There were two women about my age sitting next to me in the movie theater. They smelled like wine, and they were loud and bawdy through the whole movie. I wanted to snap at them You are not in your living room! Please kindly STFU. But I didn’t say anything because God knows I love a tipsy night out with my mains. They giggled like mad at the naked bathtub scenes, they debated the anatomy of the fish-man (“Do you think he even has a dick?”), they were not shy about scoffing and loudly protesting what they thought was weird or uncomfortable or silly.
I spent the first half of The Shape of Water thinking about girls in white bathing suits.
Specifically, about the girls in white bathing suits who show up in monster movies. The monster falls in love with them, the girl is terrified, everyone flips out, the monster kidnaps her, she falls in love despite the fact that he is a monster, her straight-laced boyfriend shoots the monster who is dangerous to society but good to her, and she is broken hearted but the world goes back to normal. Dracula. The Creature from the Black Lagoon. King Kong. Beauty and the Beast.
I thought about how the monster is a metaphor for female sexuality, and I thought about how we have been terrified, and tried to suppress, female sexuality since the dawn of time.
I had heard that the two best friends in this movie were stereotypes – the Gay Best Friend and the Wise Black Best Friend. But I was pleasantly surprised that they were complex and interesting in their own right, not just in relation to the main character.
But after a while, I just stopped thinking about sexuality and What It All Means and just sort of drowned in this movie. The issue of his genitals is explained, and it’s weird, but I let myself feel weirded out and uncomfortable and sort of confused by the whole experience. There is even a glorious musical number with the fish man. The movie made me want to buy red shoes and dive into the water to breathe from my neck gills. It was a strange, beautiful, odd little movie. By the end I was giggling right along with the ladies next to me.
PS – If Husband doesn’t buy this book for me, I will for sure buy it for myself.
PPS – For a different take on this movie, one that made me question my ableist view of the world, please read this article, though it does contain spoilers. Her interpretation of the love story, and of the portrayal of the disability, made me think about this movie in a whole new light.