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Blue My Mind (2018): Growing Mermaid Pains

Blue My Mind is a coming-of-age tale about a young girl finding her tribe, exploring her sexuality, and becoming a mermaid. Gabe discusses trans identity, body dysmorphia, eating disorders and other explored teenage tragedies in this film. Kat shares their personal puberty journey while also diving into the dichotomous identity of the Mermaid-Miranda.

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Blue My Mind (2018)

A seemingly normal teenage girl faces overwhelming body transformations that put her existence into question.

Director Lisa Brühlmann


Blue My Mind: Body-Horror Growing Pains for Mermaids

by Gabe Castro

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.

Blue My Mind is a typical coming-of-age story about a young girl who tries to find her tribe. She dabbles in shoplifting, she kisses boys and girls, and she feels so different that she questions whether or not she may be adopted. Parents just don’t understand. Except, her parents really don’t because these aren’t your typical growing pains that Mia is going through, no these are a bit more aquatic in nature. Mia is slowly becoming a mermaid. This transformation includes gills, a tail, and a hankering for raw fish. Ew.

This film reminded me a bit of the coming-of-age film starring Evan Rachel Wood, Thirteen. That film really shook me as a young girl. I identified with Evan’s character who was an outsider, became incredibly close and fixated on another girl, and tried questionable/dangerous things to fit in. I don’t know if Mia’s story would be as impactful to young girls as Thirteen was but it features a lot of those same tropes. Mia is a new girl at school and she is looking to belong. She falls into a clique of “cool” girls who talk about giving their boyfriends blowjobs, play choking games, and skip school to drink wine coolers. Mia fits in pretty well and she even begins to grow close with one of the girls, Gianna who is the epitome of cool girl. Mia and Gianna share a kiss, more than a few lingering stares, and endure through some dangerous situations.

This film features some truly uncomfortable and horrifying things. Some being the special FX of Mia’s transformation such as her gills or when she tried to cut the skin between her toes that had begun to web. Other horror is more situational, such as young Mia meeting with an older man from a dating app at a hotel. It’s uncomfortable and terrifying, and it’s only one of many scenes just like this. Each piece of her transformation feels like a representation for something bigger, for a challenge young and growing girls work to overcome. In an article on Variety titled, 'Blue My Mind' Review: Promising Coming Of Age Body-Horror Debut by Jessica Kiang, they explain this dichotomous monstrous transformation that mirrors real-world challenges for young girls. From her impulsive eating of the pet fish, She gulps down a glass of salt water (a trick bulimia sufferers use to induce vomiting)(think Melanie Martinez’ Orange Juice); she lashes out at her mother with a physical force that she doesn’t seem to know she has; she develops a sudden awareness of a physical abnormality that her doctor insists she must have had since birth (giving body dysmorphia), and cuts away at herself in a way that explicitly evokes self-harm. Mia clearly feels like an alien in her own skin. She fights to remove the abnormalities, the changes in her body that set her apart from the image of girl she is trying to perform. She hides these changes and concerns from Gianna in fear of rejection.

Beyond the horrors of the mermaid transformation, we have a young girl who is struggling to figure out who she is. She clearly gets no love and support at home. She is abusive towards her mother and uncaring towards her father. While both of them treat her like a stranger in her own home or at other times, like a lion in a cage. The only moments she gets to truly explore herself are the soft, intimate and quiet moments with Gianna. When the other girls are gone, just the two of them, they can confide in one another. They swap childhood trauma which helps to shape their current actions and needs for attention. But even that relationship isn’t enough. Mia continues to hide her changing body and concerns from Gianna and instead lashes out at the world by putting her own body at risk. In a truly harrowing, unsettling, and stomach turning scene that we quite honestly could’ve done without, Mia finds herself at an adult party full of predatory men. In her attempt to feel something, to have and simultaneously release control, she falls into their hands and is sexually assaulted by many men at once. Saved by Gianna, this spurs her even further into her depression and misery resulting in a final transformation that leaves Mia with an enormous mermaid tail and flooded apartment.

