It is about a shark, sure, but Sarah and Alex unpack Jaws' Big Dad Energy by looking at its larger themes in the context of their own experiences with fathers and dads. Jaws, of course, is Steven Spielberg’s wildly popular 1975 adaptation of Peter Ben...
It is about a shark, sure, but Sarah and Alex unpack Jaws' Big Dad Energy by looking at its larger themes in the context of their own experiences with fathers and dads.
Jaws, of course, is Steven Spielberg’s wildly popular 1975 adaptation of Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel. The film is about at least one literal dad: Brody. And it’s about other men who remind us of our respective dads, sorting through their egos and masculinity while in pursuit of this shark.
Sarah is also the co-host of You're Wrong About.
Alex is also the host of Nashville Demystified.
Original intro song and interpretations of 'Show Me the Way' to Go Home and 'Spanish Ladies' by Carolyn Kendrick. Other original music by Mosart Nunez.
Sarah Marshall: Oh, hello. I’m Sarah Marshall, I have a podcast called You’re Wrong About and this is a new podcast I’m doing with my friend Alex Steed. Yeah, we’re gonna talk about dads.
Alex Steed: Hello everybody, I am the Alex Steed Sarah mentioned. I have a podcast called Nashville Demystified. I’m so excited to co-host Why are Dads with her. Like she said, we’re going to dive into all things dad. Particularly our- and maybe your- complex relationship with fathers by spending time with some of our favorite media and taking it in through the dad lens.
SM: We are not dads ourselves. We have known many dads, we were raised by dads, and we’re interested in dads. We want to talk about dads as a cultural institution, which is a really boring and stressful phrase. And so we’re exploring dads through movies: movies that we grew up with, movies that are painful to watch, movies that are joyful to watch, movies that are both.
AS: And, of course, in trying to understand the dads in our lives - the good ones, the bad ones --
SM: crusty dads, sensitive dads --
AS: present ones, the absent ones --
SM: big dads, little dads --
AS: the shitty ones, the mean ones, the exceptional ones, whoever--
SM: --laughs-- all kinds of dads!
AS: We’re going to try to better understand ourselves. And you know, try to get to the bottom of who and how and why we are. Sometimes we’ll have guests and sometimes we won’t. Whenever we can, we’ll try to incorporate original music from our friends and their interpretations of music from whatever it is we’re discussing. Today we talk about Jaws. Jaws of course if Steven Spielberg’s wildly popular 1975 adaptation of Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel. The film stars Roy Scheider as police chief Martin Brody, who has moved from New York City to the small beach town of Amity with his wife Ellen and their two sons. Richard Dreyfus plays Matt Hooper, a wealthy and charming self-funded marine biologist -- laughs-- which was evidently a thing -- with an interest in sharks. And the great Robert Shaw stars as Quint, a veteran of the second World War, and a colorful courier fisherman. When a shark begins killing residents of the tourist town, the surviving residents - many of whom depend on the tourist economy - are resistant to acknowledge how bad the situation before them really is. Brody, Hooper and Quint eventually team up to confront the shark and each other out on the water. As Sarah and I discuss, the film is about at least one literal dad: Brody. And it’s about other men who remind us of our respective dads, sorting through their egos and masculinity while in pursuit of this shark. Ok, that’s all the intro you need. Let’s do this.
Music: episode theme written and recorded by Carolyn Kendrick
AS: This movie exists in your heart, but you revisited.
SM: It’s my summer movie. And I actually think that I keep it as a summer movie so that it stays special. Like, Jurassic Park you can watch any time of year. Jaws is, like, to me so specifically attached to the experience of summer. That reminds me of like -- where did we go? -- there was a beach you and I went to a couple of years ago where I was like, “being here is telling me that summer is happening.”
AS: Was it in Maine? I feel like it must have been Maine.
SM: Yeah, it was-- yeah. ‘Cause the only other state where we’ve hung out in is Tennessee --
AS: laughs -- No beaches!
SM: This was a beachy beach, with a boardwalk and, like, those t-shirts about how you hate your wife.
AS: Oh! It was Old Orchard Beach! Old Orchard Beach.
AS: Yeah, that’s all you needed to say.
SM: But yeah, -- watching Jaws feels to me like going to someplace like Old Orchard Beach. The iconic summer things are happening and also where the plot is so totally fused to the timeline of summer. And then we have, you know, all this explicit language about... “we can’t have a panic on the Fourth of July.” Like, we are in, as we record this -- like, the Jaws micro season --
Alex: right --
SM: which I just always am aware of when it happens. I’m like, ooh it’s Jaws time again.
