Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film, Jaws, quickly became what is widely considered a classic in the modern era of cinema. The movie’s graceful, yet powerful way of straddling the genres of horror, thriller, and action are what make the film so impactful — even more than 40 years later.
Contrary to most horror films, which introduce us to dark dimensions of supernatural creatures and apocalyptic worlds, Jaws draws us deeper into the frightening reality of everyday life.
Interestingly, the killer shark in Jaws shows a fair balance of similarities and differences to the monsters that occupy fellow horror films. Unlike demonic spirits or infectious zombies, the monster in Jaws is much more realistic and believable, making it stand apart from many of horror’s other famous villains. The film’s ever-present, lurking threat is what gives the film that familiar sense of eeriness that conventionalizes it as a horror film, while its elements of ordinary, everyday life is what sets it apart.
For as long as I can remember being made fun of, the insult that hurt the most has always been, “What do you mean you haven’t seen that?!” Whether it was being left out of some passing inside joke that swept the playground, or a greater feeling of missing some chunk of the collective cultural consciousness, it hurt. It made me feel “other.”
I’ve done this to people myself; there are no clean hands here, but it sucks. To show such surprise at a missing piece of a person’s life, to attack them with the shock you feel at the idea that someone has somehow not had exactly the same life as you, and for what? A movie? Seems a little silly. But we all feel it, don’t we? And that fact, while pretty shitty in its judgement of another person, is also kinda cool. Because it proves just how important film is to our lives and our culture.
The point I’m getting to is that I finally watched Jaws. I’m not at all embarrassed to admit that the thing that finally pushed me to do so was Neil Cicierega’s plot summarizing song of the same title. It’s a good song. Let’s go ahead and embed that here, yeah?