Jaws is often tricky for me to write about, because it is quite difficult to find an angle or idea on it that hasn’t been covered several times before. I could write a review of the film, but I’ve done that before and besides everyone who has a passing interest in the film will have read plenty of reviews and seen the film several times.
Therefore I thought I would write a few thoughts on who I consider to be the main antagonist of the film. In my mind there are three main candidates and I’m going to take a look at them all here.
1. Bruce the Shark
It is a very simplistic view to blame all of the events in Jaws on the shark, but surely he is just going about his daily business being a carnivorous animal that is on the hunt for his lunch and dinner. The fact he stumbles across a beach with a bunch of people who like to spend their time splashing around in the water, therefore attracting his attention is just an added bonus for Bruce. It’s kind of like a free all you can eat buffet and lets be honest there isn’t a person reading this who wouldn’t go back for seconds if confronted with tressel tables full of pork pies and chicken legs, so lets back off Bruce for doing what comes naturally.
Film journalist Mark Kermode famously said that Jaws is not about a shark, it is a tale of masculinity and relationships. He was maybe referring to the the fact that the shark is a mere subplot to what is going on around them. I don’t think that’s true and is a little unfair on our Bruce, who like I said was just doing what sharks do. It doesn’t discriminate, it is not out for revenge (that comes later in film 4) it is just looking after itself. My feeling about the shark in Jaws is that it actually, in a strange quirk of fate becomes one of the heroes in the end, and I’ll explain why a little bit later.
2. Mayor Vaughn
Mayor Vaughn is your typical politician, he constantly has one eye more on the bottom line than on the safety and wellbeing of the public he has been elected to serve. Mayor Vaughn is quite a prescient character these days, particularly when you consider how governments have handled the management of the Coronavirus, desperately trying to balance the economy against health. So much so that Mayor Vaughn has found himself unwittingly at the mercies of many an internet meme creator over the past year, as the similarities between his crusade to keep the beaches open through fear of loss of income is mirrored by a number of todays politicians who perhaps have struggled to see the bigger picture.
Personally I think what makes Vaughn a bigger villain is that he makes all the same mistakes again in Jaws 2. He may be misguided and uneducated in the first film but surely there is no real excuse for his actions in the 2nd film. I’m always annoyed in Jaws 2 when Vaughn and fellow rich git Peterson kick off about Brody being in the observation tower at the beach. Surely a beach that has had a number of shark attacks in the past couple of years would have some kind of patrol.
Vaughn is a coward and isn’t strong willed enough to be considered the true villain of the piece. In the first film he goes from an exuberant outgoing town representative to a shaking, chain smoking nervous wreck, which makes his stupidity in the second film even more gauling.
Now here me out on this one. I love Jaws, I think it is a phenomenal film, no questions asked about that, but I have to be honest it doesn’t make my Spielberg top 10, and that is down to one person, Mr Quint. I appreciate that he is a fan favourite and Robert Shaw’s performance is brilliant, but I just can’t stand him.
Quint is an arrogant bully, he is also a bit of a know it all who takes great pleasure in putting people in their place. It starts out with him interrupting the town meeting by running his fingernails down the blackboard, I mean honestly who does that? He then refers to the shark as a bird, and talks whilst eating.
We next meet him teasing Hooper in the boat yard, although Hooper stands his ground by tying the perfect bowline knot much to Quint’s frustration. It is Quint’s idea to head out into the deep ocean to catch the shark, despite all the attacks thus far occurring close to shore. Once out in the deep blue, his constant nip-picking of Hooper from the way he drives the boat to how he spends his spare time is teasing bordering on nasty. He always has to get one up on the crew, in particular Hooper.
Hooper: That’s twenty footer
Oh come on how do you know that just by looking at him, you cantankerous old barnacle. It’s not just Hooper who gets it from Quint. He continuously teases Brody about his wife and then in a moment of complete shithousery smashes up the boat radio. Well thanks a lot.
I’m going out on a limb here and saying I think the true villain of Jaws is Quint. He is cold and calculated and has no redeeming qualities about him, and now I turn to the hero of the piece, the aforementioned Bruce, who decides like me, he’s had enough of him, so decides to have him for lunch. For me it’s a bit like when the T-Rex spoils the raptor party at the end of Jurassic Park, it’s a moment of triumph and applause for this naturally trained killer, a punch the air moment if ever there was one.
My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular, I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4-year-old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life-changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.
You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH
You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com