The “Jaws Effect” legacy continues 46 years after the epic original shark thriller and over 100 shark movies.
Researchers in Australia recently found that nearly all shark movies portray shark-human relationships as a potential threat, and that great white sharks – Cape Cod’s annual visitor feasts on seals – were the most common species depicted in these films.
Researchers from the University of South Australia found that 96% of shark movies depict sharks as a threat to humans.
They said they are concerned about the negative impact that shark movies are having on conservation efforts for this often-threatened animal.
“A lot of what people know about sharks is obtained through movies or news stories, where sharks are typically presented with a fear of the depths,” said conservation psychology researcher Brianna Le Busque. Sharks on film: an analysis of how shark-human interactions are portrayed in films. “
“Since Jaws, we’ve seen a proliferation of monster shark movies – ‘Open Water,’ ‘The Meg,’ ’47 Meter Down,’ ‘Sharknado’ – all of which depict sharks as terrifying creatures with an insatiable appetite for humans. Present as meat,” he added. “That is absolutely not true. Sharks are at greater risk of harm from humans than from humans, leading to rapid declines in global shark populations, and many species at risk of extinction.”
This study analyzed 109 shark movies to examine how the movies portray shark-human relationships. 109 films were released and documented on the Internet Movie Database before January 2020 – 89 films were released since 2000, including 14 films in 2016 alone.
Nearly all films (96%) depicted shark-human interactions as potentially dangerous, with only four exceptions: “Finding Nemo,” “Shark Tale,” “Finding Dory,” and “The Big Swim.” Three of these films also covertly depict that sharks can harm or threaten humans.
A “friendly” whale shark is featured in Finding Dory, making it the only film that has not depicted the shark as a potential threat to humans, either openly or covertly.
Of the 109 films, 57% of film posters featured great white sharks, with the bull shark (6%) and the mythical species of shark (6%) in second place. Also, 74% of the posters showed shark teeth.
“Increasing fear of sharks, which is out of proportion to their actual threat, harms conservation efforts, often prompting people to support potentially harmful mitigation strategies,” Le Busque said.
“There’s no doubt that Jaws’ legacy lives on, but we should be mindful of how movies portray sharks in order to capture the viewer,” she said. “This is an important step in debunking shark myths and building up shark conservation.”