Is this really where the discourse is at now?

Fresh off his demented obsession with women, and trans women, and what is a woman, and making a whole dumb-ass movie in which he demands that he be provided with a neat, pat definition of a woman (and getting upset because no one could give him an adequate one, which ought to have told him that his tidy binary premise was false), Matt Walsh has found a new cause célèbre. He’s unhappy with a Disney remake of the Little Mermaid because…

You know what else is unscientific? Mermaids. Period.

At the same time, he tries to argue that the appearance of mythical creatures like mermaids is a reflection of the culture, not necessarily a scientifically valid truth. Maybe mermaids are just a cultural artifact, like centaurs or trolls or gods, Mr Walsh. Get over yourself. You’re just reaching for justifications to excuse your bigotry.

It would be reassuring if I could just dismiss Matt Walsh as a deeply stupid person, but I’m afraid the evidence so far is that he is definitely a hateful bigot.

He’s also a useful example to illustrate how reason and science can be twisted into bogus rationalizations for unreasonable and unscientific and even wicked conclusions.

Right on schedule, now Walsh is claiming it was all a “joke”.

Was I supposed to laugh?


  1. remyporter says

    All this concern about skin pigmentation (fish frequently get their vitamin D from dietary sources and thus don’t need to photosynthesize it) and no concern at all about the auditory acoustics of sound in water. Since we see her mouth forming words, we can only assume that she sings by pushing water over her vocal cords (unlike whales), which means that for her size she’s got to have a prodigious muscle capable of pushing large volumes of water, and also her vocal cords must be similarly strong. The witch didn’t steal her voice, her vocal cords just aren’t capable of vibrating in air! The entire movie falls apart! The sea witch was just a con-artist all along, and also, wait, didn’t particularly do anything wrong in the first place!

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    Funny, I never heard Matt Walsh complain when Scarlet Johansson played Maj. Motoko Kusanagi in the live action version of Ghost in the Shell or when Mickey Rooney and Marlon Brando played horribly racist caricatures of Japanese people. Did he kvetch when Yul Brynner played Ramses or the King of Siam? How about all those Charlie Chan movies starring white guys in yellow face? Need I bring up John Wayne’s hilariously bad Genghis Khan in The Conqueror? And who can forget Amos & Andy?

    Yet Matt is ONLY upset that a character previous portrayed as having white skin is played by a brown actor? Hmmmm… I wonder why?

  3. Akira MacKenzie says

    It would be reassuring if I could just dismiss Matt Walsh as a deeply stupid person, but I’m afraid the evidence so far is that he is definitely a hateful bigot.

    He can be both.

  4. Akira MacKenzie says

    Addendum @ 2: YES, I know most of the media so mentioned was created long before Matt was a sinful thought in his parent’s brain, but he had to be aware of at least some of them.

  5. says

    Yeah, funny how whenever that lot are being “serious” it’s a bad joke, but when they’re “just kidding” the jokes aren’t at all funny. I was about to say they should make up their minds, but it doesn’t matter because whichever side they’re on they’re doing it wrong.

    Oh, and I saw a really great Twitter response to Walsh’s nonsense, to the effect of: “After all the Africans y’all threw into the sea, y’all are surprised there’s a black mermaid?!”

  6. raven says

    Proof that Matt Walsh is very stupid.

    The Little Mermaid doesn’t live in the deep sea!!!

    If she did, we wouldn’t be able to see her and there would be no movie.
    Because the deep sea is completely dark. All the sunlight has been absorbed.

    It is quite clear that the Little Mermaid lives in shallow water with lots of sunlight around.

  7. microraptor says

    Hollywood white-washes characters all the time, but Matt Walsh is curiously silent about things like Tonto from Disney’s Lone Ranger (Comanche), or the Ancient One in Dr Strange (Tibetan), or Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins (Arabic) being played by white people.

  8. says

    Oh, and here’s a little article about how my great and wunnerful state is demonizing and scapegoating trans people, as a necessary distraction from REAL problems the Retrumplitarians can’t bring themselves to face:

    And here’s a little extra bit of state bullying that doesn’t just affect trans kids:

    The new regulations also require parents to sign off on any counseling for students related to gender.

