The Shape Of Water: The Monster Of White Privilege By Deffinition
On the surface The Shape Of Water shares many similarities with it’s name sake. It’s graceful, fragile and seems tangible. However, upon diving through the initial layer, many will discover that depth lurks within it’s vast and current themes. Avoiding the fact I’ve just managed to fit in four water pun there, this movie should be applauded and taken seriously for the severity of it’s thematic choices.
The most noticeable being White Privilege.
The Shape Of Water – Deeper Meaning
When first watching The Shape Of Water I was instantly hit with the clear metaphor of Black oppression. Our monster represents the struggle that many Black People endured daily under the Slave Trade during it’s prominence mere centuries ago.
Locked in chains, experimented on and viewed as exempt from civil rights even though the creature clearly exerts humanity, one would be amiss for not noticing the glaring similarities to the past of Black People.
Looking at our own history, there is no avoiding how closely the movie mirrors the key characteristics of this horrendous period. During the Slave Trade, Black people were viewed as non human, animals, and therefore were excluded from the rights that we all now take for granted. This is similar to the way that the water creature is dissected and discussed by government officials and those deemed as above it. Objectified, Death is all that remains for the creature once it is decided that no use remains for it and there exists a lack of empathy for all that are classed as the other.
The Rise Of Civil Right
However, as we take the perspective of Elisa we follow the open mindedness of those that helped to end the tragic conditions that allowed slavery and racism to thrive.
We learn that the monster is beautiful, majestic and shouldn’t be demonised for being different. As Elisa spends more time with the creature it becomes more human like and perfectly incorporates modern life into it’s own. Elisa is the perfect synonym for the decline of a racist mind-state. Similar to the way that Civil Right’s activists did in the 50s and 60s, she gains her voice and begins to speak out and rebel against her oppressors.
Contrasting this, is Michael Shannon’s character. Shannon’s character embodies to a tee the sort of toxic masculinity that is currently dominating our daily news cycles. Quite intentionally too. Echoing the boasts of a then-braggart reality TV star, Strickland muses to his general that even after a minor accident at the lab, he still has his “pussy finger” to do the Lord’s work. And like so many men who’ve felt insulated in their power over women for millennia, Strickland later attempts to corner Elisa in his office at one point, whispering between heavy breaths that “I don’t mind you can’t speak.” This symbolises that he prefers a lack of rebellion or questioning of his actions. Society has placed him at the top of the food chain and he is deaf to anything that may effect that pedestal.
The Shape Of Water Adapts To Fit Your Truth
Like everything else about The Shape of Water, there is nothing prototypical or broad about Shannon’s performance. Elisa’s daily miseries are implicitly linked with his impunity over her and everyone else in the film. Set in a 1962 corner of America that looks like the ‘50s are still thriving, Strickland is a layered monster made of fleshy white privilege and entitlement, and everything else that is supposedly great about his time. In his one scene with a black man in the film, he towers over the stronger figure like a malevolent god, confident in the social structures that allow him to talk and cow people of colour in any context.
The Rise of Gay Rights
Conversely, Elisa and her one friend, the even lonelier Giles (Richard Jenkins), live in the shadows as essentially throwaways. Giles is a not-so-closeted gay man who lost his job at an advertising agency after an “incident” and continues to lust after younger men from afar. But he is condemned to stay in the margins in a world possessed by Strickland and the beasts of his ilk. That is perhaps why he too eventually understands Elisa’s empathy and passion for The Amphibian Man. There is something noble and pure about a being who judges all men and women by their virtue and not their rank.
As the film progresses so does the growth and decline of our key characters. Our Gay and Mute Female characters step forward and make their mark on society. Putting a firm stance in their beliefs, I afraid to be laughed at and mocked anymore by society’s prejudices. In contrast to this Shannon’s wanes and fades.
This is the perfect summation of the recent growth of Women and Gay rights and the end of the film, whilst not perfect,showcases that as people we have changed in unexpected ways and grown as a species, spreading into new areas that we never thought possible.
Similar to this film we should learn to accept those who are different as much as we do the familiar and the piece works perfectly as a metaphor of our times. Like the shape of water, our acceptances are able to fit and adapt to any container that we are placed in and we should never stop trying to change to fit the world around us
So that is my thoughts on the hidden meaning within The Shape Of Water. What did you think of the film? Did this move stop you weeing in swimming pools because someone lives there?
Comment below and let me know.
Also check out my recent video discussing the ending of The Cloverfield Paradox and make sure you subscribe to my channel as I do film, game and comic discussions weekly and I’m sure that there is something on the channel that you will love. Take care, Peace.
Other Articles To Check Out
Make sure you check out the full article on The White Privilege here. I took several excerpts from it and it is definitely worth reading in full.