AS: And we’re also in the Jaws macro season. It struck me that we have talked a lot about Trump’s response to coronavirus in the context of the mayor from Jaws, but it’s been a while since I watched the movie so I didn’t fully realize that that’s not the only parallel. It’s like literally everything about this emergency and the way people respond to it. People trying to preserve their economic prosperity at the risk of everyone’s lives around them-- laughs -- I didn’t realize it’s from top to bottom actually -- laughs -- a parallel. And when we talked about doing this Jaws was obviously on the top of the list. And when we talked about doing the first, you had insisted upon doing Jaws. Because it’s July, but also because the vibes are strong. Can you say why that is for you?
SM: I mean for me it’s just because Jaws is a movie where the heroic figures in it are three men from kind of different worlds with different personality types who have to struggle how to collaborate and get along and then are able to do because they are all able to accept the reality of the shark. And to care about stopping the shark more than they care about believing that there is no shark because it would be comforting, believing that that other shark that the fisherman got is THE shark and everything’s fine now, believing that the money that people have to make off the tourist economy is more important than the shark. Which is like-- that’s an uncomfortable parallel to real life and also something that is uncomfortable to think about in the world of the movie because you’re like, you know, yeah, we need to confront this shark head-on but… what DO you do in a place that is dependent on a tourist economy? That’s something that the book goes into a lot more detail about because the book is a lot less fun.
SM: What made me want to watch this movie, and feel like it would be a comforting experience, is the fact that it’s about characters like… dealing with a problem.
AS: Ok, So, why are we doing a podcast about dads?
SM: I feel like our friendship, which is a decade old, is built on a foundation of old dads. You know? And also A Nightmare on Elm Street. Because our origin story is that we met on tumblr because we were both fans of A Nightmare on Elm Street. I can’t remember exactly why, but that was the main thing I was talking about on Tumblr at the time! And you were like, “yeah! These are important films!” and I was like…. “Yes! Thank you!” --laughs---
AS: --laughs-- So tying this to old-dad-ism- I thought just for a second while watching the movie and had nothing to back this up, but I just had a feeling quickly -- was that I bet Roy Scheider is exactly the same age as my father. And he’s within a year of the same age as my father.
AS: So he was born in ‘32, my father was born in ‘31. My father’s been dead for ten years, but I was just watching him and I was like… man, this guy is a lot like my father. Like a LOT like my father, and shared a lot of his traits, sort of a lot of his personality. Not similar people by any means, but certainly generationally similar. And I’m so happy we kicked off with this as a result, because I’ve never watched Jaws and thought about the dad theme.
AS: It really sort of shaped my perspective on it, but it also helped me relate to it a lot more. I was like, “this guy is a binary for my father.”
SM: What about him reminds you of your dad?
AS: Both his, like, aloofness --
AS: and tenderness. Right? There’s this scene where Hooper goes to the house to essentially announce that the shark that they got was not the correct shark and that they should sort of go and dissect the shark that they have. And when he arrives, he says “I’d like to talk to your husband” and his wife says, “yeah, me too…”
AS: You know, he has this kind of inability to connect. He’s shut off in a pretty major way and has these like, phobias he can’t really deal with. But at the same time, he has a really tender relationship with his youngest -- with both of his sons, really! -- even though we only get minimal interactions. But we get this beautiful interaction where he interacts with his youngest son who is emulating him; emulating all of his sort of moves and how he has hands on his face. And he ends that interaction with his son saying “Give us a kiss,” and his son says, “Why?” and he says, “Because I need it.” And it’s the only time in the entire movie that he reveals any actual vulnerability.
SM: That’s true.
AS: And that’s something very much that my father would do. He would never express explicit vulnerability, but absolutely, when he would drop me off to school as a little kid he would make me kiss him on the cheek, you know. Which is lovely in retrospect! But at the time, it felt out of order with him just being a crusty man. --Laughs--
SM: Yeah! I think that as, like, if you grow up with a crusty dad, you’re like- maybe other people are never confused by this- but I definitely spent a lot of time confused and also feeling like there was cultural confusion over like ‘how can someone be so crusty?’ -- and also just outright mean - I mean, I had and have a mean dad. And then like, be suddenly so soft and so woundable. It takes potentially so long to be able to figure out like, yeah, those two things go together! Like, french bread is crusty because it’s soft inside. That’s why you bake a crusty baguette. If there were nothing to protect, you wouldn’t do that. --laughs--
AS: Right, that’s so good! That’s such a good way to put it. Yeah, he’s kind of all baguette in this movie. And in context of other characters who we see he feels sort of less surly, because Quint is just… next level crust.
