Great White sharks have blue eyes.
I know this is in stark contrast to Quint’s description of “lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes”, but damned if they aren’t blue.
Staring into the eyes of a real-life monster was one of the happiest moments of my life. Of course, it began with a viewing of Jaws. It always begins with a viewing of Jaws. That movie has affected more lives than any other. Everyone knows it, and you can thank it for one of two things: your crippling fear of sharks, or your crippling love of sharks.
I saw the film when I was young, really young. Maybe too young, but it was the seventies and no one cared about permanent traumatic childhood scars back then. My mom jumped out of her skin every time one of those barrels popped up to the surface. I was scared too. That movie is intense especially for a five year old. I thought there was a shark lurking in every toilet bowl and kiddie pool. I remember asking my Dad about the monster, this leviathan of teeth and terror. He told me that it was a real animal. This monster is real!
Well that did it. I was obsessed. I read everything I could about sharks and shark attacks. I volunteered at the New England Aquarium. I got a degree in marine biology. I tried and failed to cage dive with white sharks in South Africa, but alas, the current was too rough and I was kept on the surface. Still, to see these beasts swimming, thrashing, gnashing and splashing from the safety of the boat was pretty exciting. But I wanted more. I wanted to see those lifeless, black eyes for myself.
Eventually, my father and I made our way to Guadalupe Island off the coast of Mexico. This is where most of the footage you see during Shark Week is filmed. The water is like a swimming pool and the sharks are almost guaranteed to show up. This was a far cry from the dark and choppy waters of the Indian Ocean. As I suited up for my first dip into the cage, my heart was skipping like a stone. I entered the cold water up to my neck. I thought my chest was going to explode with anticipation. I put the mouthpiece in place, pulled the mask over my eyes and nose, and down I went.
The guys on the boat said they could always tell when a shark was approaching by watching the divers’ bubbles speed up. And yah, my bubbles were coming like a freight train when I saw the first finny form emerge from the blue. This is going to sound really cliche, folks, but that theme song went through my head. You can’t help it. You can’t fight it.
Dun dun. Dun dun.
You are embarrassed at yourself for it. That is the power of the shark movie, especially a great one like Jaws. It sticks to your ribs like a remora. It becomes part of your DNA. It spawned a thousand young. Some good, some bad, some so bad they’re good. People are still making them and people are still consuming them like bloody chum. There’s everything from Sharknado to Meg to Shark Exorcist. Ghost Shark, Nazi Shark, Sand Shark, Avalanche Shark, House Shark, and multi-headed variations (pretty sure we’re up to six heads now). Giant sharks fighting other giant sea monstrosities, some mechanical.
One thing they all have in common? They are super fucking fun. This weekly review will help you navigate the tumultuous waters of sharksploitation films. Don’t worry. I got you.
So back to me in the shark cage as the silhouette became clearer, more focused. The behemoth approached me head on. It made a turn right before its nose grazed the aluminum of the cage bars. It passed slowly and gracefully before me. My bubbles completely stopped. And there it was. Its eye. It stared right into mine. I was paralyzed.
Even through the mask and the regulator, a smile took over my face. I smiled right into that eye. That beautiful blue eye.
Even though I just found out that Quint was a filthy liar, when I got home from that trip, I watched Jaws for the 100th time. And every shark movie since, whether it be horrific or horrible, has made me smile.
One day, I did a really stupid thing. It almost cost me my sanity.
I watched all five Sharknado movies in one day.
I’ll tell you all about it starting next week. See ya then!