A Disney song in which a talking crab encourages a smitten prince to smooch the mermaid of his affections without asking for her permission has landed a Princeton a capella group in hot water — so they’re scrapping it from future performances.
Wesley Brown, president of the all-male Tigertones singing group, announced in a guest editorial in the Daily Princetonian school paper that he and his fellow performers will no longer sing “Kiss the Girl” from the 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid following complaints that it promotes a message at odds with the #MeToo movement.
A Nov. 26 column in the Daily Princetonian criticized the song choice as “misogynistic and dismissive of consent” because in it, Sebastian the crab implores Prince Eric to kiss a mute Ariel without her verbal consent.
“The song launches a heteronormative attack on women’s right to oppose the romantic and sexual liberties taken by men, further inundating the listener with themes of toxic masculinity,” wrote sophomore Noa Wollstein. “In trying to motivate Eric to kiss Ariel, the crab, Sebastian, makes use of lines such as, ‘Looks like the boy’s too shy,’ ‘Don’t be scared,’ and ‘It’s such a shame, too bad/You’re gonna miss the girl.'”
Wollstein added that the Tigertones’ repeat performances of the song were an “offensive and violating ritual.”
Brown acknowledged the song’s problematic tone in his column responding to Wollstein’s complaint, noting that a tradition of having a man and woman kiss during the performance also raised concerns about consent. He did suggest, however, that the group could sing the song again if a more appropriate performance style was adopted.
“A central element of our ‘Kiss the Girl’ performance has involved our soloist selecting a female and male duo from the audience one by one, dancing with both of them on stage before encouraging them to dance with one another, and then requesting that they ‘do as the song says’ before the group promptly advocates for a peck on the cheek,” he wrote.
“Many of the recent criticisms of this performance reflect on internal conversations our group has been having for some time. In the last few years, we have taken intentional steps towards ensuring that audience participation is more voluntary and consensual. These steps have clearly not succeeded in guaranteeing total comfort for both participants or in obtaining continual consent. Performances of this song have made participants uncomfortable and offended audience members, an outcome which is antithetical to our group’s mission and one that we deeply regret.
“Because of these concerns, we are removing ‘Kiss the Girl’ from our active repertoire until we can arrive at a way to perform it that is comfortable and enjoyable for every member of our audience. We sincerely apologize to any of our past participants and audience members for whom our performance of this song was uncomfortable or offensive.”
The move has prompted some to complain that the school is overreacting and being overly sensitive, while others agree that the song, and the performances requiring men and women to kiss, could be seen as inappropriate. A similar controversy has surrounded the decision by a Cleveland radio station to stop playing the holiday hit “Baby It’s Cold Outside” on the grounds that it too spreads a problematic message about consent.
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