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The Shape Of Water and the masturbating lead

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All right. Let’s start from the top. I finally managed to go out and see Guillermo del Toro’s latest movie The Shape Of Water and it’s awesome. It featured some of my favorite actors (Sally Hawkins, Michel Shannon and Octavia Spencer) oh and let’s not forget the one and only Doug Jones.

You can expect my film review pretty soon, but for now I want to emphasize one particular thing about the lead character. Her masturbating. Hear me out. Sally Hawkins plays Eliza Esposito in The shape of water. A mousy, curious woman rendered mute by an injury she sustained as an infant.

She works the night shift as a janitor at the Occam Aerospace Research Center in early 1960s Baltimore, and has a close friendship with her next door neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) but also with her talkative co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer). Eliza also starts the day (or should I say the night-since she works the night shifts) with boiled eggs, hot bath and with masturbating in that bath.

Yes. Eliza runs her bath every day before she goes to work, and the two screenwriters (Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor) managed to show that in 2 (I repeat) 2 different scenes. I loved that. Why? Cause most often the act of masturbation is portrayed as sinful, dirty and bad in the mainstream media, and especially in the movies. That applies to male masturbation as well. I remember Louis CK speaking about the male masturbating in the most despicable way and I remember him talking about the shame and regret he felt after wards. But that is not the case with Eliza.

Not only she enjoys it, she goes the extra mile by making it the whole daily experience not a routine, but a me-time ritual. She makes it even more pleasant by masturbating in a warm bath all by herself, and I thought to myself… I love that. Way to go Vanessa and Guillermo.

Sure Nymphomaniac, Mulholland Drive and even Girls portrayed the act but not this way… Maybe the closest thing to an enjoyment from masturbating came from Joan Allen’s bathtub scenes in Pleasantville, but not very movies do it right these days.

So I was pleasantly surprised by The Shape of water to be honest, which prompted this post. The shape of water was one hell of a movie, and I can’t wait to pen the review too.

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7 comments

  1. Robin Thomas 10 January, 2018 at 02:57 Reply

    Really?? I think the scene was completely unnecessary to movie– why would we care? It added nothing to the movie.

    • Victoria 15 March, 2018 at 21:02 Reply

      Disagree. It stages she’s a healthy single sexual person which contrasts nicely to handwashing and sexual identity of Shannon’ s villainous married character who leeringly threatens to take her sexually while he expects her to remain quiet. (Water contrasts as is lyrical not silent.)
      Some theorize she was part water creature too and this is a clue. Other clues include her being orphan, mute, and also theory holds her throat scars as atrophied gills the creature heals.

  2. Emily 14 January, 2018 at 15:03 Reply

    @Robin Thomas: Way to miss the point. You could just as easily have said the same thing about her making hard-boiled eggs each morning (“unnecessary to movie; we know how eggs are boiled; we know she must eat”?) The scenes, for one, show us what Elisa’s day-to-day life is like.

    And, two, while the act may be just self-pleasuring for the sake of it, i.e, because it feels good,=, it’s probably, in this case, also to indicate that Elisa isn’t in a relationship with a sexual component.

    Incidetnally, Lady Bird also, has a bathtub masturbation scene presented in almost identically (and there’s a later discussion of it between her and her best friend), and it’s presented as being unshameful (even though she goes to a Catholic girls’ school, where the act would be considered verboten).

    It’s part of life; it’s part of Lady Bird’s and Elisa’s lives; and there’s nothing wrong or shameful about it.

  3. Elle 8 February, 2018 at 23:08 Reply

    It didn’t look like masturbating to me. It looked like the water was doing something to her, she was having sex with the water. This all explains her gills and also the way she controlled those water droplets on the bus ride. She had a strange power over water. I think she is also an amphibian; adopted as a baby, strange “scars” on her neck, her inability to speak. I thought that was what they were establishing at the beginning of the movie with the bathtub scenes – the relationship she had with water.

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