Mysteries of the Deep
Jennifer Worgan, art by Zoe Crocker
The shark in Jaws is a giant mechanical shark that repeatedly malfunctioned during shooting, so we don’t see it in full until 1 hour and 21 minutes into the film. Shooting for the film was scheduled to take 65 days and ended up taking 159. It must be acknowledged that Spielberg fails to address the true dangers of a day at the beach, most notably the weather.
I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but when I go for a day at the beach, I take it as given that there might be a giant killer shark in the water. We don’t know what lurks beneath the surface of the ocean. There could be hundreds of undiscovered sea monsters, and that is why I personally have not touched a body of water in the past seven years, and always wear a wetsuit in the shower. The people of Jaws should not have been in the water, because nobody should go in the water except for trained professionals. Of course, Steven Spielberg is an intelligent man. He knows this. This film was never intended to be about sharks — it was about a much more real horror.
Jaws is about a more insidious threat that is totally ignored by all of the characters for the entire film. It stays lurking in the background, yet in every shot it is impossible not to feel a looming sense of dread. None of the people on the beach ever seem to apply sunscreen. While it is true that a few of the extras wear hats consistently and from time to time a named character will pop one on — what is a hat without a rash shirt? It’s a joke. If you are in an area with no shade protection and your shoulders aren’t covered, you might as well stick bacon all over your body and jump off the pier, because there is no safety for you on land. Police Chief Martin Brody can rush around as much as he wants trying to save everyone and their mum from the shark, but if he’s doing it without sunglasses, his eyes aren’t protected from glare. The reason he squints so much isn’t because he’s concentrating. It’s because he has not taken the proper precautions necessary to save his vision from environmental hazards.
Does anyone hydrate properly while they are out at the beach? No. Nobody has thought to take a simple reusable water bottle with them that would enable them to avoid dehydration while also avoiding excess plastic waste. It is also important to note that plastic is the real killer in the ocean. There are no recycling bins even featured in the film’s mise-en-scene. A PG rating is far too lenient for this kind of horror.
Although everyone acknowledges that there is a shark, there is little to no acknowledgement of wind chill in Jaws. Any meteorologist, or my grandmother, could confirm that it is windier at the beach than it is inland. In extreme cases, wind chill can lead to windburn, which is sunburn caused by the wind. This is not a fictional hazard and without protective clothing, everyone on the beach is at risk.
The world of Jaws is far more dystopian and insidious than it is given credit for. It is truly a modern tragedy that the true meaning of this cinematic triumph has not been acknowledged. All we can do to right this wrong is listen to the message it has passed on to us: the importance of Slip Slop Slap. I urge all readers to apply their zinc thoroughly the next time they are considering interacting with a shoreline.