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JAWS - A Dracula Movie?
Shark Awareness Day
In my last hub I reviewed and defended the recent American reboot of Godzilla by comparing the movie primarily to Steven Spielberg's greatest monster movies, Jaws and Jurassic Park. After rewatching Jaws and digesting it a bit more something dawned on me that hadn't ever before despite the fact that I've probably seen the movie more than a dozen times.
Seeing as how today, July 14th, is Shark Awareness Day, I thought I would enlighten you all with my wild theory. In this hub I'm going to discuss how the structure of Jaws almost perfectly mirrors the stereotypical vampire movie of the past and how it conforms to monster movie tropes despite just being about a big ass shark. To do this I am going to break down the movie piece by piece and character by character. Spoilers will be present, but honestly if you've never seen Jaws, really what the hell, go watch it!
In vampire films the fiendish phantasmal ghoul usually begins by feeding on several innocent victims, often young attractive women. Our first victim in the movie Jaws, whose death offers us our enigmatic introduction to the monster, is indeed a young skinny dipping woman. Vulnerable, young, attractive, carefree and then attacked in the dead of night.
We don't see the shark in the opening attack, like a vampire or a ghost our monstrous shark can attack without being seen if it chooses to and like a vampire it is driven not necessarily by evil but by hunger and lust for blood.
In many vampire films it is believed a plague is spreading as the anemic victims are discovered with seemingly incidental or accidental wounds. It is very rare in a vampire movie for the deceased victims to be immediately linked to the true undead menace that is behind things. Rather there is usually an attempt to explain away the first victim or victims as being killed by natural or accidental causes.
In Jaws our shark's first victim is blamed on a boating accident and just like with a vampire it is ultimately the bite marks and the type of the bite particularly that eventually points us in the right direction.
The attacks continue as our hero walks a thin line between the Mayors money driven requests and the good of the people that need to be protected, including his own family.
So with the basic set up out of the way now we have to dig into the characters and how they match up fairly well with monster movie archetypes and specifically the sort of thing we would expect to find in a dracula movie.
Quint as Van Helsing -
Quint is the quintessential (I couldn't resist) vampire hunter, the Van Helsing to Jaw's Dracula who enjoys and makes a lucrative living hunting down the undead. Quint has a personal history with the monsters in question as sharks picked off many of his fellow soldiers during the sinking of the Indianapolis he describes in the film. So now with a vendetta against sharks Van Helsing has come up against his ultimate enemy, the one he's been looking for, the one who breaks all the rules, Alucard himself.
Hooper as the Monk -
The Monk is well versed in the undead, he is a priest, holy and upright but has lived a sheltered life within the confines of the monastery. His contact with the undead has been primarily hypothetical only, his is an academic, though he has, on rare occasions, had to get his hands dirty and actually do some vampire killing.
Hooper fits this stereotype well, he has the knowledge that Quint lacks while Quint has the experience and strong instinct that Hooper lacks.
Brody as the Everyman Hero
Chief Brody is the villager (or knight) who realizes, almost too late, what is really going on and tries to rally the forces against the monster. When raising an angry mob against the blood-sucking servant of Satan fails he turns to the unstable and obsessed Quint and the inexperienced but knowledgeable Hooper to help deal with the vampire, I mean shark.
As a bonus Brody is also afraid of the castle, I mean ocean, where the enemy lives, but he sets aside his fear to do his duty for the common good.
Smile You Fanged Son of A-
Ultimately in a vampire movie you can only fully kill a Master Vampire when he is on his “home soil”, typically his own grave or, if he's not a truly resurrected vampire, his own castle or lair. It is best to do this when he is in his coffin and sleeping vulnerably. You can't deal with the threat in the city and waiting for the sun to come up and turn him to dust is a crap shoot at best. So the vampire hunters ultimately must go into the lair of evil and face the vampire on his own turf.
In Jaws this is obviously exactly what happens as the unsure heroes leave the safety of Amity Island behind to kill the shark once and for all. The third act of Jaws is the stuff of legend as we get some great character moments, thrilling scenes of the shark attacking and one of the most fitting action-movie one-liners in movie history.
Hooper, Brody and Quint compliment each other perfectly and form the unlikely trio of heroes that Amity Island needs as they leave the comfort of their homes to final stake this undead creature in the heart, or blow it up with an oxygen tank, whatever.
We're Gonna Need a Bigger Hub
In structure and character archetypes Jaws is a near-perfect monster movie that takes the elements of a small tourist town and an everyman hero and blends them with monster story tropes that are older than cinema itself.
It is amazing that to this day I am still discovering new things about a movie I've seen so many times.
Also, this was my 100th Hub! Thanks to everyone who reads these things, comments and follows me!