Writing Out Loud / George Stahl
“You’re going to need a bigger boat…” Ya think? Sharks. They are the oceans answer to a garbage disposal meets Jack the Ripper. All these creatures do is swim around looking for their next meal. Which could come as soon as they have swallowed their last one. Eat…eat…eat, then why aren’t they obese? Why are they not swimming diabetics, just waiting to keel over? They should be as huge as whales if all they do is constantly eat, right? Are they on some kind of shark exercise program, or maybe they are on the Paleo Diet, and all they eat are cavemen.
We, meaning most humans, are fascinated by these fish. That’s all they are, fish. Like trout or bass or crappie. Only, these trout, bass, and crappie have a Skilsaw blade in their mouth for teeth. Just that combination seems to be enough to give birth to a plethora of shark laden scenarios that we can really sink our teeth into. (I know. Bad joke. But if you even snickered, it worked.) From the summer of 1975, until infinity, whenever we go into the water at our favorite ocean beach, aren’t we still hearing the ominous…. dunnn…dun, Dunnn…dun, Dun dun…dun dun…dun dun dun dun dun……It’s just not there though, is it? You hear the waves crashing, the tide rushing in and out, and even a gull or two overhead, but no music. Then, you see a fin. A fin that to you, looks like the size of an ocean liner, and it’s coming in your direction. Swim! Swim like your life depends on it, because, frankly, it probably does. Your arms are frozen, you can’t hardly move your legs, but Mister Power Eater back there doesn’t care. He’s going to eat those parts first anyway. Then you realize that now you can stand up. The water is only ankle deep, and unlike in the movies, sharks cannot walk on land. As you step completely out of the water, you peer out into where you just were, and you don’t see anything but water. No fins.
Fortunately, for those of us who want to feel that adrenaline rush like our lucky swimmer, but do not want to actually have an interactive moment with a Great White, there are the movies. Oh yeah! The movies about our most feared, most liked, ocean dweller. We have shark movies that rival any documentary taped by shark fanatics searching for the truth. Well, enough truth! We apparently want our truth about sharks mixed in with some really terrifying fiction. So, our shark is different. There is something very wrong with him or her. It is not acting like a normal predator, it is acting like it has a short in its brain. In this movie, that is not far from the truth. It does. Our shark, not the docushark, is about to go on a killing spree that rivals anything we have ever seen. No one is safe, not even the guys with a bigger boat. Our massive hungry hunter will simply leap out of the water, exposing its massive grey and white body for all of the world and God to see.
When it comes crashing down on the boat and turns it into a box of tooth picks, the three guys onboard become shark snacks, and the massive fish just goes on its merry way, as if nothing happened. That’s what we want to see in a shark movie, not some textbook explanation of what a shark is. It’s not a good shark movie if the sharks don’t draw blood, again and again and again. The shark in these movies always seems to have the upper fin too. It is always just one step behind the human it is trying to eat, and acts like it actually has some intelligence behind those dark, lifeless eyes as Jaws described it.
The plot in these movies is somewhat interchangeable too. There are few things that are unpredictable and even fewer that are new, but we don’t seem to mind that. When it comes to a 25-foot-long fish that could rip your head off in one bite, facts have little place in the scene. We do not come to shark movies to sit in the audience to be lulled to sleep. We are there to get the beegeebies scared out of us. We are there to have the ultimate theater experience, the one that makes you go, ”Ahhhh…that’s gross!” as the monster shark that ate most of Manhattan, blows up in the middle of the harbor, with people lining the shores, cheering and jumping up and down on the sand and on the docks and helipads and ferry landings.
Then, there are those television shows like ‘Shark Week.’ An entire week of nothing but shark movies, shark adventures and shark infomercials. Originally, it started in July of 1988 on one channel, the Discovery Channel, and it was a hit from the get go. So, naturally, other predators got in on the action. Not to be left adrift in shark infested waters, the Sci-Fi Channel exploded with its version of the week of teeth and blood. ‘Sharknado Week!’ That’s not a joke, or is it? Sharknado started a series of tornado spinning, throwing, eating, chomping, airborne sharks attacking all sorts of places in the world. Flying monkeys got nothing on these guys! The real scary thing? People loved it and wanted more!
Was Jaws supposed to start this kind of frenzy? Maybe, maybe not, but it did. That movie gave us permission to secretly root for the monster, but to ultimately want mankind to win. Forty-three years later, depending on our mood, wanting the monster to win is not always a secret. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but just a fact. You decide.
Next up, ‘Tasmanian Devil Week’ or the ‘Buzz Saw of the Australian Outback.’ Just when you thought it was safe to go Down Under…