March 07, 2018
If you are at all alert to contemporary political tendencies, you’ll notice how incredibly stupid The Shape of Water is. On the other hand, del Toro just won the Best Director Oscar, so who exactly is the stupid one?
Perhaps the pandering politics of this movie is just del Toro’s Safe Space for what he really cares about, which is colors. Nobody who matters is going to give del Toro trouble for his hate-whiteyness, and that frees him up to obsess over the colors he really cares about: not partisan red vs. blue, but red vs. green. The Shape of Water is constructed around a color scheme where red represents the beloved nostalgic past and green signifies the hideous technological future.
If genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains, then del Toro is a genius at imposing his childlike fanaticism about how red is his favorite color and green is his most hated color on every single frame in the movie.
On the other hand, I kind of like green. I’m trying to get my lawn to turn green now that it has finally started raining in Southern California.
Granted, I’m not as aesthetic or as stylish as del Toro.
Except…Guillermo has long lived about twenty miles farther out than me in the golfy suburbs, in the 75% white Las Virgenes Unified School District where the ConservaDads from my neighborhood white-flight to when they can’t put up anymore with the “Dreamers” in the 10% white Los Angeles Unified School District.
Indeed, Guillermo del Toro (who is not to be confused with the very cool Puerto Rican actor Benicio Del Toro) is sort of the Mexican Tim Burton, if the Burbank-born Burton weren’t quite so swarthy. Del Toro looks about as pale as the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, an early fatality in the ongoing White Death.
Strikingly, the blue-eyed blond Guillermo refused to set foot in his native Mexico for seventeen years after the 1998 kidnapping of his father, a wealthy car dealer.
His father had won the national lottery and then used that as a grubstake to build a lucrative chain of Chrysler dealerships.
Or so he says. Personally, I’ve never heard of anybody putting a random lottery prize to good financial use. And considering that his son is a movie magician, perhaps it’s more plausible that the elder Senor del Toro somehow rigged the Mexican lottery?
In any case, the morbidly artistic Guillermo grew up trying to confound his car-dealer dad, “the most unimaginative person on earth.” Perhaps del Toro’s award-winning resentment of white males has less to do with his objective assessment of world affairs and more to do with his resentment of his dad?
In any case, their relationship improved after his father was held hostage by Mexican criminals for 72 days in 1998. Eventually Guillermo confessed his family’s predicament to his pal James Cameron, who immediately withdrew $1 million in cash to pay the ransom and put del Toro in contact with the world’s best hostage negotiator.
That’s the least I’d expect from the resourceful Cameron. In fact, I’m kind of disappointed Cameron didn’t invent a cyborg to smash in and rescue Guillermo’s dad.
(Of course, James Cameron is also a marginalized Other, because he’s a Celt, and they are discriminated against by the evil English, as I learned from watching Titanic. Other Celts victimized by the English include Mel [Braveheart] Gibson and Daniel Day-Lewis. Granted, DDL’s father, C. Day-Lewis, was appointed Poet Laureate of England (Chaucer’s old job) by the Queen, but that’s not the point…)
Unfortunately, the Mexican cops, being Mexican cops, failed to catch most of his dad’s kidnappers, who had been sending death threats to del Toro. So he moved his family to the safest suburb of Southern California and didn’t dare visit Mexico again until 2015. Del Toro explained:
Unfortunately I have to leave Mexico after the kidnapping of my father. Creatively I would be back, but as a parent I find it very difficult to return with the assurance that it will not be a problem…
I can empathize. I used to vacation in Mexico, but on a 1996 trip to Baja there were way too many guys with fifth-grade educations holding AK-47s for me to relax.
At the Oscars, del Toro announced that he was an immigrant and that the purpose of art was to “erase the lines in the sand.” Yet del Toro seems to value being able to secure his daughters north of the line in the sand between the Lovecraftian madness of Mexico and the sane safety of suburban America.
It’s almost as if del Toro finding refuge north of the border while his father’s kidnappers are, at least for now, bottled up south of the border is what Trump meant by implying that our immigration system should be reformed so that Mexico is sending their best.