Cinema’s Ultimate Jerks is a celebration of the characters we love to hate in the movies we love to love. They’re not always the main villains – and sometimes they’re not even villains at all – but they’re definitely jerks. So let’s take a look at this week’s jerk-off, and why they find themselves forever enshrined here in the hall of shame. Also, since I’m not a jerk, this is your spoiler warning for the 1975 movie, Jaws.
JAWS! A bunch of people go into the sea in one piece and come out of it in several. An oceanographer says it looks like a shark is doing it, which you would think would be all of the encouragement one would need to stop people from going into the sea entirely, but authority worked much the same way in 1975 as it does today: fuck science, let’s make some money!
Amity Island. The perfect seaside resort. There’s a beach party going down. A couple of kids have knocked back enough of Grandpa’s old cough medicine to start feeling amorous, and slink off together for a bit of hanky panky. The girl runs, throwing her clothes off as shes goes and leaving a trail for the boy to follow, which always kind of annoyed me because, like, why would you even do that knowing how much of a total ball-ache it’s going to be looking for each item of your clothing individually in the dark, but hey, fortunately that’s not something that should cause her much concern in her incredibly short future. The boy can’t be arsed to chase her any more because I guess he figured that he’d be doing the deed without having to complete a marathon first, and he lays down and goes to sleep. The girl, now totally in the buff, goes in the sea for a little swim, but soon she’s screaming and gurgling and going under the water and not coming back up. Spoilers: it’s a shark.
Anyway, her body washes up on the beach and it’s not pretty. It’s all mangled and chomped and shit. It kinda looks like a shark has had a bash at it. So the coroner turns up and he pretty much confirms that a shark did it, and so police chief Brody thinks, “Hmm. There’s a shark in the sea. Better stop people going in the sea!” It’s at this point that the town mayor – and colossal jerk – Larry Vaughn shows up to offer a counter-argument to Brody’s outrageous suggestion that they stop people going in the water. Perhaps it was a boating accident. Sure, it looks like a shark did it, and sure, sharks do in fact live in water, and yeah, we asked an expert and he said that a shark probably did it, but let’s not stop people going in the sea because this is a seaside town and we want people to keep coming and spending money here. It’s a sound argument, I suppose, aside from the obvious downside that if people keep getting eaten by the fucking shark prowling the shallows like me at an all you can eat buffet, then perhaps people might stop going in the sea – like, permanently.
So they call in oceanographer, Matt Hooper, an expert in sea-stuff, to give a second opinion on what exactly had a nibble on the girl at the start of the movie, and he says it’s definitely a shark – and not just any shark, but a shark so massive, and so dangerous, that they absolutely, positively must close the beaches. There’s a reward announced for anyone that kills the shark, and soon enough, a bunch of fisherman catch one. Hooper checks the mouth to see if it’s got the same size bite radius as the one that ate the poor girl at the start, and it doesn’t, so they cut it open and there’s no human remains inside it, and so the expert on all things sea concludes that this shark is definitely not the one that did the murder, and they need to close the beaches. So obviously Larry Vaughan decides not to close the beaches, and predictably, the shark rocks up and eats a kid right in front of his mother, and it’s fucking horrible, but hey, gotta make that dollar. At this point, I know what you’re thinking – he’s definitely got to close the beaches now, right? WRONG.
Since it’s the Fourth of July weekend, Larry Vaughan concludes that it would be silly to close the beaches just because a bunch of “experts” have some “facts” about “sharks”. It’s America God damn it, and in America on the Fourth of July, you crack open a beer, slap some hot dogs on the barbecue, go in the sea for a swim,
get eaten by a shark, and have a gay old time. That makes money for Amity Island. If people can’t swim here, they’ll go elsewhere. And so the beaches stay open, people go in the sea, a shark turns up and everyone is terrified, but then it turns out it’s just a couple of kids with a fake shark fin on their back pulling a prank on everyone, and the whole town has a big laugh. Phew!
And then the real shark turns up and eats someone.
Jerk-Off Quote: “Martin, It’s all psychological. You yell ‘Barracuda,’ everybody says ‘Huh? What?’ You yell ‘Shark,’ we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.” – Larry Vaughn, debating the semantics of telling people that there’s a big ass shark in the water.
Comeuppance: By the time the completely unnecessary but mildly entertaining Jaws 2 arrived in cinemas, Larry Vaughn was a changed man, filled with deep regret over his part in allowing swimmers to be eaten, and when Police Chief Brody comes to him to announce that there’s another big ass shark in the water, he immediately closes the beaches, saving countless lives. Nah, just fucking with you – he still doesn’t want to close the beaches and thinks Brody is just overreacting and a bunch of people get eaten.
Jerk-Off Rating: He’s the democratically elected mayor of Jerk Island.
Tune in next week – same jerk time, same jerk channel – to find out who’s next in our celebration of cinema’s ultimate jerks.