I think we all have memories of swimming in a pool or lake at some point and replaying that menacing Jaws theme over in our heads. For a quick second, you probably swam a little faster towards the safety of shore, back to your parents, away from that humongous, toothy fish from the deep… and then you remembered (if you grew up near freshwater like we did) that of course there are no sharks here….right?
I think the older we get, the more those things fade into our memories, but they’re replaced with other feelings like- “Will I be able to pay my bills on time? Will I find the love of my life? Will I be successful?” We become adults and suddenly, we wish that imaginary sharks swimming in the local pool were our biggest worry.
There has been a lot of speculation about what the shark in Jaws symbolizes and how it connects to our world and society in general. There are a few interesting theories that Gracie and I tackle in this episode, but I have a particular mindset about what I think the monster represents and why this film remains so relevant and frightening to this day.
The magic of Jaws is that we don’t see the monster until the very last few scenes in the film. That anxiety builds and builds until a gigantic man eating great white destroys a small fishing boat and then dies in a fiery shark explosion, thanks to the local sheriff’s impeccable aim. You understand throughout the film that this shark is destroying the lives of those that live in Amity, and your mind runs amok with possibilities of what the shark looks like until it’s time for the big reveal, and it does not disappoint. The shark is massive, angry and it’s destruction knows no bounds. And that’s kind of how adulthood is, right? It sneaks up on you when you least expect it, when you think you’re safe and you’ve got all of your proverbial ducks in a row- and then before you know it, you’re caught between the gnashing teeth of responsibility.
You come across so many things in life that make you question your sanity, if you’re doing the right things, trusting the right people- maybe you’re like Sheriff Brody. There are smart people, like Matt Hooper (our too-smart-for-his-own-good scientist), who will help guide you through your intellectual speed bumps. Tough, strong and streetwise people like Quint (our dependable local fisherman) who are there to provide you with some muscle and grit when you need it. And of course, greedy politicians like Amity’s Mayor Vaughn who will try to talk you into believing that you’re safe when it feels like the world is falling to pieces.
This film lasts for generations because this is what life is made of- figuring out who you are amongst the chaos and how you’ll overcome it. The shark itself is that chaos, that fear and anxiety, circling you in the deep blue waters, waiting for it’s chance to strike. Will you be the helpless teenage girl in the beginning of the film who succumbs to it, completely blindsided? Will you rally with your fellow humans to end the feeding frenzy of anger, madness, stress and anxiety that seems to plague our generation? Or will you strike out on your own like Sheriff Brody, with the help of faith and science to improve your life and the life of those who are closest to you, protecting them at all costs? You see, this shark is more than just a monster fish- it’s the very essence of death and destruction. And it may seem like it’s “too much of a threat” or “too much for one person to take on”- but someone’s got to, right? The world may seem like a big, vast, scary ocean and there are giant sharks everywhere. But all you need is some self assurance, strength and bravery…
And also maybe a canister of C02 and a sniper rifle, and you can blow all that scary stuff out of the water.
Ep. 28: JAWS – Dangerous Reef Street is available on your favorite podcast app now!