in a confined space underwater would touch on like five or so phobias he probably had and send the whole venture crashing in seconds, but maybe it’s best I just imagine that this is AU Hans… or possibly just regular Hans DREAMING he goes on this whole wild adventure, coincidentially dreaming up the exact likeness of Ariel and Triton, thus explaining how Ariel doesn’t know what air is and reconciling the episode with the movie.

    I mean if nothing else this “it’s all a dream”-interpretation, making the episode a look into the kind of man HC wishes he COULD be, means it’s just as depressing as an actual HC Andersen story!

  2. Now I’m imagining a Nic Cage mermaid movie, and I’m sad I don’t get to live in that timeline.

    And to think someone would accuse Disney of historical revisionism. I’m going to have a chuckle about this with some of my Native American friends, whose culture is thriving ever since Pocahontas and John Smith brought lasting peace.

    1. Not really joking, write to Nicholas Cage saying you want to see him in a mermaid movie. It’ll probably come out in a couple years.

  3. Given those remarkable whiskers and the family resemblance suggested by that red hair, I’m assuming the explanation for that inexplicable picture in Captain Andersen’s sub is that he’s Han’s daddy … one way or the other.

    1. Also, I’m terribly disappointed that Captain Andersen has a ship’s cat and the face of a Mills & Boone yet there’s not a single joke about getting his hands on the local … ah, well now I see your reasoning.

      On a more serious note, I find it oddly charming that they gave Mr Andersen’s fictionalisation exactly the same colouring as Ariel.

  4. I read the original The Little Mermaid as a young child (for those who don’t know, it is DARK). Subsequently watching this episode, I was horrified at the implication that Hans Christian Anderson would write such a terrible thing *about the mermaid who saved his life.*

  5. This reminds me of the Tarzan animated episode guest starring Teddy Roosevelt, in what actually is his SECOND apparition in a tale starring Disney characters (he also appeared in a Don Rosa Scrooge Mc Duck story).
    Suffice to say, Disney animation and relatively recent historical figures make for the most awkward dance partners.
    I wonder how Frozen fits into all of this though.

  6. Given that Andersen likely wrote “The Little Mermaid” story as a thinly veiled metaphor exploring his angst over his man-crush marrying a woman, this episode is especially insulting to his memory.

  7. I can’t really disagree with you on any particular point but I am a sucker for the “supposedly fictional fantasy story was inspired by author actually seeing stuff” trope. What can I say. I am but flesh and blood.

    Some fun trivia:

    This very butch and oh-so-true to life version of HCA was voiced by none other than Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill. And I really like his performance. He gives it this thoughtful dreamy quality.

    I will give the writers some tiny benefit of a doubt that this isn’t so much deliberate straightwashing/rewriting of history as fictionalized biography by way of game of telephone.

    In particular there’s a 1952 musical ‘biographical’ movie with Danny Kaye as Hans and the end scene of the episode with the kids even nods to the titular song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJzwC_8f6nA In that version he wrote TLM as a ballet for the ballerina he was definitely in love with. Who was a lady.

    There’s also a miniseries from later in the 90s interspersing the biopic stuff with retellings of his stories where he had a female love interest. She was his childhood friend or something? Anyway she played the mermaid and Hans played the prince for the TLM section which LOL if you know the actual history.

    Given the fish-shaped submarine I don’t think they cared a whole bunch about historical accuracy and I’m just like 90s spinoff cartoon gonna 90s spinoff cartoon.

    Also! I actually have a headcanon about why Ariel-meeting Hans would write TLM with such a depressing ending:

    What if he was chilling in Eric’s kingdom when the second half of the movie was happening and saw Mute!Ariel all sad on the docks and noticed her resemblance to the mermaid he met that one time but left before the big battle and happy ending? So he feels bad for her and the image stays in his mind and he writes. He guesses and infers a bunch of stuff which is why details differ and he incorporates his own personal angst, as you do. Thus depressing ending. *shrug* Works for me.

  8. Haven’t seen this episode but I have seen the clip show episode of Disney’s Legend of Tarzan where a journalist from Chicago gets to hear about a couple episodes of the show and it turns out it was Edgar Rice Burroughs all along and he based his book on the experience.

    That episodes seems a little more faithful to the real guy (Princess of Mars gets a shout-out!) though it doesn’t explain why the books don’t feature any of those episode storylines at all.

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