Steven Spielberg’s Jaws film is classic. It’s a perfect example of how movies can impact human behavior, whether it’s a Hollywood hit out of the gate or merely skates by with the promise of a popular celebrity. When it comes to entertainment and the influence of movies, no film gets that point across more so than Jaws.
In this video, I report on Jaws’ influence on audiences and feature an interview with Brandon Andrew, a professional actor working in the industry for nearly two decades, to discuss the film’s impact.
Every time people head to the beach, the reality that sharks live in the water people are about to play in is a straightforward and simple fact. And yet, people still go in droves. Why? Because shark attacks rarely happen at a depth of water where most people play. But tell that to the people who went to see a scary shark movie one summer and ended up with a lifelong shark phobia. In fact, in the New York Post, author Tim Donnelly discusses Why ‘Jaws’ terrifies even phobia experts. But Tim Donnelly isn’t the only one with an opinion. On Scientific America, Cristine Russell writes Jaws: Classic Film, Crummy Science.
According to Newsweek, while shark attacks are scary, did you know that more people die from taking selfies than from shark attacks?
One of the things that catapult a scary film to success is the ability to visualize something as genuinely happening. Maybe the scenario is a little far-fetched, but if there’s an inkling of reality to it, it’s enough of a taste for our brains to exaggerate the moment and speed our heart rate up, according to A Healthier Michigan.
Rather than a giant, scary extinct dinosaur, a rabid wolf that staggers into a crowded suburban development feels more realistic. That creates a different kind of fear, one we can imagine happening. So, what made Jaws feel real? When it comes to the water, we can’t see what lurks beneath the surface. We know sharks and whales, along with other significant things, live in the ocean, but it’s hard to truly get a visual without scuba diving in crystal clear water.
When Jaws hit theaters, the idea of a shark wasn’t far- fetched. We know sharks live in the water. A shark with a grudge? A shark out to be a menace, that on the other hand, bumps this regular shark into the monster territory. He knows where you are and isn’t afraid to shred and tear you into pieces.
The tension of a good story amps up the psychological response. We aren’t faced with actual danger in the moment of watching a film, but our body responds as if it is. According to a Science Daily study done by the University of Turku (Finland), the fear of the unknown and the unseen impacts us the deepest.
An auditory response creates your brain to jump and prepare for the worst. Think of the music that plays when you’re about to see an attack and measure how it speeds up. It’s getting us ready for the moment of horror. It makes it scarier than if we were simply to see a picture of the ocean. We’re primed, prepped, and warned ahead of time. Our heart rate climbs as we “get ready” for Jaws to make an appearance. Pure, unadulterated mind manipulation is the name of the game.
In an interesting twist, the author of the famous story, Peter Benchley, was dismayed by Steven Spielberg’s Jaws film’s gristle and gore and his telling of the tale, so much so that we went on to spend much of his life doing conservation work. He was an advocate of shark protection, which is an ironic twist seeing as he wrote the shark story that scared generations of people. Did Jaws scare you when you first saw it?