The other night, I was looking for appropriate movies to watch with my 10-year-old son. After searching around a bit, I settled on 1984’s “Splash,” starring Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah as some unlikeable loser and a mermaid, respectively.
I saw this movie when it originally came out. I was 14 years old, completely clueless about romantic matters and ready to believe whatever I was told. In that sense, “Splash” could not have come along at a worse time. I was ripe for disinformation about women and how to interact with them, and this movie offered that in spades.
At the time when I originally saw it, I thought it was funny and enjoyable and didn’t think much else beyond that. After all, John Candy was in it, Eugene Levy was in it, and it featured a shot of Darryl Hannah’s naked ass. Win-win. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was also teaching me things about women that were utterly false, and that would take me years to unlearn.
The message of the movie, which I utterly internalized, was that you can be a whiny nebbish with absolutely nothing to offer, nothing to say and looks best described as “average,” and a strikingly beautiful woman in perfect physical shape who conforms to your every notion about beauty will just show up one day in your life.
Furthermore, she will be magical, doe-eyed and imbued with an utterly earnest personality. She will never get mad at you for any reason, even when you act like an angry prick just so that a movie will have some kind of conflict between the characters at the midway point.
But wait, there’s more! She will hang on to your every word, so much so that when you mention in passing that there’s a fountain in the park that you like, she’ll buy it for you (somehow) and have it installed (somehow) in the middle of your apartment!
She will then tell you that she loves you, for no particular reason. This after a solid week of nonstop, constant fucking, that you don’t even have to put on hold for five minutes so you can call your office and tell them you’re not coming in. After all, your personal happiness is of paramount importance to one and all, including your vendors, even though you run a food business where it’s established at the beginning of the movie that you must personally check on every item that comes through to ensure freshness, since your drunken, womanizing brother never shows up.
Don’t get me wrong. “Splash” is a funny and charming movie, and even though I don’t know Ron Howard personally, I feel confident that I can say that he didn’t make it just to fuck with me or make me have unrealistic expectations about women.
Having said that, it was the wrong movie at the wrong time for me, and it caused years of unrealistic expectations, projected motives and confused behavior on my part. So, if I can say anything to the next generation of adolescent males who are just starting to do things like fawn over some girl and wonder “Why doesn’t she love me?” the answer is, she’s not a magical mermaid engineered by Babaloo Mandel and half the cast of SCTV to acquiesce to your every unspoken desire.