In the banner year of 1985, 10 years after the initial blockbuster smash release of the holiest of shark films JAWS, I had seen thine shining light they call Bruce for the first time in my tiny life.
I was three.
One could argue my Dad was a sadistic fuck in showing me what I absolutely consider, one of the top three scariest films of ALL TIME. Especially given the fact I wouldn’t even set a pair of feet on any beach for close to seven years after. True story: Having family in the Long Island area, Summer Beach days were very much a thing. However, I would make my Dad carry me across the sandy threshold to a spot I felt comfortable and far enough away from the water. The answer is yes: In my youthful way of thinking, I had concluded that JAWS was smart enough to get me even in the sand. But as long as I was on a towel and far enough away from the shore, all was ok. The answer here is also YES: It makes zero sense, I realize but hey, I was a kid so don’t judge too harsh!
Now that being said, my story is just one of thousands that were scared absolutely shitless after seeing the film, inducing GALEOPHOBIA into the minds of many. Proving without a shadow of a doubt, that JAWS is indeed, one of the scariest films of all time. We define horror as something that scares us. It’s a very versatile genre as what scares one, may not necessarily frighten another. Collectively, JAWS pretty much hit the nail on the head and caused quite a bit of both panic and interest in the beautiful monsters of the deep.
The following vintage clip from NBC NEWS uploaded by Youtube user COW MISSING showcases a little snippet of what ‘The Summer of JAWS’ looked like as far as the cultural impact the film had with its audiences.
Now on the other side of the coin, JAWS ultimately caused an almost global catastrophe for the creatures of the deep in the form of fear and panic; something humanity is very much guilty of with the most recent example given is the 2020 shortage of toilet paper. We are very much guilty of acting out in emotions first, and logic later. And these poor animals have suffered immensely for it. Mind you, I don’t place this blame on the book or film itself as that’s complete BULLSHIT. Every one of us is responsible for our own actions, thoughts, and doings. I only place blame on those who have chosen to use their own fears as an excuse to execute these wonderful animals for either sport, food, or pleasure. As a matter of fact, Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel shadows the event dubbed “The Twelve Days of Terror”, that served as inspiration for what we know as Bruce today.
In 1916, a series of shark attacks were recorded over on the New Jersey coastline killing four people and injuring five others. Also, interestingly enough, during a Polio Epidemic. So of course, under the duress of a record-breaking heatwave and pandemic, the media then fueled an already stressed populous into panic mode. Reports and analysis also suggest that the nature of the attacks were by a lone shark. Later, a Great White was caught during a shark hunt that was found to have human remains in its stomach. Was this shark the culprit? Possibly. I mean, hard to argue if there’s a human limb hanging out inside the belly of the thing.
Anyways, the release of JAWS just helped to reignite a surging fear and interest in the mysterious beast. As time heals all things however, the humanoids have become much more sympathetic and educated about our friends of the deep. Regardless of how many horribly cheesy SY-FY shark attack movies have been churned out year after year, piggybacking off the back of the ultimate shark movie…. 45 years later and counting.
Now, I can’t simply talk about JAWS without mentioning the John Williams score. It is one of the most recognizable tones in cinematic history that Goddess forbid, you ever hear that shit playing somewhere on the beach while your legs are dangling in the water, I’ll place a hefty bet you’re gonna crap your swim shorts. Per the Film Music Society, Williams described the malicious two-tone theme as “so simple, insistent and driving, that it seems unstoppable, like the attack of the shark. The music could be loud and fast if he was attacking, soft and slow if he was lurking, but always menacing in tone.”
Goddamn right Mr. Williams. I mean, every time I have an anxiety/panic attack, that fucking theme song pops into my anxious mind as the perfect accompaniment as an indication of a roller coaster of impending doom.
While I myself, and many other 80s’ babies’ grew up in the JAWS VHS era, we were terrified as kids but evolved into adults with a healthy understanding of the nature of the beast with education along with a healthy dose of lovely Shark Week programming provided by the Discovery Channel. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I didn’t still ’til this day go to the ocean, dip in, and the thought cross my mind, “Is today the day my leg gets bit off by Sir Great White of Shark?” All thanks to one of the most horrifying scenes of all time.
Thanks for the memories and the trauma Bruce.
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