Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Dusty Little Mermaid

Given that I had to read The Rape of the Lock twice in my academic career, you'd think I would have gotten the joke sooner. I don't know how many times I've watched "The Deep South," the Futurama episode in which the crew discovers the lost city of Atlanta. But upon seeing it yesterday in rerun form, I finally noticed that it manages to reference both Rape and Disney's The Little Mermaid — a commendable feat.

In the episode, Fry meets and marries the mermaid princess of Atlanta. Voiced by a drawling Parker Posey, this one-off character is named Umbriel. In Rape, the protagonist-idiot-heroine, Belinda, is attended chiefly by two spiritual guardians, the airy-fairy sylph Ariel and a dustier, more earthen and far less beautiful gnome named Umbriel. (As far as I can remember, Umbriel doesn't do much useful except return from the Cave of Spleen with far more aggravation for Belinda once her lock's been raped. Umbriel's name would seem to come from the Latin word umbra, meaning shadow. We get "umbrella" from the same root.) In any case, the Futurama mermaid being a slightly off version of the main character from The Little Mermaid, the name "Umbriel" is doubly appropriate. Clearly, Alexander Pope's dust fairy Umbriel has gotten way more mileage than cameoing attendant fairies Brillante, Momentilla, Crispissa, who are referenced nowhere outside of Rape.

And who says you can't do anything with an English major?

Also: I feel weird about abbreviating The Rape of the Lock to just "Rape," but I refuse to write it out.

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