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Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken’s Lana Condor & Annie Murphy on Flipping Mermaid/Kraken Narrative
Why have kraken gotten such a bum rap over the years?
If you pay attention to pop culture, even casually, then the word “mermaid” probably evokes a glowing image in your mind, seeing as there have been huge blockbuster films featuring fantastical, flowing-haired, sparkly-tailed beauties demanding that audiences fall in love with them, like The Little Mermaid, Splash, and… well, The Little Mermaid again.
On the other side of the mythical-sea-creature coin is the kraken, whose pop culture past hasn’t been quite as glamorous, having mostly been represented as tentacled monsters in spiced rum ads, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Clash of the Titans… until now, as Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken makes a giant splash in theaters this weekend, and hopes to right the pop cultural misdeeds of portrayals past, and finally give kraken the good name they deserve.
But how did kraken get such a bum rap over the years? Why are kraken the bad mythical sea creature and mermaids the good ones who usually star in feel-good blockbusters? To find out, we posed such a ponder to the film’s stars, Lana Condor (Ruby), who SYFY fans will know well from Deadly Class (as well as X-Men: Apocalypse, and Alita: Battle Angel), and Annie Murphy (Chelsea), who won an Emmy playing Alexis Rose on Schitt’s Creek (alongside Tim Rozon and Sarah Levy, the stars of SYFY’s SurrealEstate).
“I think because [kraken] are bigger and scarier and have a bunch of tentacles, and mermaids are pretty and sweet,” Murphy tells SYFY WIRE. “But we find out in this movie that that’s not actually the case, and that the kraken are the ones we’re rooting for… all along, we’ve be so misled.”
Yes, the first female-titled lead of DreamWorks Animation is that rare kraken you can root for. Granted, Ruby isn’t just a kraken, she’s also a teenager dealing with all those difficult coming-of-age trials and tribulations, like math homework, finding a prom date, and dealing with an overbearing mother (Toni Collette) who doesn’t even let her teenage kraken go in the ocean.
Well, in high school (and films about high school, even kraken ones), rules are meant to be broken. And when Ruby is forced to jump in the ocean to save her would-be prom date, she releases some serious big kraken energy. Which leads to the discovery that her long-lost Grandmamah (Academy Award winner Jane Fonda) is the great and powerful Warrior Queen of the Seven Seas, whose been battling evil mermaids for generations. All of which is extremely complicated by the fact that the popular new girl in Ruby's school also happens to be a mermaid (Murphy)!
To right the many wrongs that mermaid aggression hath wrought, Ruby must discover her her own heroic ways. In doing so, hopefully she’ll help flip the mermaids > kraken math that has thus far permeated pop culture.
“I love that we were able to kind of switch that on its head,” Condor tells SYFY WIRE, “Mythical magical giant sea creatures, I think they’re super, super beautiful, but I could see why over the years there’s been a lot of lore about like, ‘Oh my god, they’re ruining ships,’ or whatever. But I don’t know, I’m pretty happy we were able to switch the narrative there!”
The gorgeously animated film is co-directed by Kirk DeMicco (The Croods) and Faryn Pearl, and co-stars Colman Domingo (Fear the Walking Dead), Will Forte (Saturday Night Live), Nicole Byer (Nailed It!), Sam Richardson (Veep), Liza Koshy (Transformers: Rise of the Beast), Ramona Young (Never Have I Ever), Eduardo Franco (Stranger Things), Echo Kellum (Arrow), and Emma Chamberlain (Anything Goes podcast).
Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken opens in theaters everywhere this Friday, June 30. Get tickets now!