SM: Quint is classic surly, yeah…
AS: But then we also get to his vulnerability, which we’ll talk about. So, we have Brody, who is a New York City cop, who relocated to Amity. Which, you’re saying is around Martha’s Vineyard.
SM: Well, the location part is interesting. The movie was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard and then the book I believe was set on Long Island. Like, kind of near Montauk. So it’s got this sort of placelessness. And I was going to ask you if you consider it to be a New England movie. Because it’s not super explicitly set there, I guess, but like it’s filmed there, so…
AS: Yeah, in the same way that I always assume that Beetlejuice was in Maine, even though it was in Connecticut, I assume Jaws was in Massachusets. It may not be, but --
SM: It just has that feel. But I mean, you’re literally seeing Massachusetts summer people in Massachusetts houses.
AS: Quint refers to Boston a couple times, so I did sort of assume. But --
SM: It feels like they’re acknowledging the setting.
AS: He’s relocated his family from New York City, where he felt disaffected as a cop because he couldn’t make a difference there. So he’s super pensive, his wife calls him uptight, he’s terrified of the water, and he’s never really been on a boat. And then I wrote, ‘not a big talker.’
SM: laughs --
AS: Because this movie’s almost Altman-esque in it’s overlapping conversations.
SM: It is! And also, there’s a great book called Jaws Log that goes into this that was basically written by the screenwriter Carl Gottlieb the summer that they were filming it. But one of the things he talk about is how the team making the movie basically invented looping for this movie
AS: Oh wow! yeah, I imagine.
SM: Because they had so many scenes where there was all this overlapping dialogue, and you’re listening to a crowd having a conversation. And, they couldn’t just use recycled people saying ‘peas and carrots,’ because it was too complicated, and they wanted the stuff that you heard to be interesting. So…
AS: And they pulled it off.
SM: Yeah, they invented looping for this movie!
AS: Hey, here’s a quick note for those of you who are not abject movie-making nerds. Looping, which is otherwise known as ADR (additional dialogue replacement) is the process by which filmmakers work with actors to re-record audio that was imperfectly captured on set to help create layered sound and dialogue that could not be captured in the initial production.
AS: So, okay, they invented looping… I mean, I feel like so much interesting sound stuff was happening in the seventies between that and what they were doing with multi-tracking with Altman is crazy.
SM: The seventies feel like this amazing adolescent time for American film. Like, American film is like thirteen years old, and has these big braces and these big zits, and is suddenly like, you know, able to do these, like- you know, just developing psychically in all these magnificent and also ugly and unvarnished ways.
AS: Sure. And everyone -- a thing that I love about the movie that speaks to exactly what you just said is that everyone is a little ugly. Like conventionally --
AS: and I love that.
SM: Well that’s also why it feels like it’s set in New England. Everyone looks kind of--
SM: like, weather-beaten- laughs--
AS: Yeah. No doubt, no doubt. And as a native New Englander who has spent a lot of time in LA, I always say, you know, especially if you’re taking a flight from LA or the West Coast generally, over to New England, and you’re making stops along the way -- you just see people get incrementally more weathered until you get to New England and everyone looks like an extra in jaws. And everyone is crusty.
SM: They look like a beautiful salt shingled house on the sea.
AS: The patina is lovely. That’s sort of a lovely thing about it. Everyone’s a little sweaty like I am now, and that’s the case. And so that’s an important distinction because I think the most attractive person in the movie is our next character who is Hooper. Who’s --
AS: The son of a rich family. It’s kind of all we know. He’s from wealth. He’s a marine biologist- a self-financed marine biologist - with an interest in sharks because of a trauma that he had when he was younger. And he’s a scientist who is frustrated that no one will listen to science. --laughs--
SM: Yes. What a great character.
AS: And it’s perfect! Again, it’s perfect for this moment. He’s our Fauci in this situation.
AS: And then we have Quint who’s a WWII veteran. He was on the Indianapolis, which is kind of the center of the most famous monologue from the movie. He witnessed seven hundred of his fellow soldiers get eaten in the water, which ultimately lays the groundwork for his trauma. We’ll talk about that - that everyone is kind of operating from - this movie is about traumatized men. This conversation that they have about the Indianapolis comes from this conversation that they’re all having where they’re literally comparing scars. Which is you know, such an on-the-nose Speilbergian metaphor.
