Five Simple Rules for Mermaid Movies

Five Simple Rules for Mermaid Movies (photo)

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Technically, Ondine — the title character of Neil Jordan’s new film — isn’t a mermaid. When she winds up in fisherman Colin Farrell’s net in the middle of the ocean, his daughter (Alison Barry) becomes convinced that she might be a selkie, a mythological seal-human hybrid of European folklore that the father and daughter take in as one of their own.

But, after all, a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, and a mermaid by any other name would smell just as briny. Whatever you want to call its subject, “Ondine” certainly follows many of the rules of mermaid movies established by its cinematic predecessors. To wit, here are some rules to live by when your average Joe pulls out a mermaid from the sea (oh, and beware landlubbers, some SPOILERS be near):

06042010_LittleMermaid.jpg1) They’re about testing the possibility of impossible love.

Most mermaid movies, “Ondine” included, are about love in the face of great obstacles. They wind up working nicely as metaphors for any kind of relationship between people of different societal groups. As a mermaid and a human, Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) and Eric (voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes) from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” (1989) face the same sorts of problems that hound many interracial or interfaith couples: disapproving parents, societal guilt and pressure.

In the sequel “The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea” (2000), the always contested question of how to raise their children. As if that weren’t enough, they’ve also got to contend with storms, shipwrecks, evil witches and Faustian bargains on their way to their happy ending. Not an easy road to walk (or sea to swim) for anyone, but it’s pretty typical of the enormous odds usually stacked against mermaid/human lovers on screen.

06042010_DennisHoppernighttide.jpg2) Mermaids don’t work well on deadlines.

Mermaids come with so many rules. They’re like the Mogwai of the sea: handle with extreme care or suffer the consequences. Primary among these rules is the fact that they can stay on land only for so long before, depending on the story, they die, or must return to the sea, or are stuck living here permanently. Madison (Daryl Hannah) from “Splash” (1984), for example, has only six days with Tom Hanks’ Allen before she has to head back to watery climes.

Though a lot of movie mermaids are benevolent, a few have violent tendencies, which are commonly synched to lunar cycles: Dennis Hopper suspects his girlfriend (Linda Lawson) in “Night Tide” (1961) might be a mermaid driven to kill under the full moon. So I guess they’re sort of the Mogwai werewolves of the sea (Right now, someone is Hollywood is trademarking the name “Mogwai Werewolves of the Sea.” Tagline: Next Christmas, come sea what happens if you don’t feed them after midnight!)

06042010_Peabody.jpg3) They ain’t feminists, either.

In “A Little Mermaid,” Ariel is a curious 16-year-old mermaid, with dreams of exploring the world of humans. But once she’s laid her eyes on Prince Eric, she forgets all of that and focuses entirely on him; she gives up her beautiful singing voice and risks an eternity of damnation all to be with a guy she’s barely met and never even talked to. And, sadly, that’s pretty much how it goes for movie mermaids, many of whom represent a slightly unsavory portrait of man’s ideal woman: obedient, voluptuous, willing, naked, and silent. Is this really what men want? According to mermaid movies, yes. For one particularly demented example, watch “Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid” from 1948, in which a married William Powell cheats on his wife Polly (Irene Hervey) with a mermaid (Ann Blyth) he catches fishing in the Caribbean.

Mr. Peabody’s mermaid, whom he names Lenore, stands in stark contrast to the missus. Unlike the wise-talking, independent Mrs. Peabody, who angers her husband by talking to other men on the beach in a slinky bathing suit, Lenore waits patiently, faithfully and mutely for his visits to her home in the Peabody pond. Even though she can’t speak and they have nothing in common — Peabody’s not even a good swimmer — he claims to have fallen in love with her because “there’s much to be said for a woman, even an imperfect one, who lives, breathes, and exists only for the man she loves.” Somewhere, Laura Mulvey is crying.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.