Marcel the Shell With Shoes On and the meaning of community

Written by Lisa Huffman

21st Sep 2022

This past weekend, I took my daughter to see the newly released mockumentary, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On. I first heard of this tiny YouTube sensation back in June 2022, when Marcel’s story was featured on CBS Sunday Morning. I immediately fell in love with the adorable, one-eyed, talking shell who happens to wear shoes. 

If you’re thinking this sounds ridiculous and must be a film just for children, you’d be wrong. The life lessons Marcel shares and his perspective on the world are relatable no matter what age and offer a sweet message of love, understanding, and the importance of community.

“It’s pretty much common knowledge that it takes at least twenty shells to have a community. That that’s the minimum that you need to survive, so. I think at first I was thinking we’re not going to make it. But sometimes you just have to disregard those rules and think, ‘Well, actually, the rule is that I want to be having a good life, and stay alive, and not just survive, but have a good life.’” ~ Marcel the Shell

Like Marcel and his community, we humans are also innately social. The need to connect with others is literally in our DNA and contributes to our survival and general happiness.

According to Emma Seppälä, Ph.D., “A sense of social connection is one of our fundamental human needs and it impacts our mental health, physical health, and longevity…People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, are more empathic to others, more trusting and cooperative, and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them.”

While working from home (WFH) might have seemed like a great idea and the achievement of a life-long career goal in March 2020, today, people who WFH are likely feeling isolated — and their physical and mental health may be suffering. I’m not suggesting that we need to be around people constantly, but we are clearly not equipped to thrive for long in isolation. Thus, the need for a community. 

If you’re still working from home and are feeling the need to connect with other like-minded professionals, then a coworking space might be the perfect fit for you. The beauty of coworking is that it allows you to surround yourself with people who have shared interests, aspirations, work ethic, and drive. Visit any flexible office space on a given day and you can feel the positive energy and sense of belonging. Members are energized because they are where they want to be when they want to be there. Whether it’s an exchange of pleasantries over a cup of coffee or an impromptu congregation in the meeting room to listen to — and provide feedback on — a member’s next big idea, there’s no denying that the people in this space are connected to and trust one another.

Connecting to each other is a critical part of our human experience. It builds community and gives us a better understanding of our immediate world and the greater world around us. Marcel thought his world was limited to the house and yard where he lived but, on the quest to find his family, he discovers that there could be so many more shells out there.

“There must be so many others like me. It’s impossible that there wouldn’t be, and not just my family. They’re out there. Somewhere out there.” ~ Marcel the Shell

Brené Brown defines connection “as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

As Marcel the Shell opines, “There’s all these people, and we’re all looking at the same thing, and we’re all doing the same thing. It’s beautiful. And it feels like, I don’t even know how to describe it. It feels like something. It’s really lovely.”

It feels like something, all right. It feels like a community.