SM: Yeah -- I love that.
AS: And then he also - just like, my favorite thing about him... As soon as Quint gets really involved the movie gets fun. Because that’s kind of when it’s a conversation shout manhood in one way or the other. Um, and as far as I’m concerned, he gets involved when he announces himself at the town meeting, but he really gets involved when he announces “here’s to swimming with bow-legged women.”
SM: --laughs-- And he sings all of these old, ribbled sea shanties. And one of them - I think my single fondest Jaws memory is that I have dear friends who used to live in Portland Oregon, the Portland that I live in, who moved away back to the East Coast where they were from once summer. And the night before they left, we went to see Jaws in a just for one-night summer re-release at a movie theater in the suburbs and it was beautiful. I remember saying goodbye to them the next day as they were packing their car and getting ready to head off. And being like, how do I express this feeling? And I expressed it by going “Farewell and ado to you fair Spanish ladies,” which is like, one of Quint’s songs. And it’s the thing you hear echoing as the men are about to push off. I was also looking at the times in the movie, and I think it’s like an hour and fifteen minutes in, we’ve had this narrative that like -- shark shows up, Brody’s worried about the shark, no one listens, Hooper shows up, they try to warn people about the shark, no one listens; finally they take the shark seriously; Hooper, Brody, and Quin push off to go find the shark. And from then on, the movie is on the Orca - on Quint’s boat - and it’s like, they’re’ departing for the country of men.
SM: We have Brody’s wife saying tearfully goodbye to him, and him telling her to tell the boys that he’s gone fishing and she kind of… you know, just runs. She just runs away as her husband is leave-- and sh’es put him in the custody of this scary old man! You know, he’s leaving his children, he’s leaving his wife, he’s kind of going off on this journey to the heart of masculinity or something. It’s… I love it.
Music: Spanish Ladies
SM: Hooper in the movie is played by Richard Dreyfus, and I think this was his breakout role. And he’s a short, nerdy, disrespected by all the other men in the movie, nubbish character. And he’s very endearing, and he’s kind of a Steven Spielberg stand-in to me. Like, he looks exactly like Steven Speilberg looked in 1975.
Both: laughs --
SM: I love him. And he’s under-sized. There’s this wonderful story of Steven Speilberg - when he was a kid, he was like coming in second-to-last in a race, and the kid behind him was intellectually disabled, and so there became this chant. Which, you can’t feel all that angry about given the context. But where all these kids were cheering the kid in last place by going “Beat Speilberg! Beat Speilberg! Beat Speilberg!” And he did! Steven Speilberg lost. And you’re like, well, that was nice for that other kid, but… --laughs--
SM: You know, I don’t know who originally said this but I think some reviewer said that in the book it’s hard not to -- maybe Steven Spielberg said that when you read the book its hard to not root for the shark because the people are all so unlikeable and because the author clearly feels at best mild disdain for these characters that he’s writing most of the time. And I feel like the Speilberg touch - I mean, this is similar to Jurassic Park, actually. How, the characters in the book Jurassic Park are unlikeable. It’s not as bad as Jaws, but the book is not very focused on like, the journey to accepting the idea of fatherhood, like, that’s not one of its themes at all. I’m really interested in looking at what Steven Spielberg did do to make this a movie that to me is so affecting, and whose characters I am so invested in.
AS: What’s interesting to me about sort of the way that it unfolds is - and touches on sort of who.. You know, whose concern has priority - is they don’t go after the shark until the dads feel threatened.
AS: The first death is a young, anonymous woman.
SM: She’s a summer girl.
AS: Right! And the tension is kind of set up - I used to think that this was explicitly about masculinity and now I think that it’s more explicitly about responsibility and men’s sort of relationship to their idea of what their responsibility is. So an anonymous “summer girl” is killed by a shark. She would have been killed anyway, but she’s also killed in the context that she’s with a guy from Hartford who’s too drunk to go swimming.
SM: What a New England story. That’s like Chappaquiddick or something.
AS: Right! Right, right right. This WASP is ultimately kind of responsible because he’s so ineffectual for this woman’s death.
