Human sexuality is a weird thing, so it makes sense that I learned the laws of attraction from a disgusting, herring-scented merman. And no, I'm not talking about Skeletor's sidekick.

First things first, the title of this piece is a bit of a prevarication. My first official sexual awakening occurred while watching another maritime themed film, the 1992 Kurt Russell boat comedy Captain Ron. The scene that catalyzed my interest in women was when Martin Short and Mary Kay Place took a shower on their yacht.


Despite my ignorance, their ablutions possessed a heretofore unfelt allure. I thought to my 10-year-old self, "Man, what I wouldn't give to be Martin Short, shampooing my hair with Mary Kay Place! I'd trade my mint-condition first issue of Batman vs. Predator — with its stellar Andy Kubert artwork — for some of that group shampooing."

Now, no offense to Martin Short, but I don't want to acknowledge that Jiminy Glick was part and parcel of my journey into manhood. I mean, if I had the prescience to imagine swapping places with that rakish Kurt Russell (sporting a Snake Plissken eye patch, no less), I'd be more than willing to dub Captain Ron my true erotic awakening.

But no, it was Martin Short. So that's why I choose the 1995 flooded Earth flick Waterworld my official day zero as a sexual being. Is this better or worse than Clifford? I honestly cannot say, but at least there's a modicum of logic to it.


For much of the 1990s, Kevin Costner played the same role: the reluctant outsider who inevitably gets laid midway through the movie. This model works with Dances With Wolves, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Bodyguard, Waterworld (of course), and 1997's The Postman. Waterworld and The Postman are a subgenre unto themselves: The Kevin Costner Messianic Sex God Apocalypse Thriller.

In both films, Costner plays a wandering slob who has women thrown at him in the film's first act. In Waterworld, the atoll council demands his precious seed to keep the gene pool a-bubbling. He refuses to oblige them, but in The Postman, his character "Shakespeare" agrees to impregnate a lady with an infertile husband. It's quite the bit of hilarious synchronicity — in the course of two years, there were two post-apocalyptic bombs that featured women clamoring for Kevin Costner's Oscar-winning ejaculate.

16 years later, we can look back and titter that Costner — who directed, produced, and lent his star power to both Waterworld and The Postman — cast himself as the last lay on Earth. But when I saw Waterworld in the theater, I had yet to discover a (homeless man's) magical cache of Hustler International hidden in the oak tree behind the community pool. Ergo, Waterworld was some profound shit.

It was like the "getting stuck on a desert island with your crush" daydream times one million. And Kevin Costner's Mariner was the perfect guy to live vicariously through precisely because he was so gross. The dude set the standard oh so impossibly low.

Think about it — the Mariner's got webbed feet and funky earlobes. He's a complete asshole. He has a terrible haircut and dresses like a nobody Mad Max once ran over with his Interceptor. And despite all his flaws, he still gets to see Jeanne Tripplehorn's butt. Factor in all that azure water, sexy pan flute music, the fact that every other man in Waterworld was a one-eyed Dennis Hopper and/or lived on the Exxon Valdez, and the aquacalypse looked like the perfect place to meet girls.


I wouldn't see such raw romanticism until Titanic, two years later, another film which taught me that saltwater disasters yielded sexy results ("My Heart Will Go On" became a favored background soundtrack for playing Doom). Thanks to Kevin Costner, it's a miracle I didn't burst into tears at the sheer sentimentality of Deep Rising.