From: Molly Cerrigone JAWS VS MISJUDGED FEAR

From: Molly Cerrigone
Description: Great Whites sharks have been publicized to look like man eating fish that live in the ocean. Is our fear from JAWS and other movies causing us to fear them irrationally? The only way to know is to look past the myths and see the truth.

The Great White Shark. Cacharodon Carcharias. Latin for ‘the jagged tooth one.’ However this shark has a more popular name we are all familiar with: Man-Eater. In 1975, Steven Spielberg’s “JAWS”, was the turning point for the world as they started viewing sharks as these mindless man-eating fish. In reality Great Whites do not have a taste for human flesh, and are really intelligent creatures. The Great White Shark is not a demon fish with teeth, constantly searching for food; it suffers from a misled reputation.
Peter Benchley’s inspiration for his 1974 novel, “JAWS,” was mostly based off of the Rogue theory stated by a man named Victor Coppleson. He collected data from all over the world on shark attacks, curious as to why, he as a surgeon was treating so many shark attack victims. He is the author of the published 1958 novel, “Shark Attack”, addressing what the definition of what a ‘rogue shark’ is: A shark that no longer feeds on its natural prey and favors human flesh. (Channel, 2011)
Benchley also received inspiration from a series of shark attacks that occurred in the summer of 1916. A shark staked its claim along the New Jersey shore, killing four people and wounding one. When Benchley agreed to work on Spielberg’s movie, the unexpected result was how people reacted towards sharks after the movie came out. People not only stopped going into the water, but also started to go out and hunt for sharks, claiming that the only good shark is a dead shark. Benchley was upset, because he wrote the book as a fiction piece for people to enjoy reading, not to fire the audience up about killing marine life. His wife, Wendy Benchley stated, “Peter and I were horrified. People felt that JAWS was a license to go and kill sharks. And we were sorry that people were so frightened. But Peter kept reminding people that,” “You know this was a novel. This was fiction. You bought it in the fiction aisle.” (Channel, 2011)
Great White sharks are not these savage killers from what you’ve seen in JAWS. They do not intentionally attack humans; most of the attacks are misinterpretations. When Great Whites attack surfers and divers it’s usually because they mistake them for seals. Sharks are attracted to vibrations that bounce off sensors in the cerebral cortex. Indicating that there might be a fish or seal in distress and it is ok to go and check it out. Once they realize it is not one of their normal preys they swim away with no intention of attacking again.
What exactly is the cause of this unjust fear toward sharks? Fear can be both a natural and conditioned emotion. We assume that sharks are exactly what we see on the big screen: human eaters. Nowadays whenever a shark movie is made, the star is the Great White; a killer fish with an appetite for human flesh. TV specials like “Shark Week,” inform us of the real nature of sharks and help stomp on the bad reputations given to them because of the fear we received over a horror movie. Despite what has been said of the Great White, it is completely irrational to think of them as man eating killers. However, not everyone has the same attitude towards sharks. Many cultures around the world have view sharks in different ways. Some Hawaiian cultures believe the volcano and shark are capable of both destructive and life giving forces. The shark is also considered a sign of fertility. The Polynesians believe that if a pregnant woman dreams of a shark their child will be born with magical properties as well as being the ultimate incarnation when a person dies. (Eyewitness: Sharks)
Great Whites have been given a bad name. Sharks are not dangerous, unless you provoke them. We still don’t much about them. Fear is a natural emotion, but it can also be taught and misled, which is possibly the real reason many humans are afraid of sharks. From watching a horror movie, like JAWS, we come to believe that rogue actions are how sharks really behave.
Great Whites Sharks are magnificent animals that have been reduced to being mind-numbing hunters out for human flesh. They do not attacks humans intentionally like viewers see in JAWS. We have allowed ourselves, with the help of the media and other means to corrupt our outlook on sharks. It is time to understand that Great Whites are a part of this world and have been here longer then we have. Only until we can bring ourselves to look harder and see what Great White Sharks really are we can have a better understanding and coexistence with these magnificent creatures.


  1. READ: The Greatest White Shark Story Ever Told
    “My Friend Michale”

  2. Angel

    With or wothout realizing, Peter Benchley did the worst that can be done to sharks and humans. Not only the justified killing of sharks and fear in people at the time but also most of the problems we face today about sharks. That is the main reason why shark killing can not still get enough public attention. When anyone talks about sharks most of the population still think about jaws and do not help with anything related to sharks. Only a handful of people, comparing to the world population, maybe a few million, are trying to protect sharks while the rest and most of the world population hates sharks because of the movie jaws.
    Trying to make peace with sharks now is a little late for the millions of sharks that are killed and not protected, actually hated, for Benchley. I am not sure who forgives him for such devistation. I can never forgive him. That I know… I hope the divine justice will work and he gets to pay someday…

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