The Hidden Meaning in Jaws – Earthling Cinema
What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Steven Spielberg’s Jaws? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s film:
Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary
Director: Steve Spielberg
Production Co: Universal Pictures
Written by: AJ Unitas and Kevin Winzer
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey (http://www.ryanhaileydotcom.com/)
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Produced by: Jacob S. Salamon and Emily Dunbar
Hidden Meaning in Jaws – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is Jaws, directed by the wonder kid himself, Steven Wonder.
The film follows police officer John Brodie, the town’s only lifeguard. When a shark rocks a girl back and forth until she dies, he tries to close down the beach, so it can’t get to land. But the mayor’s deep in the pocket of sustainable local business, the crook.
The mayor’s plan works for five minutes until the shark eats Chucky. Naturally, the town decides the safest solution is for everyone to just try and kill it themselves, but not Quint, an actual shark hunter with a resume longer than his nails. While Brodie brings on a brilliant scientist named Hooper who offers his professional opinion:
The next day, some fisherman catch dinner, and the mayor opens the beach. But Hooper calls bulls***, since since this shark’s belly has an airtight alibi. To make matters worse, Hooper and Brody find a big shark tooth, high tailing it before the tooth fairy shark shows up.
On f*** England Day, and some kids pull a hilarious prank, while the shark pulls one of his own. Ha ha!… oh wait. And with no options left, the capitalist mayor is forced to hire Quint and turn the town communist.
What follows is a human male getaway on a boat for the weekend, full of fishing, drinking, and terrifying monologues about subtraction. It’s so fun even the shark can’t stay away, and the trio try throwing barrels at it like it’s Mario, even though its name is Dennis.
They hook the shark, but their boat conveniently breaks down, just like me any time I watch the fault in our quarks. Hooper tries to put it in a cage, but ends up getting in himself, the goof, while Quint tries kicking it. Remembering he’s a policeman, Brody shoots Dennis until it explodes.
Jaws heralded the age of Hollywood Blockbusters, which always got their due come award season. It’s got everything a human with eyes could want: from its merchandise tie-ins, to its complex two note score, to its high concept premise — high because you’ve have be stoned to think of this s***.
For reasons unknown to our archeologists, Earthlings met this film with immense amounts of critical thought, a first for the species. Through a Marxist lens, Amity’s devastation can be viewed as retribution for capitalism, a disease that made humans rich. Well a few of them.
Early on, the film shows how the economic interests of Amity’s business owners trump the needs of the common people. Even though the common folk can’t count. The Mayor refuses to ban swimming because it would hurt the town’s bottom line, while Chief Brody is similarly preoccupied with this rich dude’s sick house. Lifeguard and handyman? What doesn’t this cop do. But ignoring the pleas of the common folk nearly ruins the town. After Dennis’s reign of terror claims various humans, boats, horses, and boat porches, the mayor finally allows Brody, Hopper, and Quinn to go kill the shark, even though they could have done it on their own at any time.
This echoes Marx’s belief that capitalism will ultimately be overthrown by the unhappy masses on a beach. This transition of power cures Amity of its capitalist hangover, so it can get back to drinking.
At the same time, Jaws can be viewed more broadly as a metaphor for corrupt government, also known, as government. Indeed, the film offered American earthlings a way to vent their frustration with politicians in the wake of Watergate-gate. In this interpretation, the mayor stands in for Nixon, sharing his famous distrust for law enforcement, his penchant for covering up incriminating evidence, and his nautical-themed suits. [Alt: terrible suits] When he’s publicly disgraced, the audience experiences well deserved relief, just as the American people did when Nixon resigned from office to live on the moon.
If psychology is more your cup of herb water, Jaws can be read as a Freudian cautionary tale. Freud posited there were three sections to the human brain: the id, in charge of animal desires; the superego, which controls morality; and the eggo, which balances a healthy breakfast. Dennis represents the primal desires of the id – driven to consume things, both figuratively and literally. The town and its government are the superego, imposing laws ostensibly for the greater good. And the ego is where these two forces meet, usually the shore. But here, the balance has broken down – rather than finding the line between mindless consumption and moral snobbery, the id runs wild baby. It’s only when Brody kills the shark that harmony korine is restored, symbolized by him standing in a boat half submerged in water, where he’ll eventually drown.
But the prevailing interpretation comes from filmmaker Steven Wonder who astutely proclaimed: It’s a movie about a shark named Dennis.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. Duhhh nuhh.