I swear I’m not fixating on mythological creatures, previous posts being evidence to the contrary. That being said, this post chiefly concerns mermaids and coffee.
During my aimless Wikipedia browsing, I stumbled upon the page for a concept known as “The Mermaid Problem,” which is basically an examination of the paradox of mermaids being sexually attractive but sexually unviable by virtue of the apparent lack of genitalia. Take a look: Those girls are mackerel from the waist down. It's a problem that Fry encountered with no small amount of distress in the "Lost City of Atlanta" episode of Futurama. Wikipedia poses a few solutions, however, among them the notion that some mermaids were depicted having a split or split-able tail that would theoretically allow for lovemaking and subsequent creation of babies that were one-quarter fish.
As this insightful article discusses, mermaids make for some fun speculation, as far as symbols go. They are simultaneously sexpots and permavirgns — a dualism that should bring to mind the Madonna-whore complex associated with Christianity’s supreme mystical female, Mary. (The article also astutely mentions that “Star of the Sea” is one of Mary’s many names despite the fact that the woman wasn’t exactly a beach bum during her time on earth.) After all, the very name of these often naked female creatures can be literally read as “sea-maiden.” All this happens to be encapsulated nicely in the Starbucks logo, which, in its original form, also happens to be a good visual example of what these imminently sexable split-tailed mermaids look like.
Here’s the Starbucks logo as it looks now:
And here it is before the mermaid mascot was cropped.
And here’s what she looked like in her initial incarnation, before Starbucks higher-ups decided she might look a little too provocative.
And this fourth image — a purported 15th-century drawing of a figure known as the “baubo siren” inspired the original logo.
Talk about a familiar company logo that’s showing more than you thought.
Similar to how the Disney’s The Little Mermaid — mermaid text with which most Americans are now familiar — managed to hide any hint of the dangerous sexuality associated with this mythological creature, so too has the Starbucks mermaid been gradually de-sexed. It’s still there, if ever so slightly: on either side of her head in the current logo, you can still see the halves of her split tail held to the sides of her head. You wouldn’t know what you’re looking at, necessarily, unless somebody explained it, but it does hint at concealed sexuality. And for God’s sake, don’t think that pose isn’t supposed to be overtly sexual. Were Miss Starbucks a full-on woman and not a half-woman, her pose would be downright pornographic.
Thought I don’t recall ever seeing this figure before I started looking into material for this post, the split-tailed mermaid is not an infrequent subject in art from various periods, the following samples being proof.
In my opinion, this revelation is easily twice as shocking as the hidden phallus on the old VHS cover for The Little Mermaid. May you never look at the Starbucks logo the same way again.
EDIT: In case you’re curious — and the remarkable influx of traffic I’ve gotten from people Googling “baubo siren” would lead me to believe that some of you are, in fact, curious — I have newer mermaid-related and baubo-related posts.