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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

5 Things You Can Learn From the Movie "Jaws"

Jaws is my favorite movie of all time. As I was sitting there one day, I thought about how may simple success lessons we can all learn from Jaws. So of course, I just had to share them with you!

1) Two brains are better than one

In the now iconic opening sequence, a teenage girl, Chrissie Watkins, goes for a late night swim. She brings along a young man, but he is so drunk he can't even undress himself, much less get in the water with him. Unfortunately for Chrisse, a giant great white shark comes along and eats her. Our young drunk male friend is completely oblivious.

Later on, two semi-stupid men try to catch the shark to collect on a $3,000 reward. The plan? Bait a hook with a pot roast, attach the hook to a chain, and tie the chain to a pier. Brilliant. Of course when the giant shark comes along he is so strong that he rips out a huge chunk of the pier and drags one of our Mensa members along with it. This idiot now needs to swim back before the shark can reach him. Idiot number 2 is on dry land screaming encouragement. Amazingly, in utter defiance of Darwin, idiot number 1 makes it back to shore.

Let's see, Chrissie goes swimming alone, she dies. The two guys try to catch the shark, they live. I am not saying that Chrissie would have lived if the drunk dude had made it with her, but face it, two minds (even stupid minds) are better than one.

Lesson: Get help or get eaten.

(Jaws Trivia: in the opening sequence, Chrissie's screams of pain are real as the apparatus designed to thrash her about broke her ribs)

2) Be prepared for the unexpected

Matt Hooper, our young scientist hero, succumbs to unexpected surprise not once, but twice in this movie! Doesn't he know that Ding Happens!? The first time, he is underwater, at night, investigating a boat that has been attacked. He first find's a giant shark's tooth, and then a dead head pops up and Hooper freaks out and drops the tooth. Unfortunately, when Hopper and police chief Brody try to explain to the mayor that a giant shark is still out there, the mayor asks to see the tooth. Without this proof, the mayor keeps the beaches open.

The second time is near the end. Hooper, in a great act of braverism, descends into the water in a shark cage, armed with a spear filled with some kind of medicinal poison that will kill the shark if he can jam it into his mouth. Sadly, it appears that no one ever explained three (or even two) dimensional space to Hooper, because as he is looking one way the giant shark rams the cage from behind. Startled, Hooper drops the spear and is now defenseless.

I get that seeing a dead body or being rammed by a shark are surprising events, and I probably would have dropped stuff too. but then again, I'm not getting in the water with aspirations of finding or killing a shark.

Lesson: Ding happens. Keeping your composure is critical to your success.

(Jaws Trivia: in both the book and an earlier draft of the movie, Hooper dies in the cage attack scene)

3) Assess and Re-Assess Your tools

Quint hunts sharks for a living, so his standard boat and tools seem sufficient. However, when Brody first sees the shark he immediately says to Quint, "you're gonna need a bigger boat." Brody realizes this is one big ass fish.

Quint, in his pride, will have none of it. He refuses to give up the hunt and go back for a bigger boat, better tools, or some help, like the US Navy. Brody proves to be right, as near the end of the movie the giant shark leaps onto the boat and his mass tips the boat up to such an angle that Quint slips and slides down into the beast's mouth. Bet that wouldn't have happened with a bigger boat.

Lesson: Plan your best, but when Ding Happens (like if the shark is waaaaaaaaaaaay bigger than expected) reassess and get new tools!

(Jaws Trivia: "You're gonna need a bigger boat," was listed at number 35 of AFI's top 100 movie quotes. )

4) Teamwork is More Important than Ego

Quint and Matt Hooper have a definite ego rivalry going on. The are constantly griping about what exactly is going on and the best way to handle the situation. At one point, they are heading back to shore with the shark in pursuit. The plan is to head back in and lure the shark into the shallows. Brody is very appreciative that they are headed back in.

The boat had been damaged and repaired earlier, and Hooper is worried about the stress Quint is putting on it. He tells Quint to slow down, so naturally Quint speeds up. Hooper tells him again, and again Quint speeds up. Eventually black smoke billows from the engine and the boat breaks down. Now the three men are stranded out at sea with no engine, no radio (oh, didn't I tell you? Quint smashed the radio earlier when Brody tried to call for help) with a 25 foot great white shark gearing up for a mighty feast.

Lesson: Confidence is one thing, but when you start making decisions out of ego you are doomed to failure. Find a way to work with everyone, even the people you don't like.

(Jaws Trivia: Richard Dreyfuss turned down the role of Hooper initially, but after he saw a pre-screening of his movie, "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz," he quickly called to accept the role because he was convinced Kravitz was so bad that no one would hire him after that)

5) Don't Go Cheap

Early in the film a little boy gets eaten. His mother offers a $3,000 reward for the shark. Quint, probably the only one on the island capable of actually killing the shark, wants $10,000. "For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing." Why would the town pony up $10,000 when they can have some woman pay $3,000?

No one catches the shark for the three grand, one fisherman dies (Ben Gardner, who would go on to later have his head pop up and scare Matt Hooper into dropping a tooth), two idiots almost die, and another dude is also killed a little later. Even Brody's son is attacked, though he survives to be portrayed by Dennis Quaid in Jaws-3D. It may have been better for everyone if he had died...

Only after the last incident where the one dude dies and Brody's son is attacked does the mayor decide to hire Quint.

Lesson: You get what you pay for, and sometimes quality is worth every penny.

(Jaws Trivia: in the novel, there is a whole subplot about the mayor being in trouble with the mob and needing the money the tourists will bring in, which is why he doesn't want to close the beaches. In the movie, he's just an ass.)

P.S. Here's the original trailer for the theatrical release of Jaws. Awesome! (It is as if God created the devil, and gave him...Jaws!)

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