    “It’s not just transgender students,” Vizcardo-Lichter said. “It directly affects all students if a parent is able to opt you out of school counseling that’s supposed to be there to support you and help keep you safe.”

    It is quite clear that the Little Mermaid lives in shallow water with lots of sunlight around.

    Yeah, that’s true of ALL mermaids: they sit on rocks and frolic about in shallow waters and flash their titties at sailors to distract them so they don’t maneuver their ships well enough to avoid hitting rocks (which, again, isn’t a problem in deep water). Walsh is about as ignorant about folklore as he is about science. Maybe this is his desperate attempt to distract us from his earlier diversionary bullshit about trans people. Which may have been an attempt to distract us from earlier diversionary right-wing bullshit about abortion. Which, let’s fact it, was all about distracting people from all the Retrumplitarians’ other failures and con-games…

  9. says

    The Little Mermaid doesn’t live in the deep sea!!

    I’ve been wondering about that myself. Since mermaids seem to be human from the waist up, would they be air breathers or do they have gills?
    Fortunately, the internet has these answers. From my search results:

    Mermaid infants born underwater have active gills (which show as red stripes around the base of their (cartiliginous) rib cages), but they will take in air via their lungs if there is no water. Mermaids milk their kids using their (typically enormous) breasts, much like a human mother would.

    So, yes, they do have gills but also lungs, which means they likely will spend some time at the surface. And aquatic creatures that spend time near the surface tend to be darker on top and lighter underneath to hide more effectively from predators both above (who will see the mermaid against a dark background) and below (who see said mermaid against a brighter background).
    Am I overthinking this? I might be overthinking this.

  10. birgerjohansson says

    Räven @ 6
    There is a term for the shallow part of the ocean, but I have forgotten it. Anyway, I doubt the walsh know the difference.
    Introduce him to the girlfriend of Herr Doktor Johannes Cabal, a very nice lady/spider demon with surprising offensive capabilities. “What do you mean, a lady may not switch between having two and eight legs? This conversation is making me hungry.”

  11. birgerjohansson says

    Charlie Chan was mostly played by a Swedish actor. Because everyone knows the Chinese came from Scandinavia.

  12. StevoR says

    “From a scientific perspective, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have someone with darker skin who lives deep in the ocean”

    Guess that explains why Moby Dick was exceptuional in being the .. white whale yeah? Oh wait.. no.

    Also not just most whales but most sea lions, dolphins, sharks, dugongs, stingrays, etc .. are, well, not that white or light coloured. Has that dude ever seen much marine life at all or what huh?

  13. lldayo1 says

    Killer whales are both white and black and can go into shallow and deep water…so now I’m confused.

  14. says

    @14: Also, a deep-sea creature can very plausibly have darker skin, and it doesn’t really have to be beneficial, just as long as it’s not detrimental or disadvantageous in that environment. (And it’s not like black people can’t survive in places like Norway or Alaska.)

  15. robro says

    Trevor Noah had an interesting take on the Mermaid brouhaha: “I hope this mermaid scandal doesn’t overshadow the rest of the movie. It’s a beautiful story about a young woman changing her core identify to please a man. Let’s not forget about that, people.”

  16. silvrhalide says

    @2 AAAAUUUUUUGGGGGHHHH! I’d just about managed to erase that monstrosity of a (horribly botched) live action remake of GitS from conscious memory and you just had to bring it back up to conscious memory. Goddammit Akira, THINK before you type. Now I have to find out which Simpsons episode had Moe’s recipe for brain bleach. AND go shopping for the ingredients. Something about stirring the whole concoction with an expired pregnancy test… ?

    I hope you’re satisfied with yourself.

    Also, second gig was better than the original and definitely better than the live action monstrosity. So there. :P

  17. silvrhalide says

    @9 You are definitely overthinking it.

    Since works of fiction now apparently = documentary.

