'The Shape Of Water' Is A Modern-Day Fairytale

'The Shape Of Water' Is A Modern-Day Fairytale

Came for the memes, stayed for the beautiful story.

When I first heard about the concept for Guillermo Del Toro's Shape of Water, I thought it was a joke.

A woman falling in love with a humanoid fish man? And having sex with him? I guess I'll watch it for the memes. But it was honestly one of my favorite films of the year. I had the pleasure of going to a screening that included a Q and A with Del Toro, Octavia Spencer, and Doug Jones, and from the way they all spoke about the film it became clear to me that the power of the film rested in its fearlessness in tackling its bizarre subject matter with grace and a surprising amount of sensuality.

The story revolves around Elisa, a member of the janitorial staff at a secretive government agency during the Cold War who happens to be mute, and her love affair with "Amphibian Man," who is wanted by both the Soviet and American governments for nefarious purposes.

Throughout the film, Elisa and Amphibian Man's relationship and outsider status serves as an allegory for homophobia, racism, and other prejudices and barriers humans create between each other.

Del Toro mentioned that his inspiration for the film came from a desire for a movie like The Creature from the Black Lagoon to include a love story between the frightening creature and the helpless woman. In Shape of Water, Elisa is far from helpless, and is in fact the creator of her own destiny.

Lacking the power and status of many of the men in the film, as well as the ability to speak, she still manages to save Amphibian Man, and is the one who instigates their romantic and sexual relationship. Her sexual agency was one of the most striking aspects of the film for me, and I would classify the film as quite feminist. Her wonderful friendship with Zelda, Octavia Spencer's character, amplified this.

Another inspiration for the film cited was Beauty and the Beast, though Shape of Water does not follow this film's commonly criticized flaw of depicting a "romantic" relationship that has many characteristics of Stockholm syndrome. It actually subverts this, as the romantic leads end up living in Elisa's apartment. Like the rest of the sets in the film, the apartment is beautifully designed, with every detail clearly hand-picked and agonized over. If nothing else, watch this movie for its visual design and cinematography.

If the film lacks anything, it would be the development of some of the characters, especially development of Amphibian Man's character and the relationship between him and Elisa. The film's fairytale-like quality lends it to some over-simplification of the love between the two of them, and their relationship seems to rest on the pair's isolation from the world and lack of verbal communication. This creates a beautiful sentiment about the ability for people to connect on a more primal level, but it does make the film somewhat cheesy at times.

But maybe I just think that because I've lost the ability to believe in the fairytale-like love portrayed in the film. In this day and age, maybe we all need a bit more of old Hollywood sentimentality and hope in our lives, and this film will give you just that.

Cover Image Credit: Vimeo

Popular Right Now

11 Things Psychology Majors Hear That Drive Them Crazy

No pun intended.

We've all been there. You're talking to a new acquaintance, or a friend of your parents, or whoever. And then, you get the dreaded question.

"So what are you studying in school?"

Cue the instant regret of picking Psychology as your major, solely for the fact that you are 99.9% likely to receive one of the slightly comical, slightly cliche, slightly annoying phrases listed below. Don't worry though, I've included some responses for you to use next time this comes up in conversation. Because it will.

Quick side note, these are all real-life remarks that I've gotten when I told people I was a psych major.

Here we go.

1. So are you, like, analyzing me right now?

Well, I wasn't. But yeah. Now I am.

2. Ugh so jealous! You picked the easy major.

"Lol" is all I have to say to this one. I'm gonna go write my 15-page paper on cognitive impairment. You have fun with your five college algebra problems, though!

3. So can you tell me what you think is wrong with me? *Shares entire life story*

Don't get me wrong; I love listening and helping people get through hard times. But we can save the story about how one time that one friend said that one slightly rude comment to you for later.

4. Well, s**t, I have to be careful what I say around you.

Relax, pal. I couldn't diagnose and/or institutionalize you even if I wanted to.

5. OMG! I have the perfect first client for you! *Proceeds to vent about ex-boyfriend or girlfriend*

Possible good response: simply nod your head the entire time, while actually secretly thinking about the Ben and Jerry's carton you're going to go home and demolish after this conversation ends.

6. So you must kind of be like, secretly insane or something to be into Psychology.

Option one: try and hide that you're offended. Option two: just go with it, throw a full-blown tantrum, and scare off this individual, thereby ending this painful conversation.

7. Oh. So you want to be a shrink?

First off, please. Stop. Calling. Therapists. Shrinks. Second, that's not a psych major's one and only job option.

8. You know you have to go to grad school if you ever want a job in Psychology.

Not completely true, for the record. But I am fully aware that I may have to spend up to seven more years of my life in school. Thanks for the friendly reminder.

9. So you... want to work with like... psychopaths?

Let's get serious and completely not-sarcastic for a second. First off, I take personal offense to this one. Having a mental illness does not classify you as a psycho, or not normal, or not deserving of being treated just like anyone else on the planet. Please stop using a handful of umbrella terms to label millions of wonderful individuals. It's not cool and not appreciated.

10. So can you, like, read my mind?

It actually might be fun to say yes to this one. Try it out and see what happens. Get back to me.

11. You must be a really emotional person to want to work in Psychology.

Psychology is more than about feeling happy, or sad, or angry. Psychology is about understanding the most complex thing to ever happen to us: our brain. How it works the way it does, why it works the way it does, and how we can better understand and communicate with this incredibly mysterious, incredibly vast organ in our tiny little skull. That's what psychology is.

So keep your head up, psychology majors, and don't let anyone discourage you about choosing, what is in my opinion, the coolest career field out there. The world needs more people like us.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Short Stories On Odyssey: Roses

What's worth more than red roses?


Five years old and a bouquet of roses rested in her hands. The audience-- clapped away her performance, giving her a standing ovation. She's smiling then because everything made sense, her happiness as bright as the roses she held in her hands.

Fifteen now, and a pile of papers rested on her desk. The teachers all smiled when she walked down the aisle and gave them her presentation. She was content then but oh so stressed, but her parents happy she had an A as a grade, not red on her chest.

Eighteen now and a trail of tears followed her to the door. Partying, and doing some wild things, she just didn't know who she was. She's crying now, doesn't know anymore, slamming her fists into walls, pricking her fingers on roses' thorns.

Twenty-one and a bundle of bills were grasped in her hands. All the men-- clapped and roared as she sold her soul, to the pole, for a dance. She's frowning now because everything went wrong, but she has to stay strong, for rich green money, is worth more than red roses.

Related Content

Facebook Comments