Screengrab of Guillermo del Toro's Best Director acceptance speech at the BAFTA Awards

In BAFTA Acceptance Speech, Guillermo del Toro Thanks Mary Shelley for Showing Us How to Talk About Monsters

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At last night’s British Academy Film Awards, more commonly known as the BAFTAs, Guillermo del Toro won Best Director for his work on The Shape of Water. In his acceptance speech, del Toro acknowledged Fox Searchlight, “the miracle that is Sally Hawkins,” and his many influences, including Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin.

But he also took time to especially credit Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, whom he called “the most important figure from [the] English legacy.”

“The shadow of English culture has loomed large in my life,” de Toro said. “… But the most important figure from [the] English legacy is, incredibly for me, a teenager by the name of Mary Shelley. She has remained a figure as important in my life as if it was family. And so many times, when I want to give up, when I think about giving up, when people tell me dreaming of the movies and the stories I dream is impossible, I think of her. Because she picked up the plight of Caliban, and she gave weight to the burden of Prometheus, and she gave voice to the voiceless, and presence to the invisible, and showed me that sometimes to talk about monsters, we need to fabricate monsters of our own. And parables do that for us.”

Fandom for both film and genre fiction tends to focus obsessively on male auteurs and “fathers” of the form. While there’s nothing wrong with celebrating great male writers and directors, female artists are rarely afforded the same level of attention or adoration. As studies have shown, men are seen as geniuses; women as hard workers. So I found it particularly meaningful that del Toro—a leading voice in fantastic filmmaking, with an acclaimed and unique vision—took this opportunity to so poetically and pronouncedly celebrate the impact of a female writer on his work and his life. We come a little bit closer to equality when women artists are spoken about with the same reverence as their male counterparts, and del Toro’s tribute to the great Mary Shelley was a wonderful reminder that women have always been writing excellent and influential work. Men just don’t talk about it enough.

By taking his own time in the limelight to pay tribute to Shelley’s outsized influence on world literature, del Toro gave female artistry a place of prominence in a speech that could have been all about him. It’s something I hope we see more of.

(featured image: screengrab)

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