Princeton U's men's a cappella group cuts 'Little Mermaid' song due to consent controversy

Princeton University's all-male a cappella group, the Tigertones, is cutting "The Little Mermaid" song "Kiss The Girl" from its catalog after a controversy about its lyrics and consent. (Photo: SBG)

Princeton University's all-male a cappella group, the Tigertones, has removed "The Little Mermaid" song "Kiss The Girl" from its catalog until, the group's president says, they can "arrive at a way to perform it that is comfortable and enjoyable for every member of our audience."

The group arrived at that decision just days after an Opinion piece entitled "Dear Tigertones, please stop singing ‘Kiss The Girl’" appeared in The Daily Princetonian newspaper.

That piece asserts: "Even when gently crooned by an animated crab, the song “Kiss The Girl,” from the Disney hit “The Little Mermaid,” is more misogynistic and dismissive of consent than cute. By performing the song multiple times each semester, the Tigertones elevate it to an offensive and violating ritual."

It goes on to explain the premise of the song as such:ch:" ...is that the male Prince Eric, on a date with the beautiful female Ariel, should kiss her without asking for a single word to affirm her consent. Despite the fact that an evil sea-witch cursed Ariel’s voice away, making verbal consent impossible, the song is clearly problematic from the get-go."

In a letter to the editor, Tigertones president Wesley Brown wrote the following:

"Every time the Tigertones perform, our highest priority is to create a positive atmosphere through an engaging and energetic performance that is welcoming to every member of our audience. For years, our group has aimed to sing “Kiss the Girl” from the Little Mermaid in that same spirit, bringing a lighthearted, youthful energy to our performance of the song. As an opinion column in The Daily Princetonian on Monday pointed out, we have failed to achieve that end while keeping all members of our audience comfortable.

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. 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.

Our group is always striving to impart joy and positivity through our music, and we take very seriously any indication that we fall short of this goal. For that reason, we want to make sure that all audience members feel encouraged to reach out to the group and initiate a dialogue if they ever feel that any aspect of our show is upsetting or offensive. Our repertoire, traditions, and group as a whole are constantly evolving, and thus we value this opportunity to ensure a more comfortable performance environment moving forward. We hope to continue fostering an open dialogue with our audiences both on and off Princeton’s campus."

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