Befriending Sea Monsters in Pop Culture

Posted by Rose Moore

[Image by TenebrisCilva from Pixabay]

This month, Disney’s bright new summer movie hits streaming services—the Italian seaside story of Luca. This movie is a far cry from the classic stories of princesses dreaming for a prince to save them, and instead, is about two young sea monsters who want to explore human life on land. Of course, there are plenty of inspiring moments about friendship, trying new things, and learning about people who are different—and some very literal "fish out of water" gags!

Luca promises to be a charming addition to the Disney library, but it’s not the only movie that has seen humans befriending the things that go splash in the night.



The Little Mermaid

It’s unsurprising that Luca has already drawn comparison with The Little Mermaid. Both are Disney films. Both are about a creature that lives in the sea and dreams of a life on land…however, the comparison stops there. Where Luca is hesitant, Ariel couldn’t get enough of land life. Luca and his friend also seem to have the ability to shapeshift themselves, where Ariel had to make a deal with a sea witch for her legs, and of course, there’s unlikely to be a charming prince in Luca! Still, The Little Mermaid is a family classic for good reason, and it’s got the same spirit of adventure and open mindedness that Luca will.



The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water is another underwater romance, but it couldn’t be further from The Little Mermaid. In this Guillermo Del Toro Oscar-winning period piece, a woman falls in love with the Amphibian Man, a creature being held captive in a lab. The story of her freeing him and falling in love is a beautiful (and surprising) one and a truly unique take on these human/mermaid tales.




Aquaman might take umbrage with the idea of being called a sea “monster,” but as a superpowered, sea dwelling Atlantean, he’s definitely an intimidating character in the world of comics. He’s also an excellent person to befriend, as his underwater gifts make him the sometimes King of Atlantis, and he has joined the Justice League on many occasions to save the world from the usual variety of comic book evils.



Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirate myths and legends abound with creatures from the deep and their relationships with sailors, although most of these revolve around the mermaids ready to seduce a pirate to his watery doom. In the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, mermaids do exist, but a much more central mythical figure is the sea-goddess, Calypso. In the films, Davy Jones, the spurned lover of Calypso, trapped her in a human form, and Jack, Elizabeth, and Will must find a way to set everything right and release the capricious goddess back to her home in the waves (while dealing with a whole lot of piratical obstacles along the way).



Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Even the monster-hunting series Buffy the Vampire Slayer took a dip in the world of sea monsters with this reversed tale where the Sunnydale swim team become slowly (magically) transformed into sea monsters…and eventually flee the school, swimming out into the open ocean. “Go Fish” was a surprising episode, one that gets a little bit dark, but that eventually ends with the same messages as many of the pop culture tales of sea monsters: that they are not so monstrous when simply allowed to live in the ocean and be themselves.


What are your favorite pop culture sea creatures? Tweet @quirkbooks and let us know!