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Things only adults notice in Splash

As a young boy, Allen Bauer (Tom Hanks) had an encounter with a young mermaid off the coast of Cape Cod that haunted him for years. Decades later, in the wake of a break-up, Allen returns to Cape Cod for some peace and quiet — but after a boating accident almost leaves him dead, he's saved by that same mermaid (Daryl Hannah), who's been waiting all this time for his return. All the while, scientist Dr. Walter Kornbluth (Eugene Levy) is also on the hunt for the mythical mermaid he too has seen, and his obsession may have tragic consequences. Ron Howard's comedy fantasy Splash is the story of this unlikely encounter — and the even more unlikely love affair that follows.

While Splash is a PG-rated comedic romp that generations of children have seen and enjoyed, watching the movie as a grown-up brings the story's darker themes swimming to the surface. Here's a look at some things only adults notice in Splash.

Madison and Allen don't waste any time diving into a relationship

Yes, Splash is a romantic comedy and a fairytale that's driven by the enigmatic love shared between a human man and a mermaid. But one of the most striking things about the movie as seen through an adult's eyes is how fast Allen and the mermaid he dubs Madison fall into an intimate relationship. After rescuing Allen from what would have been a fatal boat accident, the first thing Madison does is kiss him. And when Madison makes her way onto land and finds Allen again, there is more very public kissing.

Allen doesn't even know her name, nor does Madison even speak English yet, before the two are sleeping together. It's true that stories of mermaids often tell of the powerful sexual magnetism that comes with a siren's song and presence, and that allure is perfectly captured onscreen by the stunning Daryl Hannah, but seeing this dynamic play out in a PG-rated family movie is rather jarring. 

When Madison first arrives on land, she's assaulted by a mob of men

While adults will definitely have some questions about how a mermaid learned how to read English while living underwater, as well as how she figured out how to read maps of dry land above, this pales in comparison to an initial horror Madison is subjected to on her quest for Allen. Madison arrives at Staten Island during a tour of the Statue of Liberty. As the tour guide talks about what an inspiration Lady Liberty is to all who have built new lives in America, a mob of men sees naked Madison emerge from the water and they quickly surround her. 

The men grope her as she looks visibly uncomfortable, and many of them take pictures of her as well as try to get pictures of themselves with the nude woman even as she's hiding her face and trying to get away. For a family film, this is certainly a disturbing moment that should give adults pause, especially since Madison was the only person arrested (for nudity), not those who were manhandling her. Just because Madison was unclothed, it didn't give those men any right to non-consensually touch or photograph her; for adults with children, this is a good teachable moment for their kids to learn about consent. 

Allen must have a huger-than-average credit card limit

As the mermaid Madison gets her land legs and begins exploring Manhattan, dressed dapper in one of Allen's suits Annie Hall-style, she finds herself in the famous New York department store Bloomingdale's, where she inadvertently gets a makeover thanks to Allen's credit card. Madison buys thousands of dollars worth of designer clothes, shoes, and makeup without a problem. Let's recall that Splash takes place in 1984, when credit card limits weren't as astronomical as they are now. How can he afford all this and more? 

Allen might be the co-owner of a fruit and produce selling company, but not only is the business struggling, Allen's brother Freddie (John Candy) regularly gambles away whatever profits they make. Which next begs the question: How does Allen afford that huge apartment on the upper east side of Manhattan that comes with an enormous soaking bathtub big enough to fit a 5'11" mermaid? Only adults would notice the disconnect between Allen's struggling company and his rather lavish life outside work.

Who will pay for all of Madison's property damage?

As Madison learns the ways of the human world, it's often at the expense of innocent folks around her. While shopping at Bloomingdale's, she discovers the wonderful world of television and learns how to speak English, as well as repeat all the annoying advertisements that taught her the language. When Allen finds her there and discovers she can talk, he finally asks her name. Madison tells him using her mermaid sonar, which causes all the glass nearby to shatter. The store clerks are shocked, but Allen's only response is "Hey, how about those Knicks?"

