Steven Spielberg said he “regrets” the bad press his iconic film Jaws directed at the much-maligned shark. As is correct.
Jaws came out in 1975 (nearly 50 years ago, if you’re bad at maths like me). Since its release it’s been credited with producing some terrible press around the alpha fish.
I mean, there’s an entire genre of scary shark films: The Shallows, Open Water and Sharknado all come to mind. Perhaps the only film depicting sharks in a positive light is Sharkboy and Lava Girl, for which I thank Taylor Lautner for his service every day.
Are sharks the only genuine victim of cancel culture? Now that’s a hot take.
Indeed, according to a 2021 study, shark and ray populations declined a huge 71 per cent from 1970 to 2018 largely due to overfishing.
While of course that’s not all due to Jaws, you have to admit the film — scripted by Pete Benchley, who also wrote the book which the flick is based on — was terrible PR for the cold blooded critters.
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And it turns out Spielberg himself is aware of the consequences. Appearing on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs podcast, he revealed he regretted how Jaws tangibly impacted the animals’ population.
“That’s one of the things I still fear. Not to get eaten by a shark, but that sharks are somehow mad at me for the feeding frenzy of crazy sport fishermen that happened after 1975,” he said.
“Which I truly and to this day regret, the decimation of the shark population because of the book and the film. I really, truly regret that.”
To be honest if I was a shark, I too would be pretty pissed off about the narrative peddled by Jaws.
Benchley actually wrote a story for The Guardian back in 2000 called “Without malice: In defence of the shark”. He wrote the piece after a spate of Aussies were sadly killed by sharks.
“Australia has had a run of extremely bad luck recently: three human beings have been killed by great white sharks,” he said.
“But it is important for us to realise that these are freak occurrences that by no means signal a sudden onslaught by sharks on swimmers and surfers.”
In the article, Benchley wrote “rogue [sharks] tantalised by the taste of human flesh” were a made-up construct.
“Such creatures do not exist, despite what you might have derived from Jaws,” he said.
“When I wrote the book and film a quarter of a century ago, knowledge of sharks was in its infancy. We believed that sharks actually attacked boats; we believed that they actively sought out human prey. We believed that their numbers were infinite and the threat they posed incalculable.
“Over the years, we have come to know otherwise.”
So it’s nice to see we’ve finally come full circle with Spielberg agreeing he regrets the negative impacts on sharks too. Justice is finally served!