Did you see this hilarious chat between journalists Emily Dreyfuss and Ben Dreyfuss, the children of Richard Dreyfuss, about their recent viewing of Jaws, the movie that made their father a famous actor? It’s really funny–they agree that the movie “makes no sense.” My fave part (SPOILER ALERT!):
ED: I also forgot that [Richard Dreyfuss’s] character was the rich kid! I guess I basically forgot everything.
BD: Oh yeah, with his tony, rich boat that they should have taken to avoid the whole death/sinking thing?
ED: I mean, they don’t even address that, which is ridiculous. Like, his boat had all the things they needed! Like sonar.
BD: Right? And Quint demands that they take his rickety piece of shit which is just an insane thing to do. The only reasonable thing to say to Quint when he makes that demand is, “Sir, you are insane. We are not putting our lives in the hands of an insane person. You’re fired. Good day.”
ED: “Also, we should add, you can’t catch a shark this big with a fishing pole. It had to be said.”
ED: Like, his big plan is that he is going to REEL it in with his human man arms.
BD: I was under the impression that he was using some sort of contraption to leverage the weight of the boat or something? But that might not be how science works.
ED: I don’t think so. I think he was using the power of a metal cup to help hold the fishing rod and that is that and then it shows him reeling in and letting out and then being like, “This shark is so smart! I can’t pull him in!”
There’s a reason that Fonzie jumped a shark later in the 1970s, and that we use the term “jumping the shark” to commemorate the moment when an entertainment feature becomes so stupid that it’s over. In fact, in our home, “sharky” is our shorthand for “too stupid/it’s over,” an adjective that can be applied to pretty much everything (for example: Sauvingon Blanc, knitted caps worn in summer, gluten-free anything.)
As it happens, I saw Jaws for the first time Sunday night. What struck me was not just the silliness of the “World War II Vet/USS Indianapolis survivor with a crappy boat and a big fishing pole” method of shark removal, but the shocking but apparently (in 1975) plausible decision of the town of Amity to keep their beaches open after the deaths of not just one but two children!!! I mean, the story about venality and the need for beach towns to cash in on the big three weekends of the season (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day Weekends) makes sense, but was it really just the cost of doing business to have two local children chomped to death in shallow water, one very dramatically amidst a crowd of beachgoers? Wouldn’t that be flagged in a screenplay these days as utterly implausible, even in a stupid summer blockbuster?
The movie gave me hope that the shocking massacres of school children and university students by young gunmen, armed to the teeth (sometimes by their own parents), will be regarded in the future as evidence of the scandalous callousness of the 2000s and 2010s, seeing this is just the cost of doing business because of historically novel interpretations of the Second Amendment. Just as we use seatbelts more commonly and smoke a lot less than we did in 1975, perhaps future generations will be appalled by our cavalier attitude towards public safety at schools and universities. Here’s hoping that our descendents will have more sense than we have.