Jaws (1975)

Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss

Much like our current crisis, there is an obvious solution to the problem facing the characters on Amity Island. Just as sharks don’t have feet, which makes them easy to avoid by staying on land, COVID-19 can’t survive without a host, making it easy to avoid by staying inside and avoiding large gatherings. Yet, drawn as moths to a flame, we humans can’t help but do what we’re told not to, even if it means sacrificing a few children and senior citizens in the process.

Speaking of age, there’s a subtext of class and generational conflict brewing on the deck of the Orca, nowhere clearer than in the history of its makeshift crew. The ship’s captain and WWII veteran, Quint, and the plucky heritor, Hooper, both recount experiences with sharks that shaped their hatred/love (respectively) of the beasts, with Quint’s harrowing tale of his shipwrecked crew being picked off by deep sea predators contrasted with Hooper’s lighthearted tête-à-tête with a baby tiger shark. In the middle is the Dramamine-riddled Brody, a New York cop trying to adjust to life in the small seaside town whose residents can count their ancestors back to the Mayflower, a perennial outsider who, despite saving the day, can’t count on being accepted in this insular community any time soon–not that he’d want to be.

And finally we have the shark itself, that uber-villain pre-dating Michael, Jason, and Freddie — it that cannot be reasoned with or even understood, a maximally efficient killing machine with a taste for adolescent flesh. Our encounters with the shark serve as a stark reminder that we are but visitors passing through but for the grace of Nature. Well, except that Nature doesn’t have harpoons and rifles — take that Shark!

You knew there was a shark out there! You knew it was dangerous! But you let people go swimming anyway. You knew all those things! But still my boy is dead now. And there’s nothing you can do about it. My boy is dead. I wanted you to know that.

Mrs. Kintner

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