How Jaws Changed The World, For Better Or For Worse

Written by Jaymi Heimbuch

Growing up, I never really understood the impact of the movie Jaws. I got that it was a huge hit, that it became part of our culture, that for my entire childhood no kid went into the waves at the beach without singing the “da da, da da…” tune at least once. But I never really understood the real world impact of the movie, the way it changed our oceans, until reading the book Demon Fish by Juliet Eilperin a year or so ago. While exploring the status of sharks around the world, Eilperin explains how sharks came to be so vilified in today’s culture — and the book and subsequent film Jaws is one of the main factors.

To put it mildly, this film freaked people out. Freaked us out to the point that we were running at the water with fishing poles the way a frenzied mob runs toward an ogre’s lair with pitchforks. But to what end? Are we really so dumb as to try to fish out of the sea every last animal with teeth big enough to kill us, at the expense of the ocean’s health, even though the vast majority of us enter and exit the water unscathed? Apparently, yes.

This fear the film was able to instill in us has been carried to unexpected lengths. But it also inspired a new fascination with sharks that has lead to important research about these apex predators, and important protections needed to keep them swimming through the deep blue sea.

A new show for Shark Week presents this story. Airing tonight, (August 14) at 9 pm EST, learn about how one man’s novel started the boulder rolling that has altered how we look at these amazing fish.

From Discovery Channel:

There are very few movies we can honestly say truly changed the world but Jaws is one of them. Audiences stood in lines that wrapped entire city blocks to watch the world’s first summer blockbuster. Careers were made, fortunes created, and ways of directing and scoring movies and shooting special effects were all changed forever when it was released. But the impact the film had on the oceans and their inhabitants was as big as the audience it found and just as surprising. In the aftermath of the film’s release, great white sharks were vilified and killed, leading to their near-disappearance from the eastern seaboard. At the same time, public fascination with sharks led to a golden age of shark science that completely changed our view of the ocean and how it works. And as the science began showing us how real sharks behave, it spurred a worldwide conservation effort whose earliest champion was Jaws author Peter Benchley.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


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China To Stop Serving Shark Fin Soup At Official Functions


Photo: Ludie Cochrane/flickr


Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago

Thanks for the post. Wow ... what a pic!

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

sharks are magnificent. people got carried away and took a horror movie literally. it's sad really. I love that movie. People need to be taught to separate fact from fiction

Rin S.
Rin S5 years ago

How sad. No body seems to realise how few people actually die from shark injuries each year.

David V.
David V5 years ago

People need to seperate facts from fiction. People seem to think that "Jaws" really exits after watching that movie...people just nned to be educated about sharks.

Christine Stewart

(Side note: the movie Jaws was actually inspired by true events on the east coast in the early 1900's- when a "rogue" shark hung around close to shore and even swam up a river and killed some people)

Christine Stewart

Well, I saw "Jaws" as a fifth grader, and I thought it was The. Best. Movie. Ever! I am sorry that idiots started to kill great whites after seeing the movie- but at least now, normal people are trying to save them.

Jessica Larsen
Janne O5 years ago

I will never understand how people can be that impacted by fiction. It's just a movie!

Valentina R.
Valentina R5 years ago

Jaws is a terrible movie. But, that aside, it is exactly that: a movie. Not a documentary. Unfortunately, several brainless people do not know the difference. And doing TV reruns of that stupid flick every freaking summer surely doesn't help.

Anita Wisch
Anita Wisch5 years ago

I'm for anything that opens up the discussion about the good that sharks do in our oceans, and the terrible waste of life in finning sharks to provide "shark fin soup".

Traditional Chinese medicine needs to STOP using animal body parts to get "Their body parts, up"!

Maree Ann Peterson

Jaws was a good scary movie, but it was just that a movie, and not real sharks are part of the Ecosystem as an Apex predator they should be protected, shark fin soup they slice of their fins and leave to die slowly from blood loss, WHO" s THE REAL MONSTER HERE!