On the Virtue of Letting Things Be Things

So a trailer came out for Guillermo del Toro’s new movie:

Needless to say, I am pretty excited. Del Toro always has such great monsters, and already this has the feel of a non-traditional fairy tale. December is a long time to wait, but I’ll make it.

But then I perused the comments of the video.

About every other one was seizing on two things:

  1. The fishman in the trailer is played by del Toro vet Doug Jones.
  2. Del Toro previously directed the two Hellboy films, which feature as part of the cast the character Abe Sapien, a fishman played by Doug Jones.

This, to many of them, clearly meant that the fishman is somehow connected to Abe Sapien, and that therefore The Shape of Water is a prequel or otherwise connected to del Toro’s Hellboy films.

You hear that sound? That was my eyes rolling out of my head and across the abyssal plain of the oceans.

I sort of understand this compulsion to connect things up. Humans are good at seeing patterns, and many times we will see patterns where there actually aren’t any. The past decade’s spate of cinematic universes and extended universes and so on hasn’t helped things. People can and do and are encouraged to pick up on the slightest detail and demonstrate how it connects to something that may in some ways be unrelated.

But I think we’re losing something when we do that. I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I think it’s fine and dandy for what it is. But not everything has to be connected.

It is okay to just let things be things.

Let things exist on their own. They don’t have to be connected to an overarching universe to be good or interesting or worthy of our time and attention. Original stories are not bad. They’re actually very good, and del Toro is one of the few directors today who’s interested in providing those kinds of stories.

Another example of this ridiculous “everything is connected” nonsense is the people who insist, loudly and at length, that all the Pixar movies take place in the same universe. This because, for example, Pixar has snuck the Pizza Planet truck into all their films in some form or fashion. A signature reference is somehow proof that there is an overarching universe.

If I’m being honest, I’m not totally up on the Pixar Universe theory (I’d love to see how they justify The Good Dinosaur’s existence in this universe, since that film is pretty clearly an alternate history of Earth). But I despise it to the core of my being. Pixar makes amazing films (more of them could stand to be about girls and women, but). Why can’t those films exist on their own and stand on their own merits? Why do they have to be connected? What’s the point, other than the fact that it allows people to feel smug about “putting it all together”?

I don’t think I fully understand the mentality that leads people to do things like that. I believe there are similar theories about the Disney princesses’ films and it’s just… it boggles my mind. If anything, the show Once Upon a Time is proof of how ridiculous and messy things can get when a million stories all exist in the same universe.

There’s nothing wrong with letting original stories stand on their own. Absolutely nothing. I just wish I could get other people to understand it, because it feels like people are missing the trees for the sake of insisting there’s a forest.


3 thoughts on “On the Virtue of Letting Things Be Things

  1. I agree with you completely and I also prefer the alternate universe where things aren’t all connected. I think the reason it’s been a thing lately is that some movies have made their universe and movies interconnected, and now it’s become an Easter egg hunt and a mystery game to try and see if movies are interconnected. Fans are now motivated to try look at movies and dissect the clues, and see if there are secret clues embedded in the movie. People like to have mysteries and they like to be able to solve them especially if the mysteries are hard to figure out. But I don’t think that means they won’t like an original movie, they just were trying to be first if there was a connection to see


    1. Oh, absolutely! I think people like solving problems and picking up on things other people might miss. I guess I just worry that in this, the Age of the Franchise, original films that aren’t adaptations of some popular property or other might get lost in the shuffle? I don’t know. It’s a difficult feeling to articulate.


      1. Agree again! I am really burned out on superhero movies and sequels and I desperately want more original stories. I want things that will surprise me, things that are different. And I also want to see more different people, people of color, people with different abilities, like this girl in the shape of water. I want a bigger representation of the real life I see around me, and not just some glossy polished Hollywood people. I’m tired of fast snarky, dialogue where the jokes fly out so fast left and right that you know it is scripted. Real people don’t talk like that. Its offputting. In other words, we need to keep giving Mr. Del Toro more money!


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