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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Was the pie shop owner really straight and homophobic? Or was he a closeted homosexual who hated who he was inside? And was he truly racist or just saw an opportunity to give Giles more incentive to go away and drive the rejection home?
    • Did the Asset give Elisa her gills, or were the gills there the entire time and nobody ever realized?
    • Flawed as he was, Zelda's husband: did he really not care about her and Elisa's friendship at all since he readily gave up the whereabouts of the Asset, or was he thinking that, being an African American couple, it would be better if he complied with the clearly psychotic Angry White Man who held considerable power in a time of legalized racial segregation and oppression? He only speaks up when Strickland's on the verge of hurting Zelda to make her talk, and despite knowing about their theft of the Asset for some time prior, keeps it to himself..
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  • Applicability: The film is about a group of characters, all from marginalized groups - a disabled woman, a black woman, a gay man, and a foreign spy who has been having second thoughts - fighting against a villain who positions himself as an all-American man's man standing up for good ol' fashioned values but who is really a homicidal psychopath, for the life of a character whom the villain feels deserves to die for being different. Many comparisons to the turbulent contemporary political landscape of the United States abound. Del Toro has mentioned one inspiration was his own experiences as a Mexican in America, and how today immigrants are seen as "the other". Some have even suggested this to be a great companion piece to another critically acclaimed and socially relevant genre film, Get Out, a film Guillermo Del Toro loved.
  • Award Snub: Impressively averted for the most part, what with Guillermo del Toro winning his first Golden Globe for the movie and racking up an impressive 13 Oscar Nominations, including both Best Director and Best Picture (which del Toro and the movie won). However, many people accused the Academy of snubbing Doug Jones' spellbinding performance as the Asset for Best Actor, selling the hell out of a man in a fish costume as a romantic lead. What makes this even more unfair is that every other member of the main heroic ensemble was nominated note  except for the leading man. Some fans believed that, had Jones not been playing a fish-person, he would have gotten an automatic Best Actor nom.
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    • Even more baffling was it not being nominated for Best Makeup despite the wonderfully expressive prosthetics for the Asset being central to the emotion of the story. And there were only three other films nominated in the makeup category! Michael Shannon was also overlooked by the Academy.
  • Awesome Music: The dreamy, fairy tale-like soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat earned universal acclaim and a second Oscar for him.
  • Best Known for the Fanservice:
    • As amazing and award-winning as this film is, it's probably going to have a hard time shrugging off its reputation as the movie where a woman has sex with a fish man.
    • Sally Hawkins got hit with this to a lesser extent. When it was revealed she would be appearing in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), jokes about her character wanting to fuck Godzilla quickly surfaced on the internet.
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  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The "You'll Never Know" sequence. Apart from some of the points mentioned in Narm down below, the scene also comes completely out of nowhere, and the movie never reflects on it nor pulls off a similar move again.
  • Catharsis Factor: The Asset ripping out Strickland's throat, after the latter shot Elisa, no less.
  • Creepy Cute: The Asset. He wouldn’t be out of place in a Lovecraftian horror story, but damn it, if he isn’t cute as hell.
  • Epileptic Trees: Thanks to the Asset's similar appearance and affinity for eating eggs, many are theorizing that the film is a Stealth Prequel to Hellboy, showing the origin of Abe Sapien.
  • Fanfic Fuel: As Strickland points out, what would lead someone to perform surgery on a baby that made them mute? And was it related to Elisa's own possible connection to the Asset's species that lets her grow gills?
  • Genius Bonus: Strickland keeps likening himself to Samson against the Philistines. In the Biblical story, Samson was chained by the Philistines in the temple of Dagon, who is often taken to be a fish god.
  • He Really Can Act: Bet you never thought any actor could make a fishman believable as a romantic lead, did you? That's the talent of Doug Jones for you.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Building off the applicability, shortly after the film was released, Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore, a judge who, much like Strickland, positioned himself as a moral crusader but who had long been dogged by rumors of pedophilia, for the Alabama Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, becoming Alabama's first Democratic Senator in over two decades.
  • Memetic Mutation: Plenty of jokes about sexual relations with fish have been made. Referenced by Jimmy Kimmel during the Oscars ceremony
    Jimmy Kimmel: Thanks to Guillermo, we will always remember this year, as the year men screwed up so badly, women started dating fish.
    • Once the movie came out, the internet had a field day in regards to preferring the fish-man over certain kinds of men.
    • Speculating about what exactly the Asset's sexual organs look like. Some fans even made their own prop of their idea, which del Toro said was completely off.
    • Referring to the movie as "Grinding Nemo".
  • Moral Event Horizon: Strickland is hardly a good person at any point in the movie, but he really ups his villainous game when he tortures Dmitri/"Bob" to death.
  • Narm:
    • The "You'll Never Know" sequence can come off as this, between the sudden musical number and the sight of the Asset waltzing around a Golden Age Hollywood movie set.
    • The scene in which Giles is rejected by the counter boy at the diner is heartbreaking, if predictable, but the way that this is followed up with the revelation that the counter boy is also appallingly racist seems almost a cartoonishly opportunistic demonstration of villainy. So Giles has enough pie from this place to fill his fridge but he had never seen how this kid treats minorities?
    • The Asset saying "You and me together" in sign language should have come across as a declaration of love, but considering Elisa used that same expression to proposition the Asset in an earlier scene, it seems like he's just asking for some nookie.
    • Cathartic though it may be Strickland's death can be unintentionally funny given Michael Shannon's surprisingly emotionless reading of, "Fuck. You are a god," seconds before getting his throat torn out. He just sounds tired more than anything.
  • Narm Charm:
    • It's very easy to mock Elisa and the Asset's romance, especially when the film goes ahead and takes it to sexual levels. However, the love between the two is very sweet and charming enough to overlook this.
    • The "You'll Never Know" sequence. It's silly, it's corny, but it's completely in character for Elisa, and heartbreakingly sincere.
  • Nausea Fuel:
    • Strickland's fingers that get bitten off and sewn back on never take and he walks around with two gangrenous, blackening fingers, one of which oozes pus at one point. He then rips them both off in front of Zelda in her house.
    • When Strickland finds Dmitri with a bullet hole in his cheek, he hooks his fingers through it and drags him off, with the poor man moaning in pain, and proceeds to jam the bullet deeper into his gut in a crude attempt at torture.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • The Asset biting the head off of one of Giles’ cats is definitely wince-worthy.
    • Dimitri getting shot through the cheek, and then Strickland dragging him away by the cheek wound.
  • Out of the Ghetto: Despite having strong fantasy elements, the film was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, and won Best Picture.
  • Popular with Furries: The movie is an Interspecies Romance between a human woman and a fishmen, hits a lot of furry buttons.
  • Sci Fi Ghetto: Many people were baffled that the film wasn't nominated for either Best Makeup (despite the amazing prosthetics for the Asset being essential to the film's plot) or Best Actor for Doug Jones, who had to do everything Sally Hawkins did (including, acting, swimming, and dancing) and still sell a believable leading man performance under 20 pounds of prosthetics for many hours a day, without even getting to have bathroom breaks. Many people suspected that the Academy's belief that prosthetic monster-suit performance is "not real acting" as the only reason Jones could possibly not have been nominated.
  • Spiritual Adaptation: Visually, its combination of The '50s aesthetics, music and time period, plus the water motifs, make you feel you're watching a BioShock movie adaptation.
  • Squick: The interspecies romance may easily come across to some, given the fact that it's... well, an interspecies romance with a fish humanoid.

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