Episode 17. Blood in the Water: Jaws (1975) and Piranha (1978)


Alex and Andrea take the biggest boat they can find and go into the deep as summer dawns once again. Their bait is the examination of nature as vengeance, the strong hold of Americana and the new masculine hero. Hopefully they’ll be home in time for dinner.


Jaws. Dir. Steven Spielberg. 1975. [Blu-ray/DVD]
Piranha. Dir. Joe Dante. 1978. [DVD] [Blu-ray]


Jaws – Between the Teeth by Peter Biskind. One of the first in depth analysis of Spielberg’s jaws, film writer Biskind tackles the cultural impact and its roots in literature

A guide to the fantastical work of Joe Dante by Keith Phipps, Scott Tobias & Noel Murray. An overview of the career of one of the most beloved directors in genre film.


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5 thoughts on “Episode 17. Blood in the Water: Jaws (1975) and Piranha (1978)

  1. James Hare says:

    Just finished listening to your podcast on Jaws and Pirahna (and dislike of Piranha 3d). What I found interesting about both movies is the economic side of the discussion. I think it is important to view these films, given the time of their production, as proto-critiques of what was forming as fresh water economics. The idea of the market as a jungle, later espoused in the gordon gecko / Kevin O’Leary I think plays a part in these two film. In both films, as noted, there is an air of predatory capitalism at times devolving into parasitic capitalism (as you note). Both towns aren’t dependent on “making thinks” or “harvesting things” and instead focus on a newer service industry for jobs. In both cases there is an element of man apeing the natural world yet going soft in comparison to nature. Economics taking on law of the jungle elements without substance. The push back comes when the jungle arrives. When the economic model collides with the natural one revealing the pale imitation for what it is.

    At this point society reacts either by clinging to the shattered remains of the model or returns to the “natural state” with men being men, women caring for children and people uniting to confront the natural world as a cohesive group or tribe.

    Its interesting to note that in Jaws, each of the 3 men stand in for a different 1000 faced hero, in the warrior, the law bringer and the scientist.

    I also think a case can be made for water monster movies such as these two being a metaphor for psychology or psychological illness with Freud’s Id being the monster(s) that lives both beneath the surface of the mind and the waves and must be confronted and tamed by the Ego and Super Ego. The monster is both in the water and in the hero’s minds (fear of water, obsession, naivety).

    • Alex says:

      I think part of the reason why both these films still resonate with us is that we as a society have not figured out how to reengage with the natural world because our fetishization of money and its perceived power persists.

      Looking back at the stock marketing crash of 2008 caused in part by sub-prime loans and the recent film Wolf of Wall Street dependence on money, objects and capitalism continues to grow. Having to actually engage with a primal threat such as nature throws us into a tizzy. There are no bail out in those situations. Both Jaws and Piranha present us with heroes who repeatedly try to do the right thing which is, in these cases, the anti-capitalist thing.

  2. Blake McCurdy says:

    This is a film about a monster – mostly unseen and submerged – and about how three different representations of the male – I’ll use the word hierarchy – deal with it. There are no women to speak of in the film and the ones that are are overcome by grief or are part of the Frankenstein monster rabble that want to kill the beast. The “people” in the middle class community are all portrayed as incompetent boobs who, although the may own boats, have no connection with or understanding of the oceans life giving and life negating aspects (although they do catch one shark) I thought it was interesting – as much as I remember ( I haven’t seem this in a long time) – sheriff’s wife does not overreact to protect her children as her husband does. She does not feR the ocean and he hates it and sees in it death and destruction. Into the breach steps the Ahab character representing to me any way, another aspect of the id. He demands his fee and will kill the beast. He uses a creaky old boat and smashes the one advance piece of equipment, the radio, as he descends into madness. At this point we know the beast will consume him as he panics and blows the boats engines. He is in fact consumed, returning to the I ocean and leaving the scientist and law man to restore middle class order which they do by blowing the beast to bits along with Ahab in his belly. A true twofer. It’s been a while since I have read Freud – that old misogynist – but the order (super ego) is restored – by men as only Freud would have it.

    That’s it, love you guys

    • Anna says:

      I’m googling around for the Blake McCurdy I went to Belmont High with in the late 1980s. Is that you, by any chance? He was a film geek…

  3. Ahab Dent says:

    I was a little dissapointed that the effect the movie “Jaws” on our view of sharks in general had, was not mentioned. Now I know this is not a podcast about nature or eco-themes in general but I still believe that the hugely negative effect “Jaws” still has for shark should be mentioned. Many sharks are endangered and its partly due to their terrible reputation movies like “Jaws” gave them. This is very important and also guite interesting to mention or is it not???
    I really love monster movies and “Jaws” is one of my favorite…but its a monster movie, not a realistic depiction of wildlife (not claiming you are not aware of this). I think its kind of a missed oportunity to move into an ecoaspect in a podcast like that for a minute or two.

    Keep up the good work!Love what you are doing!

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