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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.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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