23rd September 2023

A Virtual World of Live Pictures

Technology and Computer

New social media challenge sees mermen surface from First Nations across Manitoba

Mermen from First Nations across Manitoba have been washing up on social media timelines in recent weeks.

The men in the portraits say the latest Facebook trend is Indigenous humour at its finest.

“I made a post asking if I should go and do it, and I had like maybe 40 reacts so I just decided to do it … to have some laughs,” said Julian Baptiste, who is from Ebb and Flow First Nation in southwestern Manitoba.

Majestic mermen of Manitoba have been popping up in social media posts following the recent release of the latest film adaptation of The Little Mermaid, which showcases the female version of the mythical half-fish, half-human creature.

The trend sees people on Facebook challenge others to strike their finest merman pose.

Many have accepted, representing their own communities across Manitoba, with a wide range of costumes.

“I just used one of our bedsheets and then I went to my cousin and asked if she had an old bra I could use,” said Baptiste. “She was wondering why I would need one and then I told her … ‘I’m trying to do that mermaid thing.'” 

A man lies on a rock in a merman costume with a rainbow coloured fin, patterned bra and blue hair.
Kenneth Desjarlais, another Ebb and Flow merman. (Kenneth Desjarlais)

“I wanted to be the Little Mermaid, but I turned out to be Ursula,” Baptiste said on Facebook after he posted his merman picture, referring to the main villain in the Disney version of the story.

“I just couldn’t stop laughing. I was trying to stop myself when I was taking them,” said Baptiste.

The photos were quickly and widely shared in Indigenous communities all over Manitoba, prompting others to follow with their own photos, showing men lying elegantly next to lakes with sheets wrapped around their legs for fins and bras, mimicking the Disney character’s outfit.

Baptiste loves how it’s bringing the community together. 

“Everyone [is] just having a good laugh, and that’s basically what I wanted to do,” he said.

A man lies on a pile of rocks in a merman costume, with long flowing hair, a pink fin, a white bra and flowers in his hair and on his wrist.
Dauphin River First Nation Chief Lawrence Letandre in his merman outfit. (Yolanda Thompson)
A man in a merman costume lies on a big flat rock, wearing a purple and blue fin and long flowing hair.
Wilson Harper represents Garden Hill First Nation in the merman challenge. (Marleen Harper)
A man lies on a rock in a merman costume, with a blue bra and patterned fin.
Little Grand Rapids merman Ron Dunsford. (Mazilyn Dunsford)
A man in a swimsuit lies stomach-down on a rock with rushing water around him.
Norway House’s Lester Balfour splashes in the water in his merman pose. (Bruce Folster)
A man lies in a patterned merman costume next to a river.
Poplar River First Nation merman Dylan Fontaine. (Darlene Green)

Humour ‘a big part of our resilience’

Mermen have been spotted in dozens of First Nation communities, and the photos are getting more sophisticated. 

Merman Johnny Harper posed alongside Whitney Flett, who dressed as the comic book hero Aquaman, both representing St. Theresa Point First Nation in northeastern Manitoba.

He was inspired by a “little friendly competition between Norway House and Cross Lake,” Harper told CBC.

After he shared merman posts from those communities, people started asking where St. Theresa Point’s merman was.

A man lies on a rock in a merman costume with a colorful fin and pink bra, while a man dressed in a shirt with a pattern showing rippled abdominal muscles stands beside him, holding a pitchfork.
St. Theresa Point’s Johnny Harper was joined by Whitney Flett as Aquaman for his photo. ‘To be honest, I was quite embarrassed, but at the same time it was for the good of the community, because humour is a big part of our resilience,’ said Harper. (Eliza Harper)

That’s when he was asked by others in the community to suit up, said Harper.

“Each community has their struggles, right? And they will always find humour in their hearts to help them with those struggles,” said Harper.

Those challenges can appear even in the humourous photos, he said.

“There’s a forest fire nearby over here, so if you take a look at our picture, you can see that there’s a blue smoke in the background.”

Harper said about six people helped dress him with an outfit they got from a community member who posted that she had a costume he could use. 

“To be honest, I was quite embarrassed, but at the same time it was for the good of the community, because humour is a big part of our resilience,” he said.

Flett joined in as Aquaman to help St. Theresa Point “one up” other communities, said Harper.

In less than half an hour, the photos had more than 400 shares, he said.

“I’ve seen a lot of people on Facebook laughing at it,” he said.

“They say ‘[it] just changed my mood from depressing to really happy,’ so you know what? I’m glad to be a part of this.”

Merman Magnum Ross 'one-up's' the early posts while posing around his local river with his lacey bra and duck lips
Merman Magnum Ross of Gods River First Nation. (Magnum Ross)
A man lies on a rock in a merman costume, with a blue fin and a green leafy bra.
The merman trend has even spread to Winnipeg, with Jay Wood posing in this photo. (Tre Flett)
A man lies on a sandy beach in a merman costume with a bright blue fin and light coloured bra.
Peguis First Nation merman David Jeremy Stevenson. (Nikki Stevenson)
A man lies on a rock in a merman costume with a pink fin and pink bra.
Berens River First Nation merman Corey Green. (Valerie Whiteway)
A man lies on a rock in a merman costume with a big pink fin and a pink Six Nations bra.
Tommy Montour poses at Little Mountain Park in Winnipeg. (June Montour)