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.'”
“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.
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.
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.”