Saturday, March 24, 2007


I think it’s fascinating, the way books about Mermaids get aimed at the young-adult market. And female young adults, at that. They try and they try to sell this damaged archetype to middle schoolers of the WRONG sex, it NEVER catches on, and they JUST CAN’T SEE WHAT THEY’RE DOING WRONG.

In case any humans are reading this, let me put it in perspective. For me, leader of the St. Lawrence Seaway Zone of the North American Branch of the Global Fish Conspiracy, for ME, reading one of these Mermaid stories is like being asked to take seriously a novel about an Olympic medalist pole-vaulter born without arms, legs or a head. Your average Mermaid story, for probably the last fifty to a hundred years, has featured some dizzy adolescent with a fish tail falling in love with a landlubber male, and ruining her own life in the hopeless attempt to get him to MARRY her. This is a hacked-up version of the real dynamic superimposing the motivations (and even the limitations!) of a human female on ONE OF OUR OPERATIVES.

Spare me. A Mermaid overpowered by her love for a featherless biped? A Mermaid so unattractive that she has to struggle to get her man? What is this, a joke? I just got through reading and reviewing Sleeping With The Fishes (q.v.) and it had a lot of the same problems. Maybe I’m projecting here, but it seems to me as I read that even the authors are unconvinced by this nonsense. If that’s true, you certainly don’t see any of them DOING SOMETHING about it. For crying out loud, people, just WRITE A BETTER STORY.

I feel strongly that the target audience is similarly unconvinced. That’s why these books are nothing more than flashes in the pan. They don’t even deserve as much attention as they do get, if you ask me.

At worst this type of novel stands to actually mislead the reader. They could bamboozle a new fish reader into losing confidence in the purity of our Mission, at a time when morale is EVERYTHING. Funnily enough, the novels are even more likely to mislead a human reader -- into believing that Mermaids are mindless sex bunnies willing to chop off their tails just because they love you so much. This sort of delusional thinking actually would BENEFIT us a GREAT DEAL if Mermaids hadn’t been discontinued long since. I mean it would only help us for a short time, before the TV news got wind of it, but we could really get a spike on the recruitment graph in the meantime, followed by a steady trickle of rebellious types who think everything they see on the news is part of a government cover-up, and who will seek Mermaids out to befriend them, feeling our most deadly operatives are being discriminated against. I am too much of a Catfish now to laugh, but if anything could make me smile, this mental image would.

Sirena, published in 2000 by Scholastic and penned by Donna Jo Napoli, may be the most frustrating read of all. I say this because we actually get a bare glimpse of the Mermaid’s proper home life and religious mission before Sirena goes off half-cocked to catch herself a man. She finds herself a remote island complete with a wounded human male to study and observe, and for some bizarre reason she decides to save his life rather than drag him to the bottom of the ocean, eat his face off and feed his screaming soul to Poseidon.

What the author never explains properly is what possessed Sirena to do such a crazy thing in the first place. I do find it encouraging that almost ALL stories of this sort frame such actions by a Mermaid as being OUT OF BOUNDS. Napoli, for instance, makes clear that Sirena’s family would NOT approve.

By the way, what kind of stupid name is Sirena? Isn’t that like naming a human female ‘Girlie’? The story explains that she is one of a large hatching of sisters. If they named one of them Sirena, what did they call the others? Manateena? Betsy Wetsy? Dugonga? Selkie Mae? The possibilities make my head spin.

Here again we see a Mermaid going, humanlike, after the one man she can never have. How many things can you find wrong with this picture, ladies? First off: a Mermaid, like a Canadian Mountie, ALWAYS GETS HER MAN, simply because she is irresistible. Second, there is no truly unsuitable male victim recruit. Sometimes it makes sense to pass on one because he’s a head of state or something and we need him to sign some upcoming declarations, but even then we usually go right ahead. We can always slow down the transformation if we need to. At least we see Sirena stay on target despite the fact that this recruit is evidently under a curse, and extremely unlucky even on his best day. THAT sort of nonsense should not dissuade ANY recruiting operative. Alas, we do see her commit for life to this single landlubber – not to bring him into the sea, but just because she wants to stay with him.

At least Sirena doesn’t mutilate herself by ripping out her tongue or (eeeeccccccch) changing herself into a human in order to get close to the guy. But she did spend an awful lot of time in this book cleaning the infected ooze out of a snakebite on his leg (all part of the guy’s famous luck). Now I know a lot of human nurses become our recruiting operatives as they begin to transform into Mantis Shrimp, or Bream, or what have you. But this situation seems bass-ackwards. She’s NOT taking on the nursing duties to foster a dependency on her. That should be totally unnecessary – she’s a Mermaid, meaning HER COMMAND IS HIS WISH. Now get this: she’s doing it to HELP him. If she knew which end was up, the only thing she would be helping him with is finding Davey Jones’s Locker.

So you see the problem with the story? Unfortunately, this is written in a readable, convincing style calculated to draw in impressionable young minds. BURN EVERY COPY.


Post a Comment

<< Home