Jaws Turns 35

Jaws

Seems like only yesterday we were sitting in movie theaters and soiling ourselves while watching what has since become the greatest shark movie of all time. And yet here we are 35 years later, still testing the absorbent properties of our Old Navy™ pants while enjoying the endlessly thrilling Jaws.

Jaws

The plot was as basic as it gets: A rogue Great White feeds on the summer beach crowd doing the 4th of July thing on Amity Island in New England. (There’s a NEW England?) The shark eats its weight in swimmers until the local sheriff, a shark expert and a salty sea captain go after it. Or rather, it goes after them.

This became the formula/template for literally hundreds of fish gone wild movies, and is still in use today. But you can’t top the original for sheer exhilarating action, suspense and swimsuit-staining terror. While the sequels were nothing but weak cash-ins, it proved that the public’s taste for being eaten by sharks is not only a good business model, but that our primal fear shows no sign of slowing down. That’s why Jaws is so resonant. This isn’t fictional horror – you could actually be eaten by a shark while out dog-paddling in the middle of the ocean while sipping a refreshing cocktail. There’s something equally horrifying and intriguing about that. The drink, too.

Jaws

And cheap knock-offs weren’t the only things to profit from Jaws legacy. Every year the Discovery Channel’s™ Shark Week is a ratings bonanza and hauls in millions in advertising revenue. I can sit through as many commercials as they throw at me, just as long as I get to see a reenactment of someone being attacked and half-chewed by a frenzied shark from the safety of my couch.

The tag line for Jaws II summed up the phenomena perfectly: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…” (If you’re not old enough to remember, ask your parents what happened after Jaws came out; no one went in the water the entire summer. Now that’s good marketing.) It’s been said that Republicans do to politics what Jaws did to swimming. Whichever side of the political fence you wave your flag from, that’s pretty dang funny. And TRUE.

Thirty-five years ago Jaws was made for $9 million dollars and went on to fishnet (sorry) $470,653,000. That’s a lot of goldfish. I dare you to watch it right now, and then go swimming in the ocean. Can’t be done without polluting the water.

Jaws

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