With “The Shape of Water” I think director Guillermo del Toro has composed a timely and marvelously entertaining illustration of the struggle between paranoid and non-paranoid consciousness.
I think of consciousness as a person’s relationship with everything else. For example, a person possessed of a non-paranoid consciousness does not regard him or herself as the norm. Rather each senses their own uniqueness and sees the world around them populated by all sorts of different people who nonetheless have lots in common.
A person possessed of a paranoid consciousness, however, believes with utter certainty that they are the norm and everyone else is a freak. The awareness of others who are different triggers fear. For such people exposure to others who are obviously different is especially fear inducing if the “different” people are acting like, or being treated like, normal people. Seeing “those people” pretending to be normal…treated as if they were normal…is nothing less than a conspiracy of freaks. Another step toward the freaks taking control.
To a person possessed of a paranoid consciousness, self-interest is imperative. Self-interest is natural and right because it is the same as self-preservation. For people possessed of a non-paranoid consciousness on the other hand it is extremely challenging…almost unnatural…to rally behind any single idea or cause because their primary commonality is the awareness of the diversity of all things. And enthusiastic expression of the merits of diversity is experienced by paranoid consciousness as an attack.
Out of fear, collections of people possessed of a paranoid consciousness seek and easily recognize in each other the drive to promote the self-preservation that is self-interest. They are drawn to others who openly flaunt mysterious/nonsensical social conventions against treating freaks like freaks. They don’t have to agree on much to band together…just the shared understanding that, “When the dust settles I need to be on top. And if you don’t get that you are my enemy.”
“The Shape of Water” is a delicious distillation. If you haven’t seen it I hope you will check it out.
PS: For a sweet, low-budget, small-town version of essentially the same story check out the movie “Hunted” (not “The Hunted”) which includes a wonderfully natural and impressive performance by David James Elliot who played Harmon Rabb for 11 years on the television series “JAG.”