Sharks – 420 million years of evolution, 37 years of Hollywood gold

Whether you’re terrified of them, think they’re beautiful, think they’re ugly, or really don’t ever give them a second thought, there’s no denying the fact: sharks are cool. Ever since Jaws appeared as the first regarded summer blockbuster in 1975, the great white shark has spent the past 37 years being type cast – on the silver screen, and off.

Despite their ferocious, bloodthirsty reputation, many will argue that deep down, sharks really aren’t these evil and terrifying creatures we’ve portrayed them to be.  According to Leonard Compagno, the shark expert who helped design the mechanical shark for Jaws:

“It may be hard to fathom, but many great white encounters with humans are investigative, not predatory. I knew the movie was meant to be a ‘monster gig’ but I did not anticipate how seriously people would take it. The movie scared the hell out of people and made the shark much feared. In reality, great whites rarely bother people and even more rarely attack them.”

Okay, well that’s warm, fuzzy, and boring, but come on! Sharks! We have a whole week dedicated to these bad ass, flesh-hungry water dwellers, thanks to Discovery Channel. And, what do we see the most of on Shark Week? Shark attacks. Has Shark Week ever featured an episode on how kind and friendly sharks can really be? Maybe, but if they did, it wasn’t memorable. We want blood, guts, and that feeling of absolute terror when we look at an ocean. Bring it on, Shark Week!

To top it off, I present you with this lovely little image, released just this week by National Geographic: a Wobblegong shark devouring a bamboo shark – whole. Now the picture and the description of what is happening definitely has both the shock and horror factors to it, but the more you think about it, the less bad ass it is (aside from the cannibalistic part, which is just gross).  Both of these sharks are slow and don’t even leave the ocean floor so chances are, the Wobblegong was hungry (as sharks tend to be) and the bamboo shark was there. Convenience!

7-11s are rare on the ocean floor and besides: even these guys won't eat whatever those hot dog things are.

Also, fish eat other fish all the time. It’s one of the main reasons I got rid of my aquarium as a kid. Try explaining postpartum psychosis to an 8-year-old who wants to know why Mommy Fish ate all the baby fish, then killed Daddy Fish and was starting dinner on him. My mother was a smart lady and opted we lose the fish tank.

So why do these two big fish make National Geographic and my emotionally disturbed gold fish did not?  Because sharks are bad ass and cool, and we love them.  Don’t believe me? Shark Week opened with 3.3 million viewers within its first hour in 2011, setting a ratings record for itself, National Geographic is already placing bets on its Wobblegong/Bamboo shark photo becoming a classic, and our very own Ontario Beach Park opens each summer Movies At The Beach season with a showing of Jaws.

Is shark terror an American guilty pleasure? Maybe. I just know I’ll continue making an unnecessarily large celebration out of Shark Week until I physically can’t anymore.

By Jillian Seaton

Jillian is a recovering sorority girl/cheerleader and an aspiring trophy wife/crazy cat lady who somehow found herself in the magical land of auto dealership marketing and family portraits. Her true passions in life are writing, whiskey, music (especially good ol' rock 'n roll), and cheese. Jillian's life goals include saving the world from cancer and becoming the best astronaut ever.