We live in a senseless time. Our nation is ruled by no-talents who wallow with pride in their lack of knowledge and skill at what they do. Anyone who might know what they are doing are counseled about how useless they are, and how much they must serve those who know jack shit, while yet more shit is piled on them to prevent them from getting too revolutionary.
This is why I think this is the defining film of our era, despite being 42 years early.
I would like to argue that Jaws is a story or parable of our times. In keeping with our times, allow me to spout my bullshit theory.
The film has a very simple score … just a couple of repeated notes … indicative of a society where funding for the arts has been drained to pay for an already bloated military.
The film opens with the establishment of immediate, clear and present danger. A woman is viciously slaughtered while out enjoying her God given right to swim nude, with a great white shark taking the place of a couple of gun toting FRWEASPs (who of course oggled her the whole way through their sniper scope before shooting the sinner for her transgressions).
Enter Martin Brody, police chief of Amity Island. The Chief is a good man who wants to do a good job, but is frankly scared (why would someone afraid of the water ever take a job on the island … as the chief puts it … “it’s only an island if you look at it from the water”). Poor logic, but the man is honest in his convictions. They find the poor girl’s remains, and the police immediately files a “person eaten by a shark report” and sets off to close the beaches.
Then the real villains appear … the business owners and the politicians (unlike today, they are depicted as separate people, but if this film were made today, it would just be the mayor who owns the hotel, failing casino, and golf course on the island). The poorly dressed mayor, gently reminds the newly hired chief that doing this will completely damage the economy which is based on suckers from the mainland coming to sunbathe and swim. The chief gets the message from the politicians and business owners and changes the report to “run over by boat”.
The next day, as one might suspect, the shark returns and kills a boy. The mother senses a false flag operation, and offers a reward for the shark’s body. This attracts every cast member and fan of Duck Dynasty and Swamp People to show up (at one point, one of the fishermen actually asks how $8,000 splits four ways … so you know this isn’t the PBS crowd). They go hunting for their terrorist shark, and instead bag an innocent shark that kind of looked like the other shark.
Needing a dose of sanity, the heroic elitist scientist is called in. The scientist realizes it is the wrong shark, and he and the chief go hunting for the real beast at night on the scientist’s fully decked out yacht (probably bought from government grant money wasted on churning out global warming papers, despite admitting he just comes from a rich white privileged family). They strike out, but the scientist does find a tooth indicative of a massive predator, but drops it after seeing the head of a local fisherman who somehow got eaten by the shark inside his boat without a shark sized hole in the boat (this shark must be far more flexible than any shark in history).When the scientist and chief try to build a case based on science, the mayor simply refuses to believe it. There is money to be made by his friends in the business community … and goes ahead with the summer celebration plans …
… but not before building a wall …. of boats … armed with heavy weapons out in the bay to protect the swimmers and keep out illegal sharks.
That wall does as well as you might think … the shark goes right underneath it, and kills again. This time the mayor decides to give in, and hire a professional. This professional … a US navy vet with lots of experience (the moderate conservative of the story), joins forces with the scientist and the chief to hunt the shark. You can tell he is conservative because he is grizzled and sexist … but he is a moderate, because the damn mayor is on his back about parking, and he wants his shack rezoned as part of the deal to kill the shark.
The scientist and the fisherman don’t get along very well at first, and both largely ignore the moderate who is barely containing his terror. Eventually, the scientist and fisherman learn to respect each other after comparing scars one drunken evening. Showing that differences can be overcome … with the help of ethanol!
In the end, the professional fisherman is killed … because he allowed the mayor and business leaders to run things and not insist on doing things the right way in the first place. The scientist damn near gets killed, but escapes to hide among some rocks at the ocean bottom. the bravely heroic moderate Martin Brody (he’s a cop, but open minded) finally kills the shark using the tools of liberal science (a SCUBA air tank likely packed with semtex for reasons) and the moderate conservative’s rifle to kill the shark.
Perhaps the moral of the story is that, in the end, the educated and open minded will be the survivors … those that can communicate and understand where both sides of the debate come from. Of course, in the sequel, the mayor and business community get their revenge by firing Martin after he tries to save the island again while the teens try to run away to Europe … so there is that.
Maybe the moral is that until a decent man is elected president, we will all be chum!