It was the summer of 1975...lotsa of firsts that summer for me. My first "real" job working at Dunkin Donuts, starting out mopping the floors, taking out the garbage and cleaning toilets. My dad said "always leave things cleaner than you found them" so after walking a hundred miles in the early morning one way..well at least two miles...the customers were treated to shining floors and spotless urinals. Another first was in the form of food...not a donut but...my first Whopper from Burger King. Up to that point it had been McDonald's all the way...but this flame broiled beauty was something else! Dropped to me casually be a Dunkin co-worker my fast food boundaries expanded in one bite. The summer of 1975 was also the first time I really got the shit scared out of me by a mechanical shark named "Bruce."
The old Will Rogers Theater in Chicago was the place to be so me and my buddies talked our parents into early allowance, went to the movies unprepared for the carnage that took place off the coast of Amity Island, the haunting "dun dun dun dun dun tah..." when the shark was getting ready to strike, the naked swimmer in the opening scenes and the guy's head popping outta the wrecked hull of a ship with his eyeball missing..aieeeeee! We hid in the theater and watched it four times in a row, getting more and more scared every time. It was great. That movie changed the concept of the "summer blockbuster" kept more people out of the ocean, and pools and bathtubs than ever before and made superstars of Spielberg, the late Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw and launched Richard Dreyfus into "Close Encounters." I built a replica of Quint's boat the "Orca" and shark frenzy was everywhere. T-Shirts, games, knock off movies (Tentacles and Tinterora) JAWS became a cultural phenomenon. I bet I have seen it more than 50 times.
Has not worked out well for sharks however.
The summer of 1975 saw a huge increase in people killing sharks because of the movie. Shark fishing has always been around but I guess humans needed to cash in even more with shark fishing expeditions that began to wipe out the supposed worst offenders, giant great whites, the formidable tiger shark and the tenacious bull shark. In the 36 years since JAWS the oceans have been seriously depleted of its top predator because people want to have shark fin soup, trophies on walls and supposedly safer swimming
I was reading a great book by actor Ted Danson called "Oceana" about his growing up on the coast of California and learning how important the ocean is to human survival...as the oceans die slowly...that which depends on the oceans do too....that uh...would be us. It's "Shark Week" on Discovery and for the tenth year millions will watch sharks do what they do...eat other fish and unfortunately an occasional human that enters their world. While its devastating..its also more likely to die of a bee sting or auto accident than being consumed by a Great White.
Humans have a propensity to project human qualities on the animal kingdom..making sharks for example "evil" or "bad." Sharks are just being sharks...as they have for millions of years. Same goes for snakes, spiders and every other beastie that lives its life thru instinct. To paint sharks as savage "man-eaters" leaves out one simple but important fact. The only chance you have to be eaten alive..is to go into the water...and that is a choice we make once we leave our world and enter theirs.
JAWS is a great movie, its meant to entertain...and evoke emotion. It's too bad that humans have slaughtered these magnificent creatures in record numbers to somehow quell an inner fear that lives in the deepest part of our internal oceans. We are a) not the only species on the planet-we just act like it b) not the smartest species on the planet we just act like it and c) not God...we just act like it.