"It annoys me how both Ariel and Hercules sacrifice their lives with their families and their best qualities (Ariel’s voice/Hercules’s strength and later immortality) for a mortal, and only Ariel is vilified for it"
There is so much truth here. Ariel is constantly criticized for giving up her home, family, and tail/voice for a man (as I’ve pointed out before, it wasn’t even all for Eric. She already wanted to be human). Hercules situation directly mirrors all of this but no one criticizes him for making all those sacrifices for Meg. For him the stakes are even higher! But he’s heroic for all the same reasons that make Ariel supposedly weak/foolish/submissive/etc. Somehow it’s okay for a guy to make sacrifices for a girl but not the other way around? That’s some pretty twisted feminism if you ask me.
I think it’s more so because Ariel is super disobedient, and basically makes a deal with the devil. She doesn’t really think twice about leaving her family, nor the fact she’s making a deal with a notorious sea witch. Then when things turn to shit she’s suddenly like “Daddy I’m sorry! I didn’t know!”. Yeah I didn’t know I was making a bargain with a sleazy sea witch. Really I didn’t.
In the actual fable The Little Mermaid actually isn’t super rebellious (she waits until she is granted permission before she travels to the surface) and actually misses her family a lot. And when the prince marries another, she fully accepts her fate.
Didn’t Hercules give up his power in order to save Meg’s life? There’s two completely different scenarios at play here.