The Horrible Truth About Steven Spielberg's Jaws
Jaws is Anti-Woman
Steven Spielberg directed Jaws. It hit theaters in 1975. Peter Benchley's novel of the same name is the basis for the film. He published the book in 1974.
The movie and the book land squarely in the middle of the ERA movement. So while Jaws isn't a statement about the ERA, there's clear evidence in the movie that Spielberg was thinking about it. Was he thinking negatively or positively? We'll never know. Sometimes a director reflects his own thinking in a film. Sometimes he's tickling the zeitgeist, so to speak.
Regardless, it's pretty clear. Jaws hates women.
A Short History of the ERA
There's a reason I'm going to provide a short history of the ERA, the Equal Rights Amendment. That's because it coincides with the making and release of Jaws. In other words, what happens in Jaws necessarily reflects its time. All movies, in some way, reflect their time. Thus, sometimes we can read into particular scenes. Part of Jaws, reflects an attitude toward women.
Women have been fighting for equal rights for as long as there have been women. In the United States, that fight began, in earnest, during the 1960s. Many people point to the publication of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique published in 1963 as its start. Historians regard this as the second wave of feminism. Of course, the first involved the right to vote earlier in the century.
Friedan would go on to co-found the National Organization of Women in 1966 (NOW). The organization worked to end sex discrimination. Women focused on the Equal Rights Amendment and in 1971 and 1972, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the bill. Congress set a date in 1979 for states to ratify it. However, conservative women, led by Phyllis Schafly, mobilized against it.
So that's probably all you need to know about the ERA. Suffice it to say, women had a lot going on at this time. They marched. They protested and burned bras. Stuff like that. Women made a lot of demands that not all men liked. Heck, not all women liked the demands either. Let's just say, men saw their lives changing one way or the other. Some felt positive about the change. Other men preferred sharks eat the women so they'd shut up.
The movement had another important component. Women created The Sexual Revolution by making their own choices. Many felt this amounted to uncontrolled promiscuity. Women felt they were simply making the same decisions men made about sex. Again, some men found this behavior unbecoming and not ladylike. Men lost some control and they didn't like it.
The issue of women having the same sexual behaviors as men was an issue.
The Opening Scene of Jaws
Everybody remembers the opening scene of Jaws. Sort of. What most people remember is that a giant shark kills a woman who is swimming in the ocean. However, most people fail to remember the details leading up to that swim. They're important.
The opening scene involves a gathering of young people on the beach. They are sitting around a fire. A man is playing the harmonica. A couple is kissing. A young man is smoking and drinking. He spots a young woman. She smiles at him. He smiles back. He approaches and they talk. Quickly, she runs off. He follows.
"What's your name again?" he yells.
"Where are we going?
"Swimming!" she says.
As she runs, she disrobes and says nothing more. The man, who is a bit drunk, follows. Three times, he says he's coming. He's coming. He's definitely coming. He falls down an embankment. Chrissie, naked, dives into the water and swims away.
Those aren't the man's last words before passing out on the beach at the edge of the water, but they're the most significant. He says that he's coming three different times.
The shark kills Chrissie. The man lays on the beach. He's coming.
Those words aren't coincidental. They're intentional. There are two different meanings. The subtext of this scene is that the man is experiencing sexual climax.
What Does Chrissie Get For Being Sexually Aggressive?
Why does the scene play out the way it does? Why is Chrissie the one who makes it in the water, but the man doesn't? Is he not saved by the fact that he drank too much?
Effectively, the movie punishes Chrissie for her behavior. Meanwhile, the guy, drunk and barely able to walk, survives. He achieve climax. Chrissie gets eaten by the shark. He is rewarded for his behavior. She is punished for hers.
So look at this in the context of the times. The guy, who is any guy - we never learn his name - wants this woman. Chrissie responds, runs, disrobes, and jumps in the water. He chases. She dies. He lives.
Say what you want, but Jaws punishes Chrissie for flirting. If only she had been more chaste. If only she hadn't flirted. She probably she just have stayed home.
Keep your pants on, Chrissie!
The Rest of Jaws
After Chrissie, Jaws does not devour any other women. That's probably because there aren't anymore around. Well, that's not entirely true. There are women around, but none of them have more than a few seconds of screen time.
The rest of the movie is all about male bonding. Because, you know, women need rescuing. Behave irresponsibly and the only way to resolve the situation is for men to solve it.
Sheriff Brody (Scheider), Matt Hooper (Dreyfuss), and Sam Quint (Shaw), join forces to hunt the menacing shark. The Sheriff has no particular skill, but Hooper is a shark expert and Quint is a professional shark hunter. So, of course, Brody is the one who ends up killing the shark. That's because even a sea sick, ill-prepared man can miraculously shoot a helium tank when the need arises. That's just how men are.
Among the most memorable scenes in the movie not involving the shark, was the scar comparison scene. This is testosterone-fueled male bonding at its best. Essentially, the three men are comparing genital sizes. Who is the toughest? That's what men do.
Maybe you're thinking to yourself: well, Quint gets eaten. Does the movie hate men too? No, it doesn't. Jaws clearly loves its men. It just hates its women. Women deserve what they get. Men earn what they get. They decide.
Jaws is male chauvinism at its finest.
Chrissie is really the only person who doesn't know there's a shark in the water. Pretty much, everyone else after that, with the exception of a few swimmers, deserves what they get. They all run toward trouble. It's not like Quint was going to die any other way.
Ultimately, Chrissie is the only one punished for her sex. Her decision has nothing to do with the shark. It has to do with a man. And she pays the price. The men, they're climaxing all over the place.
Jaws hates women.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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