“Nobody thinks The Shape of Water was going to bust the cash register, but it got made because it’s chock full of symbolism about the evils of “repressive” America.” – Ben Shapiro
White men are racist and callous. They brutalize women, cheat on their wives, and casually destroy the environment. Far superior is the non-white man, who is more innocent, noble and sensitive, and infinitely closer to nature – indeed, very nearly a god in comparison.
Oh, and by the way, America, its military, capitalism and Judeo-Christian civilization all suck, too.
That is the horses**t message being peddled in The Shape of Water, written and directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg and Doug Jones as the Creature, or rather the Amphibian Man, as he is listed in the credits.
But it is the very real undercurrent of racism and sexism within the movie’s progressive concept that is, for the insightful, most appalling. Another dose of poison from ultra-liberal Hollyweird.
The story: In 1962 Baltimore (think Freddie Gray, white cops, the 2015 riots), a neglected mute cleaning woman (Hawkins) falls in love with a strapping Creature from the Black Lagoon knockoff. Along the way, the writer/director’s political agenda is embarrassingly revealed in what turns out to be a racist, sexist, anti-establishment screed.
As if we haven’t had enough of those.
Shannon’s government operative Richard Strickland, conspiring with a stock representative of the military-industrial complex (Nick Searcy), clumsily embodies everything that del Toro feels like railing against. After the amphibian/human hybrid is discovered in the Amazon, where it was revered by local primitives as a god, it arrives at a high-security government laboratory to be studied – or rather, to be chained, mocked, starved, sadistically tortured and eventually carved up by Strickland. The heavy hand of the military lurks in the background, of course, hoping to find a way to weaponize the creature if it can.
Hawkins, however, a lonely but plucky woman who really enjoys bath time, sees the gentle, beleaguered creature as what used to be called a “noble savage.” She pities it, feeds it hard-boiled eggs, falls in love with it, plots to rescue it with the aid of a gay friend (Richard Jenkins) and African-American woman (Spencer) and a gentle communist spy (Stuhlbarg) and – don’t forget, this is Hollywood – gets naked and has sex with it. But not before the sadistic, misogynistic, militaristic white male, defeated and symbolically castrated by the creature (who, well whaddya know, also has magical healing powers), whimpers “F**k – you are a God” before dropping at its feet.
If you’re old enough, you remember all the stink about white men’s supposed fear of the sexual prowess of their African-American counterparts. The ‘60s saw outrage over macho football star-turned-actor Jim Brown bedding white women like Stella Stevens/Raquel Welch. Or, a decade later, a hot mess called Mandingo starring boxer Ken Norton – a story set on a slave plantation in the old South about a slave master’s mania over his wife bedding down with an especially buff slave (Norton).
These are the fever dreams that del Torro exploits in weaving together this two-dimensional indictment of Caucasian American men and what he sees as the corrosive, exploitative America they have created.
Wonder if he voted for Trump.
Howard Riell is a veteran journalist, editor, author, teacher and consultant. An Orthodox Jew, he has hosted and produced his own radio talk show, Riell Truth, on Christian radio station KHNC 1360AM in Colorado, since 2008.