Guillermo Del Toro’s Shape of Water winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards is historic for a number of reasons: it’s one of the few horror films to win Best Picture, and it’s Del Toro’s first Oscar.
It’s also probably one of the only Oscar-nominated films to include a sex scene between a human being and a sea creature.
The underwater sex scene inspired a slew of memes about the mechanics of an interspecies romance with marine life. Someone even made a Shape of Water dildo, so fans can have their very own model of the fish-man’s junk.
Del Toro isn’t the first person to imagine an aquatic pairing with a human. Here are a few of history’s fictional and real instances of romances with fish and sea creatures.
The Girl Who Talked To Dolphins
This aquatic love story, much like Shape of Water, also takes place in a lab.
In the 1960’s, neuroscientist John Lilly spearheaded a NASA-funded experiment to teach dolphins to speak through their blowholes. His research assistant, Margaret Howe Lovatt, quickly bonded with a dolphin named Peter. By the fifth week of the experiment, Peter began showing signs of sexual attraction to Margaret, and according to the Telegraph, she “decided to administer relief herself” because his advances were so aggressive.
In other words, she regularly gave Peter the dolphin handjobs. In the name of science, of course.
The laboratory vet said, “This dolphin was, well, madly in love with her.”
Lilly’s experiment fell apart as his tests became more and more bizarre. He injected his dolphin subjects with LSD in an attempt to “open their minds,” but NASA pulled funding after failing to see results. Peter was moved to an aquarium in Miami, but separated from his human love, he voluntarily stopped breathing and died by suicide.
Peter and Margaret’s story was featured in a surprisingly unsensational BBC documentary called The Girl Who Talked To Dolphins.
Let’s just agree: the free love movement of the ’60s and ’70s took romance to some strange places. Strange places including dolphin habitats.
During the summer of 1970, Malcolm Brenner fell in love with a dolphin. He claims that he had a “consensual sexual relationship” with a dolphin named Dolly at a Floridaland, a now-defunct theme park. He first encountered Dolly when he was hired as a photographer for a children’s book about dolphins, and was given free access to the park.
Brenner claims that Dolly actively pursued him and that he gave in, telling the New York Daily News: “If this was a woman, would I come up with these rationalizations and excuses?”
Brenner’s access to the park and unsupervised visits to Dolly’s habitat gave him free reign to have penetrative sex with the dolphin.
“It felt like I was making love with the ocean itself,” he told Jezebel. Brenner graphically detailed the encounter — including the mechanics of maneuvering human genitals with the dolphin’s in open water — in his autobiography Wet Goddess. He was also the subject of a short documentary called Dolphin Lover.
Starring young Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah, 1984’s Splash tells the story of a complicated romance between a human being and a mermaid five years before The Little Mermaid was released.
Allen, a depressed workaholic, falls in love with a mermaid named Madison after she saves his life. He attempts to show her what normal human life is like, but she’s kidnapped by scientists who plan to dissect her.
Like in Shape of Water, Allen chooses to be with his fish love and relinquishes human life on dry land. Unlike in Shape of Water, Splash doesn’t delve into the mechanics of fish sex.
The Little Mermaid
Disney’s The Little Mermaid, released in 1989, is one of the most iconic human-fish romances in history. Based on Hans Christian Anderson’s short story, young Ariel wants to be where the people are. She falls in love with the human Prince Eric and trades her voice for legs and almost loses him to the evil sea witch Ursula — you know the story.
It’s a Disney movie, so there obviously isn’t an interspecies sex scene like in Shape of Water. But it does make viewers wonder: Why was Eric attracted to Ariel, a girl whose bottom half is a fish tail, in the first place?
Shape of Water’s Elisa would probably know.
The Simpsons: Troy McClure’s fish fetish
The Simpsons’ Troy McClure is a washed up, B-list celebrity whose lukewarm career is marred by his rumored fish fetish. In the episode “A Fish Called Selma,” he marries for good publicity and to put the fish rumors to bed.
References to McClure’s thing for fish are sprinkled with gems like “he’s sleeping with the fishes” and “people don’t do that type of thing with fish!”
His new wife Selma, disappointed by McClure’s lack of attraction to her, asks if he’s gay.
“I wish,” McClure responds, “If I were gay that’d be no problem. No, what I have is a romantic abnormality, one so unbelievable it must be hidden from the public at all costs. You see … ”
Selma stops him before he can admit to his love for marine life.
OK, there’s obviously no fish sex in Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo, because it’s a movie about children, for children. However, it is still a romance between a sea creature and a human.
The 2008 film revolves around a magical goldfish named Ponyo, whose parents are a wizard/scientist and a powerful sea goddess. Ponyo meets a five-year-old human boy named Sosuke and decides to become a human girl after falling in love with him.
She ultimately gives up her magical powers and her underwater life to become a human girl and live with Sosuke on dry land.
This 2011 game is about an octopus posing as a human father, who must fulfill household tasks, deflect his wife’s suspicions, and avoid a manic chef who wants to cook him.
(Those household tasks do not include sex, so don’t think you can play some Sims-esque WooHoo with beastiality.)
Playing as Octodad, tasks include playing with your son, quelling your daughter’s fear of monsters, and being a loving husband. The sequel, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, reveals how Octodad fell in love with his wife and married her, despite never revealing the fact that he’s a cephalopod in a suit.
The Office: Captain Mutato
Dwight K. Schrute is one of The Office’s more eccentric characters. His hobbies include beet farming, antagonizing his coworkers with strict rules, and in later seasons, writing mermaid erotica.
“Captain Mutato is half-man, half-mermaid, so he can fight crime as a man and make love as a mermaid,” Dwight tells the camera, “Most of my writing involves the latter.”
What does making love as a mermaid entail? Maybe it’s time to rewatch Shape of Water.
Gravity Falls: The Deep End
Gravity Falls’ Mabel has her first kiss with Mermando, a mermaid stranded in the deep end of the pool she lifeguards. In the episode “The Deep End,” the two develop feelings for each other. Despite the budding relationship, Mabel helps him escape from the pool he’s trapped in and into a lake so he can find his way home. (Shape of Water, anyone?)
Coming Out On Top
You may have seen this screenshot floating around social media, and thought “Why has humanity allowed this to exist?”
It’s actually from a mostly wholesome game on Steam about exploring sexuality as a young queer person. Coming Out On Top is a roleplaying game where the player can interact with other characters and pursue relationships with them. Some of the relationships with be brief flings, and others will be more meaningful, depending on how much you’re willing to invest in them.
And if you follow a certain path, your pet goldfish will grow into a person-sized fish for a passionate one night stand.
Bojack Horseman: Bojack Kills
One of the running gags in Bojack Horseman features whale exotic dancers in a Seaworld-meets-Vegas-strip water park called Whale World, where families can watch bikini-clad killer whales seductively jump through hoops for cash.
The episode manages to make a commentary on both the objectification of women and the exploitation of endangered sea life.
“Families come together to admire the fine female form of the majestic killer whale,” the Whale World commercial says, “You and your little one are gonna get moist.”