In that same article by Kiang, they express disappointment in the ending of a film that for a bulk of its running time had some promise. ​​The demons of adolescence that so much of the imagery evokes are powerful and dangerous because they are imaginary. Anorexia, negative body image, self-harm, and the joyless promiscuity and sexual degradation that Mia pursues are the kinds of heartbreaking punishments that young girls inflict on their bodies for differing, in ways that often only they perceive, from some notional ideal of womanly perfection. Everybody feels like a freak at this age and it doesn’t seem an especially helpful conclusion to have the story confirm that freakishness, and to suggest that the solution for Mia is self-imposed exile from the people who, however distractedly, love her. Having created a striking and potent allegory in Blue My Mind, and explored it with grace, seriousness, and exceptional craft, Brühlmann doesn’t seem to know quite what to do with it by the end, except to suggest that the cost of self-acceptance is vast, eternal, oceanic loneliness. For all the metaphors and grappling sexuality, body image, and identity, it left me terribly upset in the end. I found myself asking what we’re to learn from this film. Where The Lure left us with a cautionary tale of love, Blue My Mind left us with melancholic resignation. When Mia decides to enter the sea, to simply run away, she teaches us that if we are different, the only answer is to be outcasts. No one can love us this way, we can’t even give them the chance.


Personal Puberty Experiences & the Mermaid-Miranda

by Kat Kushin

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.

Thoughts on Film

This film surprised me in that I didn’t think I would be especially excited about it. I ended up enjoying it more than expected, outside of the uncomfortable assault scene that didn’t need to be included. What really resonated with me about this film was the horrific way puberty and neglect intertwined that I haven’t seen in many other films thus far. The parents were just entirely unpresent outside of seeking to discipline their child, and while there was clearly some level of love there based on the ending, there was just such a disconnect in understanding. I think the understanding disconnect is what felt really powerful to me in the story telling, in that you could really feel the fear that came with that disconnect, and ultimately how that fear translated to our protagonist making pretty dangerous decisions. Also middle/high school is just really a hard time to uproot a kid, so their actions felt real, raw and stressful. The lack of communication surrounding the changes they were going through also felt so familiar, as I experienced something very similar…I received a sentence “did you learn about it at school?” “Yes” “Do you have any questions?” “No.” And it was never talked about again, outside of somewhat random comments of “Don’t get pregnant in high school.” to which I was like “I don’t even know what would go into that, or how that happens, so like I think we’re cool and I won’t”. I related very heavily to the ambiguity surrounding whether or not their experience was normal and instead of talking about how they felt or what they were experiencing, they were so scared of not being seen as “normal” that they tried to handle it however they could, which more often than not ended up resulting in them physically and mentally hurting themselves.

This is probably too much information about my childhood that may be better suited for like future therapy sessions but we need to fill time so while I didn’t transform into a mermaid during puberty, I think I handled it pretty similarly to how Mia did in the film, the main difference being that I failed so hard at rebelling because I was just very much not a “cool” kid. I got all the lack of understanding from others as well as myself, and lack of autonomy surrounding my identity, and that definitely fueled so much of my teen angst. I didn’t get to be cool though like our main character does, cause I just really didn’t understand social cues, so my rebellious phase was pretty lackluster in comparison. I mostly just did really questionable things in AOL chat rooms and wrote way too honest xenga and myspace statuses. Also I stayed in the same town my entire schooling experience, so when I hit puberty I didn’t just get to reinvent myself…all the kids I was interacting with still had a very clear memory of me pretending to be Donny from the Wild Thornberrys for a large chunk of elementary school, so yeah…Like Mia, I didn’t know how to explain myself when it came to my puberty experience, as well as just my general life experience. I also thought I was adopted for a while in that my parents and I were just very different…and we didn’t understand each other at all, which like good news, it’s a little better now so yay. But, whenever I was going through a thing, like Mia, I just tried to “handle it” until doctors had to get involved, and honestly they were also about as helpful as the people in this film. So yeah I felt an alien, or like something from somewhere else, a mermaid of sorts and like now I realize that was largely me just being an undiagnosed autistic person, but at the time it was much like I’m from somewhere else, a monster or something and one day I