You’re lying if you say you didn’t feel things watching shirtless Captain Li Shang bust open clay pots with his bamboo pole or Tarzan swing from a vine in nothing but a loincloth. It’s a classic rite of passage to have some inexplicably hot Disney cartoon spark your sexual awakening. For me? It was Vanessa, Ursula’s human alter ego from The Little Mermaid, that made me realize I was a raging bisexual.
Don’t remember Vanessa? TL;DHTFTFT(too long; don’t have the fucking time for this): Ursula basically tries to lure mediocre straight white Prince Eric away from making out with Ariel by doing some sea witch potion shit to morph into Vanessa, aka the love of my life.
Vanessa is—how do I put this lightly?—an evil fucking betch, but her darkness is what’s so intoxicating. She’s the type of unapologetic Scorpio queen who will steal your voice, break your heart, dismantle the patriarchy, and then kill your entire family. Hot.
Her entire purpose is to ruin a 16-year-old mermaid’s life (and I guess seek vengeance on Daddy Tritan). Yes, it’s fucked up, but also, I love a goal-oriented woman with a clear sense of direction. Vanessa may have a frozen, decaying heart, but she also has drive.
What sets Vanessa apart from the other Disney women is her clearly troubled past. I mean, she shares a soul with Ursula, who is a sadistic, narcissistic demon. She owns a garden of moaning, shriveled up merpeople and is roommates with two eels. Vanessa has def seen some shit in that lair. You think Rapunzel being locked in a tower or Cinderella missing her high school dance would give me the level of twisted emotional depth and dark humor I need?! Nah, bestie, I’m not trying to trauma bond with a woman whose biggest obstacle in life was losing a shoe. (Maleficent is maybe a close second to Vanessa, but her yellow eyeballs and codependency with her pet raven don’t really do it for me.)
Beyond Vanessa’s ummm, complexities, she’s, well, hot as fuck. The scene that really ignited the gayness inside of 8-year-old me was when she sings and dances in her boudoir while getting ready for her wedding. There’s one, err, graphic moment when she steps on her vanity stool and hikes up her little white slip dress to reveal the teeniest peek at her knee. I mean, Jesus Christ, take my voice, steal my social security number, do whatever the fuck you want to me.
Don’t come for me if you’re disturbed by any of this. Disney did not have to make Vanessa so hot. The pink lip? The long eyelashes? The luscious, chestnut-brown hair? The striking purple irises? The malicious moral compass? Those were intentional artistic choices, people. I didn’t set up a meeting with the movie’s animator when I was still in the womb to tell them to make her look like that! Who approved this, Walter?!
Rip me apart in my DMs or whatever, IDC. I said what I said. Vanessa unlocked something inside of me that I probably didn’t understand until like…10 years (and a lot of therapy) later. So thank you, my diabolical, damaged queen, for sparking my queer awakening.
All images courtesy of Disney.