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The Shape of Water & Marginalized Heroes - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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December 18th, 2017

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12:24 am - The Shape of Water & Marginalized Heroes
[personal profile] teaotter, [personal profile] amberite, and I went with three other friends to see Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water - I utterly loved it, but with strong reservations. On one level, it is a gorgeous faerie tale of misfits and minorities triumphing over evil. However, it is also, in places, an exceedingly brutal film. Because, while I trust del Toro to make gorgeous films (of which this is an excellent example), he’s made one that was too brutal for me to enjoy (Pan’s Labyrinth), and another that was utterly terrible and dumb as a bag of rocks (Hellboy II), I don’t trust him to make films I want to see, so (as I increasingly do in such cases) I read spoilers for the film – which did not mention the brutal and bloody torture scene, which I was in no way prepared for.

Also, [personal profile] teaotter pointed out to me that setting the film in the early 1960s felt a bit cheap, since almost all of the racism, homophobia, ableism, and sexual harassment portrayed in the film still exists today, and setting it in the past gave it some unnecessary distance, while there was nothing in the film that required it be set in the 60s other than a few plot details that could have easily been changed.

That said, it was both visually stunning and visually complex in a way few films are, and while somewhat less good, and with an entirely different plot, it reminded me of my favorite novel of the last year, Winter Tide, by Ruthanna Emrys, where both have minorities and marginalized people working with aquatic humanoids. However, one crucial difference is that Winter Tide is set in 1950 for a multitude of reasons that are an intrinsic part of the novel.

In any case, I see the similarity between these two works as in large part being about the particular historical moment we are in, the same moment when The Babadook became a LGBTQ icon , and for the same reasons – the desire for minorities, the marginalized, and monsters to be (or in the case of the Babadook, be seen as) active, wonderful heroes who deserve their happy endings too, a choice that I love and celebrate. In any case, I definitely recommend this film, but it's not as awesome as I hoped it would be.

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