Jaws The Unforgettable

'Jaws' is not only a legendary movie which was a summer blockbuster back in 1975 but also a pop star in a way as one of the most popular monsters on big screen. 

Interestingly, people love the images of “Jaws” wearing Jaws tshirts, drinking coffee from mugs with Jaws prints and so on thus contributing it’s legacy in pop culture but also are still scared by the idea of sharks in deep water any time because of Universal Pictures’ unforgettable movie. 

First of all, psychologically, we are built to fear the unknown and we all carry the memories of our ancestors’ survival experiences on an unconscious level. 

So, naturally, our instinct to survive raises our anxiety over any danger especially when it comes to the unknown just like the black depths of the water without knowing what lurks below. As you can imagine our ancestors didn’t have much cool memories with beautiful beachgoers but instead so many lethal experiences when it comes to the memories of the sea. So, the movie “Jaws” directly stimulates our deepest fears.

Moreover, the powerful music of John Williams on each attack scene of the movie makes our anxiety stronger just because we tend to remember bad, terrifying and negative memories longer than the positive ones  (Blame it on the part of the brain called amygdala)

Nevertheless, it can be a good prejudice to be afraid of taking a dip in the ocean just because it can protect us from the unknown dangers. But being terrified by the idea of sharks even when you’re not talking about a deep ocean but shallows of the sea, its nature becomes quiet irrational. But even some irrational fears in other words some phobias can be explained by the experiences of our ancestors just like the fear of snake (ophiophobia) which has been theorised by scientists that it’s a kind of innate reaction based on our vital instinct to react to dangerous threats. Additionally, we have to face the unknown dangers in the sea where we may feel so vulnerable to danger. 

Of course there are also horror movie fans who love Jaws contributing its popularity and scientific studies show that horror movie fans are likely the ones who likeexcitement and adrenaline. So, for instance the kids who like any crazy excitement at any amusement park also love Jaws with its powerful attack scenes. And some kids are now in their 40s who remember Jaws from their childhood. And new kids who grow up as horror fans surely love to discover horror classics like Jaws. 

Besides people are generally terrified by the idea of the movie “Jaws” and horror fans might like knowing people are scared of “Jaws” as horror fans enjoy the horror movies most if they know many are scared of it too.

So in many perspectives and when you look at the movie on a psychological level, “Jaws” is a perfect monster which changed the game way back in 70’s. 

In my case as a psychologist and a horror fan from İstanbul who gives seminars on horror movies and psychology, i remember when i first saw the movie i was about 6 years old as it was released in 1981 in Turkey. Not only did i love the movie but also i coded that big shark on the screen as my hero. ( Relax i am not Norman Bates). 

I remember i was so sad at the end as shark was killed. Since then i love high energy and adrenaline so Jaws is still my hero giving millions of people so much energy and adrenaline. Even though Turkey has nothing to do with any ocean at all, i still remember nervous beachgoers throughout Aegean Sea, Mediterranean shores in my childhood. I still observe people murmuring the famous John Williams’ Jaws theme when they swim in deep being afraid of what lurks beneath. So, this is again related to human survival instinct against threats and to the unknown no matter where you swim. 

Additionally in a psychological perspective we can talk about galeophobia (fear of sharks) and thalassophobia (fear of the open sea) but all gets back to the explanation of our ancestors’ experiences. 

Above all, the Jaws as a movie is also powerful regarding the dramatic elements and character development giving it a special value as a thriller. And its legacy is still powerful in my country, Turkey too. 

By the way, the movie title Jaws is used as a synonym for sharks in my country, just like in many other countries i guess and sometimes you can see some headlines like “jaws was caught in Aegean Sea or something like that.” on the news. So needless to say, I will always love my “Jaws.” too.


By Cenk Erdem

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