One of the most memorable locations in Disney’s The Little Mermaid is Ariel’s cave of wonders and trinkets, tumbled down from the world above.
These ‘gadgets and gizmos aplenty’ represent Ariel’s desire to understand the human world through their discarded artefacts, dreaming of one day joining them.
Her attempts to figure out what the heck these items are for make up much of the sweet humour in this cartoon classic, with generations of kids giggling at the sight of Ariel trying to comb her fiery red hair using a fork.
However, what would Ariel have to say about the decidedly unmagical ‘thingamabobs’ which are right now littering her ocean kingdom?
No doubt Ariel might think again about wanting to be part of our world if Atlantica was strewn with tossed aside plastic bags, harmful straws and buckets. Not even Scuttle could spin such depressing items into a positive aspect of human culture.
German artist Stephanie Hermes – who also goes by the name s0s2 – has re-imagined The Little Mermaid’s curiosity for human ‘whosits and whatsits galore’ as it would be in the polluted oceans of today. The result is heartbreaking and darkly comic.
Rather than swooning over sunken portraits and statues, this contemporary Ariel wears a 7Eleven bag as a bikini top and cheers on her underwater friends as they dual with pens and toothbrushes. She belches out spoons and bottle tops, and munches dirty cigarette butts, all with a bright Disney-esque smile.
Hermes told UNILAD:
Most of my drawings are cartoons, I just love colours and funny expressions. It’s the best way to express myself with nearly no limits.
Disney has always been a huge inspiration to me and The Little Mermaid has been one of my favourites since I was little!
Plastic pollution, or pollution in general, has always been an issue to me. It’s omnipresent.
I see it when I go outside, I see it when I’m in the supermarket, I see it on the news. Honestly you have to really try hard to ignore it, that’s why I’m having trouble believing some people still deny it. We need to pay attention to our surroundings.
Now that I’m working on The Little Trashmaid I actively research current issues of pollution. And it’s not funny.
I’ve tried to address the issue through my art before and I’m glad it finally worked with “The Little Trashmaid”.
Though, it started out with an unspectacular idea of drawing a Mermaid for the “MerMay Challenge”. Thinking of what she should wear I came up with the plastic bag which is sadly easier to find than a seashell bra nowadays.
Named ‘The Little Trashmaid’, Hermes’ creation is both gruesome and adorable, likeable and repellent. And it should make all of us feel deeply uncomfortable about our current plastic habits.
According to harrowing statistics from Surfers Against Sewage, an approximate eight million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into the world’s oceans every single day.
Plastics consistently make up 60 to 90 per cent of all examined marine debris studied, with an approximate five thousand items of marine plastic pollution found per mile of UK beaches.
Devastatingly, this is having a deadly effect on the same sort of creatures we all marvelled over in The Little Mermaid. Data from Surfers Against Sewage reveals 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and one million sea birds die each year because of marine plastic pollution.
When asked about the reaction to The Little Trashmaid, Hermes told UNILAD:
I was absolutely blown away by the amount of positive feedback it received from all over the world.
People are smart and people feel for her. Having these mixed feelings of being happy and sad when they read the comic is what I was going for. It makes the comic enjoyable to read while being thought-provoking.
Many readers already claimed they want to help Trashmaid to have a better living condition and that makes me happy.
Some people say “she looks happy so it’s all good” but I’d like them to reconsider. Trashmaid is pretty naive (shes only about 12 years old after all), she just doesn’t know better.
Let’s show her how beautiful her environment is supposed to be so she can live a long and healthy life.
The Little Trashmaid’s Patreon page recently started up with 20 per cent of all donations put towards ocean conservation organisations.
You can make a donation to support The Little Trashmaid here.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.