“You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat”

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

4 thoughts on ““You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat”

  1. The social construction of fear is a very interesting topic. I think that the true terror of Jaws, which you touched on in this article, is the innate fear of the unknown. The unseen. We are afraid of dark basements, shadowed forests, caves, the depths. Jaws was the incarnation of this darkness. If we saw jaws earlier in the film it wouldn’t have been nearly as terrifying. Our own imaginations kept us on the edge our seats.

  2. Like Mr. Callahan stated I to agree that the aspect of fear is fear of the unknown or the unseen. Many movies today take that path letting our imaginations run wild, movies such as paranormal activity or Dark skies don’t show an actual figure until the end especially Dark skies. Doing this makes you sit there and wonder for the entire length of a film, what is actually going to be behind that door or in the basement?

  3. This really does a great job of pointing out exactly why it is that society still has an irrational fear of sharks. In fact, thinking about it now, I’ve realized that this movie, coupled with other fictional horror movies about the deep, dark ocean, is one of the reasons I’ve never learned to surf during my time here at UNCW. Imagine that, a fear of the ocean cultivated almost entirely through mass media! I wonder society would have reacted as strongly had the killer shark actually been a different fish. What if instead of a shark that killer had been, say, a jellyfish? Would we have a society of individuals scared of dying by jellies? Regardless, great post and great analysis of how media can create such a widespread idea!

  4. Allen, tyler and jonny thank you guys for taking the time to read our blog! We thought the movie Jaws would be an interesting topic because we do live so close to the beach. I think you all grasped the concept that our group was trying to convey using the cultivation theory. Jaws was based on the idea of not knowing what is below the surface and it will only further our fear of the ocean and what lies beneath.

    –Danielle Salas

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