Mermaids Are People Too In New Netflix Docuseries

A new Netflix docuseries about mermaids is not titled “Mermaids,” but rather, “MerPeople.”

They are not the mermaids of myth. Instead, the merpeople in the show are real people in a growing pastime known as “mermaiding.”

These modern-day mermaids are professional and amateur, male and female.

The title word, “MerPeople,” has likely been coined simply to convey the idea that the people in “MerPeople” are just that -- ordinary people from various walks of life who have discovered their inner mermaid and enjoy hanging out with others who feel the same way.

It is also true that the word “merpeople” removes the word “maid” from mermaid. Perhaps it is being applied here for purposes of inclusiveness over gender specificity. Uh-oh!



“Merpeople” might even belong in the same category of new words and phrases whose aim is to expunge all references in the English language (and possibly other tongues, as well) to specific genders.

You come upon this more and more frequently these days -- “pregnant people” instead of “pregnant women,” for example. Or you sometimes hear or read, “people who breastfeed” rather than “women who breastfeed.” 

Is this supposed to imply that child-bearing is also an option for male humans today? The times being what they are, I do not know the answer to that. Nor can I keep up with it all. 

If this new mermaid docuseries seeks to deprive these alluring fishtailed denizens of the deep of their gender identification, then one reason might be because the mermaid entertainment industry now includes a number of men, according to the show.

And calling them Mermen may have sounded too much like Ethel Merman. Oh, well. There’s no business like show business, right?

Whether amateur or pro, male, female or otherwise, the mermaids in “MerPeople” see themselves as “underwater performers,” whether they are putting on underwater entertainments in self-styled water tanks in their backyards or performing in more elaborate venues for paying audiences.

In the first episode of this four-episode series, we learn that the business of supplying this growing pastime with sequined fishtails and other gear is a $500 million industry.

The show introduces us to a diverse group of men and women who have dived into mermaiding. We also learn the many challenges these newly minted mermaids face.

One successful, freelance pro describes the physical realities of this pastime. Fitness is a must. And so are strong swimming skills, understandably.

Mermaid performers must train themselves to hold their breath for longer than normal. Mermaid performing is a “danger art,” this pro cautions, and not to be taken lightly.

Today’s mermaids also struggle to find places to train, practice and rehearse for the simple reason that pools -- whether public or private -- are either too far away, or won’t allow troupes of mermaid performers to take up their pool space to train.

And like many other pursuits such as acting and writing, professional jobs that pay are difficult to land.

As in those professions, every opening in a professional mermaid group draws hundreds of applicants.

Episode One includes interviews with some older women who fondly reminisce about their experiences as underwater mermaid entertainers in the 1960s and ’70s at perhaps the most storied of all such venues -- Weeki Wachee Springs in central Florida.

It is the TV Blog’s opinion that the word “mermaid” will always hold more charm than “merpeople” regardless of gender. 

“MerPeople” premieres Tuesday (May 23) on Netflix.

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