Well, here we go again. Yet another retrospective on a film I saw while trapped, eyes wide open, on the flight to Greece last spring. It was the wildly popular and critically acclaimed, The Shape of Water. The possessor of the ultimate in Hollywood’s Good Housekeeping Seal of PC approval, it won Best Picture at the 2018 Academy Awards. Not to mention cleaning up in a bunch of other categories.
Oh, that I could have slept. Or, with apologies to Mrs. Browning, “How do I dislike thee? Let me count the ways.”
Creative? Or an assemblage of weary PC tropes?
For the few of you that may have missed it, the story revolves around a sexually intimate relationship between a young, mute cleaning woman, Elisa, and a lizard like sea creature. Only in Hollywood.
But, I have to confess, right off the bat, that I’ve probably made my first mistake. Bestiality probably isn’t a weary Hollywood stereotype. Yet. But give it time. With the success of Shape, who knows what kinky delights show biz, even now, is conjuring up for us?
The really bad guys.
As everyone knows, a gang of bad guys is de rigueur in a red blooded Hollywood production. And, in the case of Shape, the gang is-horror of horrors- a 1950’s era nuclear family: husband, wife and a couple of kids. And believe me, there’s plenty not to like about the Strickand family.
The husband, an Army Colonel, is a knuckle dragging Cold Warrior whose preferred method of “interrogating” the sea creature is chaining him up and poking him with a cattle prod. Now, if you’ve followed this blog at all, you know I’m no fan of our bloated military: here and here. But the depiction of Strictland’s character is nothing more than a one dimensional caricature of the villain in a black hat.
The wife? A ’50’s era house wife whose bouffant hairdo matches her empty head. And the chubby, boob tube watching kids? Put it this way: the world would be a be a better place if these brats were both unseen and unheard.
But the most serious charge against the Strickland mob? They’re heterosexual. And exemplars of “white privilege”. So, in the all seeing eye of Hollywood, there’s no need for a trial: the entire gang is guilty by definition.
And the good guys?
No, that’s not a trick question. It’s as easy as is seems. Figure out who the bad guys are. And then look for their opposites.
In père Strickland’s case, it’s Giles, the sensitive, oppressed homosexual who helps Elisa free her sea creature lover from the clutches of Colonel Strickland.
And the antipode of Strickland’s wife? The sensitive, oppressed black cleaning lady who joins forces with Elisa to “let my sea creature go“.
I like movies. Just not this movie.
As you’ve gathered by now, I watch quite a few movies. Most often Netflix choices while I’m working out on the elliptical in our basement. Movies are among the most transparent windows into our culture that are available to us. But the movies that I usually favor tend to be years, even decades, old. Give me Hollywood’s Golden Era almost every time. And movies made during the Golden Era are, perhaps, most revealing in showing how far Hollywood has fallen.
And Shape is, indeed, transparent. Transparent in its distortion of institutions like marriage and family that have served as the bedrock of civilization for millennia. Transparent in its contempt for the regard that most Americans still, at least in theory, have for these institutions. And, therefore, transparent in its contempt for most of its audience.