Wednesday, January 24, 2018

"The Shape of Water" And The Decline Of Civilization

          Nominations for the Oscars are out, and a movie called The Shape of Water has swept them, receiving nominations in 13 different categories. You might be forgiven if you had never heard of the film--its theatrical release was only on December 1, 2017. The basic premise is that a mute woman, working at a secret lab, develops a relationship with a humanoid newt type creature that had been captured in South America. But I was curious: why such intense interest in a film no one (normal) had heard of? And one with a basic plot--fantasy/horror--that rarely attracts the interest of those giving out awards? Because it hits all the correct buttons with the left.

          From the BBC:
All things considered, the savvy choice for best picture might be Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which has been nominated in a whopping 13 different categories. Admittedly, it’s yet another film with a male director, but it does have a female co-writer, Vanessa Taylor, and a female lead, Sally Hawkins, and it passes the Bechdel Test[*] within minutes. If that weren’t enough, it has major black and gay characters, as well as a South American immigrant; true, he’s a half-human, half-newt South American immigrant, but that’s not the point. More diverse and inclusive than any of the other best picture nominees, the film doesn’t just rail against sexism, racism and homophobia, it argues that they are all symptoms of the same patriarchal disease – a disease which all voiceless and oppressed people should defeat together. In short, The Shape of Water is a lot more militant than the average magic-realist fable about a woman who fancies a fish-monster. What’s more, it’s even more topical now than when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last August.
Can you even read that without laughing? What pretentious drivel.

          In addition to the leftist "hot buttons" listed by the BBC, the movie also hits another leftist button: deviant sex. According to IMDb's Parents' Guide, the film is "[r]ated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language." This includes, on top of several other sex scenes, "[a] sex scene between the main character and a fish monster .... " (Underline added). Presumably the two communicated throughout so that there would be no misunderstandings as to consent. We wouldn't want the fish monster swept up into a #metoo accusation!

        A common theme writers often use to demonstrate a civilization in decline is the decline or decadence of its art. One particular example that comes to mind is the following from H.P. Lovecraft's classic, "At the Mountains of Madness":
Art and decoration were pursued, though of course with a certain decadence. The Old Ones seemed to realize this falling off themselves, and in many cases anticipated the policy of Constantine the Great by transplanting especially fine blocks of ancient carving from their land city, just as the emperor, in a similar age of decline, stripped Greece and Asia of their finest art to give his new Byzantine capital greater splendors than its own people could create. That the transfer of sculptured blocks had not been more extensive was doubtless owing to the fact that the land city was not at first wholly abandoned. By the time total abandonment did occur—and it surely must have occurred before the polar Pleistocene was far advanced—the Old Ones had perhaps become satisfied with their decadent art—or had ceased to recognize the superior merit of the older carvings. At any rate, the aeon-silent ruins around us had certainly undergone no wholesale sculptural denudation, though all the best separate statues, like other movables, had been taken away.
Spengler argued the same in his Decline of the West, that once a civilization's connection with its roots was cut off, the quality and originality of art immediately began to decline. Truly this film, The Shape of Water, illustrates this principle. The BBC writer doesn't make any comments about it being art, only about it addressing all the politically correct issues. The film appears to be nothing more than political statement and sexual debasement. This is a large part of the swamp which must be drained.

* According to Wikipedia, the Bechdel test asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.

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