31 Days of Wicked Watching [DAY 5]: It Came from the Deep

The last four days were dedicated to slashers, but that isn’t simply just what it means to be a horror movie. Nah. Not at all. And tonight’s movie is an example of just that. This movie is a monstrous one, a horror of the deep. Tonight’s movie is Spielberg’s classic: “Jaws.”

As the summer drew to a close, so did our time at the beach. While this summer was drastically different than we all wished it be, we all can dream about the times “dipping our toes in the water and ass in the sand.” The warmth of the sun beating down on us and the sweet smell of suntan lotion–it is a feeling like no other. It’s a time of memories and shared experiences. It is a time full of laughs and lagers. Our time at the beach, at least for many of us, is one that is full of memories.

For the residents of Amity Island, their memories include a shark that had a taste for blood.

In 1975, this film was a model of innovation. In film history, it still is. Not only did it lead to people getting out of the water, it led to a ride at Universal Studies (RIP) and a number of sequels. It could even be argued that it is the film that inspired the sub-genre of aquatic horror films that includes the likes of “Deep Blue Sea,” “Lake Placid,” “Deep Rising,” “Shark Night” and “The Meg.” I’ve heard many viewers of the movie today claim it isn’t scary or that the technology of the shark isn’t real enough, but in 1975 there was nothing but this. This was scary, and, it is still scary. Shark attacks aren’t uncommon; sharks are studied vastly and are the topics of countless documentaries and docuseries, many of which focus on the storied attacks. What lied beneath (significantly earlier then the film of that name that starred Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer) is a blood-thirsty animal that wants nothing more than to taste flesh. The apex predator. The great white. Jaws.

“Jaws” score still resonates with me. The one-liners are pop culture iconography (you’re gonna need a bigger boat… anybody?). The cast gels to near perfection. Spielberg crafted a work of art that just so happens to be a bedrock of the genre that is often left disrespected and without celebration as a work of art.

Going to sleep tonight will be easy. It’s just going to be going back into the water that will be a little more difficult because, as Matt Hooper would say, “Well, this is not a boat accident! And it wasn’t any propeller; and it wasn’t any coral reef; and it wasn’t Jack the Ripper! It was a shark.”

Published by Patrick R. Johnson

Patrick is a Ph.D. student and graduate instructor in the SJMC. He comes from nearly a decade of teaching high school journalism and English, and an adjunct professor of journalism and media studies at Marquette University (where he received both his bachelor's and master's degrees). He is a former Dow Jones Distinguished National Journalism Teacher of the Year. His research interests include the intersection of news literacy, journalism ethics, journalism studies, and professional boundary work. He also focuses his attention on issues of deviance within the media industry, particularly as it relates to issues of sex and issues resulting in paradigm repair. Patrick is also deeply passionate about teaching and the role of journalism schools in the professionalization of their students. He focuses a lot of his thinking on mass communication and journalism pedagogy and identifying ways for journalism courses to be both rewarding in content and enriching in skill. He currently teaches Journalistic Reporting and Writing in the SJMC and taught a number of courses at Marquette, including Media Ethics, Visual Communication, Magazine Design and Production, Digital Journalism 1-3, Strategic Communication Writing, and the Journalism Capstone course for the department. His work in curriculum, instruction, and educational leadership includes serving as the Journalism Education Association’s Mentor Program Chair, designing curriculum to accompany Pulitzer Prize winning content for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, reviewing the Praxis national journalism certification exam, and developing a number of courses at the high school and collegiate levels. Patrick served as a 2021 Public Humanities Intern through the Obermann Center where he worked specifically with University Special Collections to develop public-facing exhibits and curriculum materials related to the Tom Brokaw Collection.

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