Few films have transcended generational lines and influenced culture. One movie that has effected our behavior on a grand scale is the terrifying 1975 blockbuster, Jaws. The iconic theme song is among the most recognizable sounds that exists in our society and immediately evokes a feeling of fear of water…. any water. One way to explain how this movie has created a slightly irrational fear of what lies below the surface would be the Cultivation Theory, which is described as how media effects viewers and convinces us their messages are valid. The theory connects to how television is able to change our behavior so strongly that it can move through generations of viewers. We have been trained to fear something that is statistically less likely to kill us than being struck by lightning, but the film worked so well that we disregard logic.
Just mentioning the film while visiting the beach can be enough to keep someone from going in past their knees. The iconic dunnn-nun dunnn-nun is recognizable to most people no matter their age and immediately triggers a reaction. Despite the fact that you do not see the actual shark until the last scene of the movie, the music is enough to make people afraid. After the success of Jaws, many others in the film industry continued to repackage the same concept encouraging fear of the deep dark ocean. Some of the movies that came out shortly after were Orca, The Deep and Piranha in an attempt to feed off this idea of unknown waters. This movie was so effective that sharks (especially Great White Sharks) remain feared and misunderstood forty years after its release.
Jaws helped create a new genre of horrors films that continues to be used even today. By cultivating a long-term fear of the water and what lies below, society continues to play into this Hollywood created concept. This film took an animal that very little was known about and created a demon that will forever terrorize our beaches.
-Bobby Huckabee, Savanna Mitchell, Danielle Salas