    But you’ll be happy to know the movie is explicit in answering questions about reproduction and genitals as well as gills.

    Actually, it was a really good movie. Glad it won an Oscar. (Which is also a type of fish, apparently.)

  18. expatlurker says

    You know what’s funny about this? Well it’s actually not funny. It is obvious how racist he is being but he just doesn’t care.

  19. says

    As much as I hate The Mouse, I love how this is making people’s heads explode. Right up there with GTA 6 having a female protagonist. This is where we see the assholes come out of the woodwork. Hey Disney, I got an idea for you. “The Little Mer-MAN”. See how they like that.

    Let’s face it, like many things, Futurama did it best. When they go to the lost city of Atlanta and Fry falls in love with a mermaid, he runs away as soon as he finds out about their method of copulation. Or you could just google “anatomically correct mermaids”, but you may need to bleach your eyes afterword.

  20. silvrhalide says

    @24 There already IS a “Little Merman” movie. Its name is “The Shape of Water”.
    Wait until Matt Walsh The Fragile Manbaby finds out that Death of the Endless is played by a black actress, the one from The Good Place.
    All the fanboys seem to forget that Dream of the Endless was also portrayed as African and also as a giant cat.
    And that the Endless literally are all things to all people.

  21. silvrhalide says

    @20 Well, it IS a cheery and uplifting story compared to The Little Match Girl, which is a real charmer and tearjerker about a very young girl who freezes to death in the winter while lighting matches and hallucinating about Christianity.

  22. says

    @2 Matt Walsh is probably afraid that he will be depicted by a brown actor in a future biopic. As irreplaceable as he is. Or maybe, given the inferiority-of-other-racial-constructs meme, he fears that he himself is not such a Paradigm of White Male Superiority that no one could even contemplate replacing him with a brown actor. Or maybe, just maybe, he’s afraid that mermaid mythology will be traced all the way back to its Western origins in the seat of all that is good and great about Western civilization — Athens — with its adoption of Cypriot and Aegian and more-broadly Mediterranean locales… and, therefore, some mixed-race and outright non-Caucasian peoples.

  23. flange says

    “From a scientific perspective, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have someone with darker skin who lives deep in the ocean.”
    Neither do Roadrunner, Mickey Mouse, The Simpsons, etc. make sense from a scientific perspective.

  24. robro says

    nomdeplume @ #29 — The Irish have legends of Selkies, the seal people tho generally women. The Irish also have legends of Merrows, females and males sea creatures with greenish tint to their skin, webbed fingers, the tail of a fish, and seaweed-green hair.

  25. asclepias says

    silvrhalide@27–I suppose. I was rather enraged when Disney decided to do this as a movie because I knew it would deviate from the actual story quite a bit. For example, I believe the Sea Witch cut out the Little Mermaid’s tongue, rendering her unable to form words for the rest of her life, not to mention each step she took was like treading on a double-edged sword. The ending of that story never did make sense to me. So she jumped into the sea and felt her body start to turn to foam, and then is lifted up to be with the Daughters of the Air, where she gets to spend eternity in purgatory. As a kid, I was left wondering how in the world that made things better. As an adult, I still don’t get it.

    nomdeplume@29–I remember them being based on manatees, though that doesn’t negate your point.

  26. seachange says

    Trumplestiltskin uses a lie-spinning wheel to turn a golden country shining on the hill into a shithole country. Poor desantis is allowed to marry and get royally screwed by tweedlekoch and tweedlesinema. Not happily ever after but as long as Florida remains awash.

  27. silvrhalide says

    @31 The answer you are seeking is BECAUSE MISOGYNY.
    Andersen’s nominal heroine is a barely pubescent female who sees prince, falls in love with prince, rescues prince and more crucially takes off so he doesn’t know that she rescued him, gives up her voice (and isn’t THAT a telling stroke) but remains beautiful, docile… and voiceless. And then when her boy-band crush falls in love with another woman, she kills herself, or tries to.
    She’s held up as Andersen’s perfect woman.
    Seriously, the only female character that does well for herself (so to speak) i Andersen’s stories is Gerda in the Snow Queen.
    And the villain in that story is an intelligent, educated/well-read woman. One who doesn’t have a man around to tell her what to do! So yeah, of course she’s the villain.

