Predictable as it is, this post is set out to debunk the misguided notion of Prince Eric being merely a handsome one dimensional character with no layers and agency who supposedly fell for Ariel strictly and solely due to her good looks. If those are the only defining qualities and prominent traits of Eric you’re able to perceive and have been led to believe his character construction is ultimately limited to them here is a list of reasons to why those assumptions are inherently flawed and inaccurate:

Prince Eric is first introduced por the movie narrative as adventurous young man who despite his royal heritage is not above the “dirty work”: the audience is initially exposed to him helping other sailors on the ship as well as showing consideration and concern towards Grimsby in addition to being a good listener and quite an experienced storyteller informed about the subject he takes it upon himself to talk about hence the sailors discussing Triton and the sea with Eric while Grimsby sceptically brushes their theories off. Thoroughness, open mind and a down to earth attitude are established among Eric’s primary characteristics from the get go and not for the sake of forcibly and obnoxiously presenting him as a multi-dimensional morally/intellectually superior protagonist - in fact, he can hardly even be deemed as one seeing as the movie essentially revolves around Ariel and her struggles with inability to obtain independence and fulfill herself outside of a place she feels like she belongs whereas every other character, no matter how significant, plays a part of a supporting cast - but in order to showcase his interests thus, in so much as the first few minutos of the movie we already learn up on not only the hobbies Eric is intensely invested in but the extent of his amor for the sea, conflicted relationship with his guardian figure (Grimsby) and are provided with a raw sketch of his mindset and the lens through which he observes the world. All of it could have easily been left out seeing as Eric’s individual emotional investments are not particularly related to Ariel’s story, but those aspects are outlined regardless because Eric isn’t merely a amor interest of a fiery red head: he has a personality, a character of his own.

seguinte time Eric comes off as “the guy with a flute”, it being the immediate impression he gives off once Ariel first sees him, confronted with not so much his mesmerizing attractiveness as the way his eyes lit up when he produced música for his own pleasure (poignantly, the same exact way Ariel preferred to go about her musical skills: away from the crowds or pretentious grand celebrations, using a melody for self expression. It’s hardly a coincidence that Melody ended up being a name of her and Eric’s daughter) or when he played with his dog or when he was clearly not impressed with the unspectacular present - the statue - por Grimsby but tried to the best of his ability to not show a glimpse of annoyance, repressing an insuperable desire to have a good laugh at the ridiculousness of said present. Eric, however, was thankful for the attention and amor coming from Grimsby regardless of how inexplicably insufficient and misinterpreted the latter’s perception of Eric generally was, which is rather unfortunate given that Grimsby played some sort of a father figure role to him while being entirely unable to get the grasp of how the young man’s mind functioned. Which brings us to another point: according to all the evidence Eric’s parents are most likely dead, considering they didn’t show up on either of his weddings - the fake one with Vanessa and the real one with Ariel - nor were they around when Melody was born whereas Ariel’s entire family came to take a look at the baby. Admittedly, being left in charge of no one other than Grimsby who hardly understood what Eric essentially was about, and having to prepare himself to be a future effective ruler of the Kingdom Eric did a remarkable job maintaining diplomacy, dignity and compassion rather than coming to be spoiled and self entitled due to the lack of parental guidance as well as the luxuries that came together with being born into royalty. Eric is the epitome of a person who built one self up independently, firmly standing his ground confronting the standards imposed on him that he was unwilling to conform to - such as being forced into getting married before determining whether there was a right woman (“the one” as Eric referred to a person he hadn’t yet been lucky enough to meet and want to spend the rest of his life with, not settling for any less) among his suitors for the sake of fitting into a certain ideal of a proper prince. His attitude of a dreamer was a part of his established characterization but he was also exceptionally analytical about his concepts of romance.

Fastforwarding to the storm scene where Eric, once again, is working in a team with other sailors despite the dangers surrounding his participation in those non-royal activities. At first he saves Grimsby from drowning and shortly after that, when the ship is on fogo and coming back ultimately equates with suicide Eric rushes to rescue his dog regardless. And not solely due to his attachment to the pet, for once the danger strikes full force Eric selflessly throws Max off the board knowing there isn’t much of a chance for himself to make it out alive. He is willing to put the dog above his own safety just to make sure it lives another decade while he most likely will be deprived of a long luxurious existence in this world. No personality other than good looks you say, huh?