Adults know that in real life, someone would have had to pay for all that damage, otherwise the police would have been on their way. But Allen's credit card doesn't get any more of a workout and the two are left free to go. Madison also continues to cause massive car accidents and pile-ups as she runs out into New York City traffic without looking where's she's going. Allen's excuse continues to be "She's from out of town," which really shouldn't cut it for all the people whose cars were damaged thanks to Madison's antics.

Madison's improbable gift to Allen

On Madison and Allen's way back to his apartment from Bloomingdale's they pass a beautiful lighted fountain featuring a mermaid sculpture. Allen stops to admire it and Madison asks him what it is about it he loves so much, hoping that he'll mention the mermaid and then she can tell him that's who she is too. But Allen demurs and instead tells her that he's sad the city is about to tear down the fountain to make more room for parking. The next day, Allen introduces Madison to the concept of gifts by giving her a beautiful figurine with two people dancing in a glass case as well as an expensive Tiffany necklace. 

When Allen returns later from work, it's he who is surprised to find that the mermaid fountain now spouts in his own living room. Apparently, inspired by Allen's gesture, Madison used her charms and traded the necklace for the fountain. Um, what? First, how did they even get that fountain upstairs with just the small dolly the movers used? Second, how has it not fallen through the floor yet? And third, even in a fairytale New York City, nobody would trade a necklace for a landmark.

Upskirting is not funny, it's harassment

When we first meet Allen's brother Freddie they are both kids on the boat in Cape Cod, where Freddie proceeds to drop coins on the floor and pretends to be collecting them as he's looking up women's skirts. Freddie's mom catches him and asks her husband to speak to Freddie about it, but all he does is hit Freddie across the head, so it's no wonder that even as an adult Freddie continues with this particular strain of sexual harassment. 

We see a grown Freddie 20 years later dropping coins on the floor, at a wedding no less, to look up women's skirts. "It was embarrassing when you were 10," Allen hisses, hoping nobody has noticed. Freddie retorts, "When something works for me I stick with it!" The thing is, upskirting is considered sexual harassment and is even illegal in many places. It's kind of awful that a family movie features this act not just once, but twice, and Freddie has excuses to justify both instances. 

More evidence Allen's brother Freddie is the worst

As an adult, there are a number of cringeworthy aspects of Splash, but Allen's brother Freddie is arguably the worst of them. Freddie shows up at the family business with a stack of Penthouse magazines because a story he wrote was published in it... and he hands them out to his colleagues and customers who begin reading the magazine right there in public. Disney made a huge show of editing out Madison's unclothed rear end for Disney+, but they forgot to edit out the cover of Penthouse. Whoops. 

Freddie also smokes cigarettes while he and Allen are playing racquetball and then cracks open a beer on the court. Freddie lies to clients about Allen being a veteran of the Vietnam War, and then makes excuses for Allen's erratic behavior around the lie. Later, after Madison has been identified as a mermaid, Freddie asks the gaggle of curious reporters if any are from Penthouse. After they say no, Freddie insists that Allen leave without giving a statement. And when Allen and Freddie are trying to rescue Madison from the scientists who want to experiment on her, Freddie says he has gigantic genitalia in Swedish to fool the Swedish-speaking soldier. The reason Freddie knows how to say this? He watches Swedish pornography. Freddie's antics are enough to make you forget Splash is a family movie at all.

Timmy the Doorman has an inappropriate side hustle for a family movie

On Madison's first day in Allen's apartment, she sees an ad for Bloomingdale's and decides to go shopping. Timmy the doorman (Tony DiBenedetto) puts her in a cab and gives himself a nice tip to boot. When Allen returns to find Madison gone, he comes to his doorman in a panic saying, "I'm looking for a girl, Timmy!" Timmy responds with an emphatic "200 bucks!" Allen rephrases, telling Timmy he's looking for the specific woman he brought home earlier. But only adults would notice the subtext here: Timmy appears to be a procurer of sex workers for people in the building. 