    If you think what Disney did to The Little Mermaid was a travesty (and it was), look at what they did to Cinderella. They took what is functionally a Horatio Alger story, or at least one in which the female protagonist saves herself with strength of character, intelligence and clever planning… and makes her a sad sack who needs to be rescued by a fairy godmother and singing mice.

    Although the idea of ruining Andersen’s stories is questionable… they all treat women abominably and they mostly center around women. Kind of makes you wonder about Andersen.

  28. microraptor says

    @34: HCA’s stories center around young women dying tragically and going to Heaven because that’s what he thought was a Really Great Thing because he thought it was better for a child to die young and innocent than live suffering in the cruel world.

    He wrote The Little Mermaid as an allegorical story about himself because he was in love with another man who didn’t return his affection. He was gay (or bisexual, it’s ambiguous) and pretty much everybody knew it at the time because he wasn’t subtle.

  29. silvrhalide says

    @35 Hey, Oscar Wilde was gay, an author and a playwright who also wrote allegorical stories but pretty much all of his female characters have agency. Including the Infanta, for crying out loud. His female characters tended to be cold and callous but they pretty much all had agency and not infrequently, were the powerful ones in his stories. (Yes, I know that Wilde was inspired by HCA’s writings.)

    You know who else thinks that young women dying tragically and going to Heaven (but for the Right Reasons! Literally.)is a Really Great Thing?
    Republicans and antiabortionists, ie., misogynists.
    You know, the people who also think that young women dying tragically from DIY abortions, complications from pregnancy, ectopic pregnancies, etc. is a Really Great Thing. Never mind the fact that most of those women didn’t need to die, the important thing is that they died for the Right Reasons and will now go to Heaven. Although not with their nonviable fetuses, aka the unborn babies. (Otherwise known as fetuses to rational people.) Said unborn babies will NOT go to Heaven because not baptized and therefore Saved By Jesus but that’s okay, because they died for the Right Reasons and that’s the important thing. Also, the rightwingnuts like Tragically Dead Young Women and Unborn Babies WAY more than actual live women and live babies. Just look at they way they vote against Head Start, school lunches, etc. Because THOSE kids aren’t Tragically Dead for the Right Reasons. Not yet anyway. /s

    Misogyny ruins everything.

  30. microraptor says

    It’s weird whenever you try to share facts about an author’s statements regarding his own work, people always seem to act like you’re saying you agree with it.

  31. yoav says

    If we want to be scientific about it than we should discuss the fact that mermaid have a horizontal tail (and boobs) indicating they are marine mammals, while also have scales like fish.

  32. John Morales says

    Original sirens were birds with human heads.

    (But probably with boobs — those are obligatory)

  33. tuatara says

    From a scientific perspective, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have someone with darker skin who lives deep in the ocean”

    There is at least one thing he is right about….in a scientific sense.
    “From a scientific perspective, it doesn’t make a lot of sense… to have someone with who lives deep in the ocean”
    Although we already know that racists live deep in an ocean of stupid, this person kindly adds to the evidence.

  34. tuatara says

    Jeepers. I should’ve previewed.

    From a scientific perspective, it doesn’t make a lot of sense… to have someone with who lives deep in the ocean”


  35. bcw bcw says

    @1 perhaps, like whales, Mermaids have large cavities in their heads and can sing, like whales, by moving air from their lungs past the vocal cords/blow-hole-pipes into the cavity. This would normally be accompanied by depth changes to push the air back and forth from lungs at ambient pressure to rigid head cavities. The long singing times of blue whales are accomplished by multiple depth cycles with the same air being used to create sound for both directions of air movement.

    I think the big controversy should be over gross anatomical inconsistencies in the mermaid body, why are we seeing scales on an animal with a whale-like tale? I, personally, am outraged.