Having survived a horrific incident Eric sincerely believed he had found true amor and his ideology of a dreamer took a strong grab at his outlooks on relationship seeing as he was set out to find a girl with the gorgeous voice at any cost due to said voice being quite literally the only connection to his rescuer. As some people mistakenly imply, Eric did not fall in amor with a voice, in fact, at that point his feelings were all over the place and not exactly what stands for actual love, a mature fully formed feeling. Being drawn to the idea of a girl who saved him Eric - genuinely and irreversibly - projects his certitude regarding her being “the one” onto the only representation of her he had been left with so far - her voice. And subsequently his idealistic but slightly immature romantic notions backfire with a cunning irony once he meets a girl who has everything a man can dream of but lacks what he seeks out the most. A beautiful stranger doesn’t talk therefore cannot be “the one” nor would she ever - as he firmly believes - pass for “the one” hence why Ariel’s beauty is essentially irrelevant to Eric. His one and only goal concerning relationship at that point revolves around finding that person he believes to be one in the whole world who is right for him. Not only doesn’t he fall for Ariel’s looks but is entirely indifferent to said looks due to thinking that woman is not the one he needs (frankly, the assumption about Eric being easily smitten with visual appeal is extensively incorrect considering the fact that, due to his royal status, chances quite a few attractive female suitors were eager to have his hand only to be rejected because Eric at one point explicitly stated he wasn’t interested in superficial relationship and was waiting for the right person). Which doesn’t mean Eric is immune to primordial instincts and cannot appreciate physical attractiveness - he does, in fact, acknowledge Ariel’s captivating outer exterior once she dresses up for a jantar but it isn’t until she makes him laugh for the first time in few days por being her overly excited, imaginative and adorably dorky self that he starts taking a mais insightful look into her and is willing to take her on a Kingdom tour - while still not being ready to open up to her or let the endearing mysterious girl into his life due to being committed to his unrealistic ideal.

seguinte dia Eric spends actual time with Ariel who proceeds to behave excessive and enthusiastic, never failing to amaze him. She is mais invested in exploring various layers of the city life rather than paying a consistent attention to him (but… but Ariel totally “left her family behind to be with a man” and had no other agenda, right? Right?!), however, Eric is perfectly content with dedicating time and effort into making her feel happy and content, not being put off por her overflowing craziness in the slightest, but getting mais and mais intrigued por the unusual, eccentric nature of his accomplice - to the point of becoming largely conflicted hence the barco scene where Eric wants to get to know Ariel while still being unsure of his own feelings and pulling away when she tries to initiate a kiss - because yes, he still takes relationship incredibly seriously and is unwilling to allow himself so much as an innocent romantic interaction without being fully confident that this person is truly the one for him. He challenges himself and his initially established concepts of idealistic romance, gradually deviating from a strong commitment to an image of a girl with a sing song-ish voice he had created in his mind in favor of opening the door into the possibility of forming a bond with a real person regardless of this blooming relationship being enormously confusing, awkward and opposing to everything he had led himself to believe in before. He was GROWING out of exaggerations and teenage angst and exposing himself to a new perspective of building a mature relationship. The segment with him throwing a flute into the ocean is the ultimate representation of his character development. Progression does NOT necessarily stand for changing your core identity in a span of few days, it doesn’t have to be about undergoing a major transformation from a first class jerk or an individual with anger issues (*cough Naveen and Beast cough*) to a goody two shoes but in some cases might be a slow but steady process of examining and reconsidering your priorities and learning to look at life from a different angle (which imo is the most organic way to structure a storyline involving a convincing character development if analyzed from a place of literary criticism).

Eric’s amor for Ariel was powerful in both dimensions: back when he was an avid dreamer with a controversial concept of romance who invested considerable amounts of emotional energy into the idea of “the one” and when he was no longer a happy go lucky kid indulging in his dreams but a man willing to fight for a person he loves both in a figurative (choosing the real Ariel over the romanticized ideal) and literal sense (once slipping out of the hypnosis Ursula had inflicted him with all of his thoughts and actions were inevitably and directly related to Ariel, to making her feel loved, to instantly accepting the immensely shocking fact of her being a mermaid and to throwing himself into the waves where he couldn’t even breathe at risk of getting killed in order to make sure she doesn’t remain subjected to her captor) - and in neither of those cases was Eric drawn to Ariel’s looks. Prince Eric is the kind of character to represent self awareness, intelligence, ability to respond to emotional challenges rather than cowardly running away from them and giving all of himself to his nearest and dearest and his story contains mais than enough of an evidence to back it up.