This is one of so many details in Splash that really make you wonder how this film ever had a PG rating. Timmy's side hustle might be easy to overlook since it's mentioned so quickly, but taken in tandem with so much other inappropriate dialogue and behavior for a family film, Splash may not actually be all that family-friendly after all.

Mrs. Stimler needs to be on medical leave

The Bauer brothers' secretary, Mrs. Stimler (Dody Goodman), is a whole mood in and of herself. When Allen comes in to check for messages, Mrs. Stimler tells him that the only important call was from their father. Allen reminds her that their father has been dead for several years, but Mrs. Stimler tries to get him on the phone anyway. We find out that the week before, Mrs. Stimler had been hit in the head by lightning, which explains why she's acting so strangely, including wearing her bra outside her clothes at work. 

Mrs. Stimler isn't a young woman, so it's entirely possible the lightning strike may have triggered other health issues, like dementia or Alzheimer's. She certainly shouldn't be at work where she's putting herself at risk. She needs to be on medical leave and maybe even given a path to early retirement by the Bauer brothers.

Walter Kornbluth would have seen entirely different consequences for his actions

Allen isn't the only one in Splash with mermaids on the brain. When Allen is rescued by Madison as an adult, they aren't alone in the water. Nearby, Dr. Walter Kornbluth is scuba diving in search of a mermaid he suspects to be in the waters off Cape Cod. As it turns out, he's right, and he surprises Madison underwater. Back on land, Dr. Kornbluth is completely ridiculed by his colleagues, especially since he wasn't able to get a good photograph of Madison. And when he finds out that Madison has made it on land, he makes it his new purpose to out her. 

To do this, he carries around a spray bucket of salt water and sprays it at women with long blonde hair. Kornbluth gets beaten up, quite badly to boot, for these assaults. But adults watching the movie know that in real life, he would have been far more than just punched for throwing water on people. He should have been arrested for assault and likely remanded to a mental health ward.

Even in the '80s it was difficult to break into a military facility

After running around all over Manhattan throwing water at women trying to uncover the mermaid he's sure exists, Dr. Kornbluth finally gets it right and exposes Madison after a gala banquet for the American president. Madison and Allen left the gala early because they decided to elope, but those plans are quickly dashed as Madison is taken into custody. Military scientists begin studying Madison, keeping her in a huge tank where they can monitor her behavior in their lead-up to dissecting her to figure out how her species exists at all. All of this is a whole lot of menace for a family movie. 

Even Dr. Kornbluth begins regretting his role in Madison's capture, so he concocts an absurd plan for Allen and Freddie to impersonate Swedish scientists on their way to examine Madison. The men have no identification, and the only Swedish Freddie knows is lines from adult films. But they get in anyway, and also manage to smuggle Madison out of the military facility without being caught until after the actual Swedish scientists show up. In 1984, the United States was still in the middle of the Cold War — it would have been virtually impossible to break into a military medical facility without credentials.

Does Allen die at the end?

When Allen finally finds out that the love of his life is a mermaid, she tells him that she was only allowed to come on land for a total of six days, and then she'd have to return to the water forever. She asks Allen to come with her, and at first, he mistakenly assumes he'd still be able to return to see his brother and friends from time to time. Madison quickly bursts that bubble, saying that if they leave together, he can never come back. In the end, Allen chooses Madison, even though he still doesn't know how to swim. 

This begs the question: Did Allen die at the end of Splash? He's human, and he can't breathe underwater. He's also suddenly swimming perfectly as Madison shows him her world. Mermaids are famous for drowning the men who fall in love with them, so is the Allen swimming away into that happily ever after actually a spirit? Is that why he can never return? This is certainly not a question young folks will be asking, but it's easily the biggest thing that only adults would notice in the final moments of Splash, and a detail that potentially changes the entire tone of the movie once you stop to consider it.