The Deaf Latina From The ‘Little Mermaid’ Series Is Disney’s Sweetest Teacher
For little girls of the 90s, Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” was more than a box office sensation. It was an adventure into another world, an introduction to romance, and an important lesson on why as women we need our voices. Yeah, ICYMI: “The Little Mermaid” was hopped up on all types of feminism.
It was a huge deal. So much so that Disney launched a television series of the same name in 1993 that deep-dove even further into the adventures of Ariel’s life and lessons on girl power. Most importantly, the show introduced the most empowering representative of intersectional feminism of ALL time.
In the television series “The Little Mermaid,” Gabriella was Ariel’s deaf Latina mermaid friend, AKA: Disney’s great educator of diversity.
Ariel’s friend was introduced on the show as a character who loved to dance, did American Sign Language, and had a sweet octopus sidekick named Ollie who interpreted her every word for hearing viewers.
The character was a huge lesson in inclusivity for Disney’s young audience.
By its definition feminism works towards the rights of all people no matter what identity or trait causes them to become oppressed by society and made into a minority. Still, even today, the entertainment industry struggles to project this discipline onto its screens. Ethnic, racial, gender and disability representation on children’s tv shows go particularly underrepresented. So, for a show of the early 90s to include a Latina face on a cartoon show and one who had a disability was a pretty big deal. It’s why I have zero understanding as to why the show and it’s powerful Latina character has been labeled as anything other than I C O N I C.
Gabriella’s character was based on an actual fan of “The Little Mermaid” who passed away from cancer.
Gabriella Angelina Bommino had been a 2-year-old cancer patient in 1992 when she became an avid fan of the 1989 animated movie. In a 1993 Los Angeles Times article, her parents described how their daughter watched “The Little Mermaid” upwards of four times a day throughout the course of her cancer treatments until she died in November of 1992. Ultimately, Bommino inspired the image of the show’s Latina character.
And Gabriella also taught viewers a thing or two about the underestimated abilities of people with disabilities.
In an episode where the Latina mermaid expresses her desire to be able to sing like Ariel, the two mermaids head over to the Magical Wishing Starfish for a bit of his magic. Together they request that he give Gabriella the ability to sing and for Ariel to obtain Gabriella’s dance skills. In the end, while the Magical Wishing Starfish is revealed to be a fraud magician, he does drop some pretty great knowledge: Gabriella can sing through Sign Language and she can also teach her friend Ariel to dance.
Tell me that’s not an empowering moment!
Be sure to share Gabriella’s story with your little one this week!
There’s a whole heck of a lot to learn from her including some great dance moves!
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