Talking about The Shape of Water: three women dip their toes in

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This article is about a film called The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro, which was released in 2017 and won the Best Picture award at the 2018 Oscars. The three authors of this article, all friends, had each enjoyed The Shape of Water, so went for a second viewing together. Our enjoyment had been somewhat at odds with criticisms of the film, mostly made by other members of the disabled people’s community/disabled academics. After seeing the film again, we found it to be a ground-breaking portrayal of a disabled woman. This article is a summary of the discussion which ensued. Our discussion of The Shape of Water is a current issue because we found ourselves disagreeing with, and questioning, a number of complaints about the representation of disability and impairment within the film. At a time when the film industry is making noises about inclusion, it is important that we know what we are asking for, and avoid demands which may be counterproductive to the cultural recognition of disabled people. This film is still being shown in cinemas in the UK and elsewhere.




Wilde, A., Crawshaw, G., & Sheldon, A. (2018). Talking about The Shape of Water: three women dip their toes in. Disability and Society, 33(9), 1528–1532.

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