AS: Like Ted Kennedy, and um… --laughs-- The next death - and Brody wants to do something but is kind of immediately shown that he doesn’t have the political cachet to do much yet and he doesn’t push against it because he kind of knows what’s good for him by way of job security. The second death, Alex Kintner, the death of this young boy. His mother is present for the death. And she comes- and while a bunch of fishermen are celebrating thinking that they’ve gotten the shark that has gotten Alex Kintner and this young woman- comes and kind of publicly humiliates Brody by slapping him in the face and revealing to everyone what everyone already knows. That he knew that there was a shark in the water. And then the third attack is out in the water when everyone is back at the beach because the mayor has insisted upon it. Brody’s son is put into shock because he has a very close call with the shark, and also later we find out from the mayor that he’s kind of having a nervous breakdown himself because he finally has emotionally grasped the fact that with all of his pushing, he put his own kids at risk because his kids were on the beach. And then we enter this phase of the movie where they’re finally allowed to go get the shark because the men are worried for their families. But an anonymous woman dying doesn’t matter and a woman who’s so upset she’s literally wearing mourning wear like we used to do.
SM: Yeah, and slapping the chief of police in the face.
AS: --Laughs-- right. So, ok, yeah, we have this first part of the movie where no one is taking it seriously. The first real encounter we have with a competent authority figure is Quint’s introduction.
SM: Yeah, let’s talk about that.
AS: And what we see happen is the town is having a meeting about this thing. The town is being confronted with the reality that all their shops are going to be closed. Their economic well-being is going to be impeded upon by what’s going on.
SM: You can hear a voice going - they’re talking about closing the beaches for 24 hours. And someone goes “24 hours is like three weeks!” --laughs--
AS: It’s 3 weeks! Yes, I noticed that and thought that that was great. So we have this argument that they’re having, which again is the argument that the United States had been having starting in March. And then Quint announces himself very dramatically by dragging his nails down the chalkboard. And essentially says the thing that we should have been saying this entire time shout the pandemic, which is --and by the way, there’s a bounty out about the shark for three thousand dollars. And Quint essentially says, “This is a bad problem, this shark is a killing machine, it’s going to get in the way of all of your businesses, and it’s going to keep killing. Three thousand dollars, I’ll find it for. Ten thousand dollars, I’ll kill it for. This is going to be very expensive, but the exchange is you all won’t be on welfare through the winter.” Which is so remarkably on the nose about this moment that we’re having now. And it’s just a grown-up man being, like, “Hey, uh, we have a real fucking problem and you guys aren’t addressing it in a real way.” --laughs--
AS: What is your take on that scene?
SM: I mean, I love that scene, obviously, because it’s just so fun. He just like, shows up, it’s like, screeeeech
Sound clip: “screeeeech”
SM: And he’s like “I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him and kill him for ten.”
Sound clip of Quint: “I’ll catch this bird for ya, but it isn’t gonna be easy. Bad fish!”
SM: He’s eating a cracker the entire time too!
Sound clip of Quint: “Want to stay alive and anty up? Wanna play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter?”
SM: Robert Shaw is just such a delight to me in this role. I feel like he was this old, complex, sad drunk and he was given this role where he could -- it just seems like he knew how to play that character and that there’s a lot of him potentially in that character.
Sound clip of Quint: “I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates. There’s too many captains on this island.”
SM: And he also had a hand in writing the Indianapolis speech. Because he was also a writer.
AS: Oh, wow.
SM: Yeah, that’s the scene where we meet this character and we hear this cacophony of voices and no one knowing what to do and he really shows up as a town elder, I think also. Like he has this kind of presence as someone who’s like -- of the sea, he’s of the island, but he’s not accepted by society. Like, his knowledge scares people a little bit. You can tell that people recognize his authority because he’s, like, the island shark hunter. There’s also a lot more in the book about the ugliness of the job that he does. There’s this absolutely horrifying scene where they catch a smaller shark. They’re out, you know, hunting the big shark and they get a smaller shark and Quint’s like “Oh, the tourists love this. I’ll show you what I do for the tourists.”
SM: And he cuts the shark open and throws some of its innards in the water and throws the shark back in the water and then shows how the shark will first eat itself and then summon a feeding frenzy of other sharks.
SM: It’s just like, this nihilistic vision of like…. Something eating itself, which is a very apt metaphor for the economics of the story. Um, but he’s like “The tourists love this!” and you’re like, ‘Dang, Quint. People are terrible, aren’t they!”
AS: Right. --Both laugh-- And you’re, yeah, I bet they do!
SM: Quint is set up for us as a character who knows what he knows but is incomplete as a human. I think that Hooper is that too. And then Brody is someone who like, doesn’t have knowledge. Like, he doesn’t know anything and he’s afraid of the water. You know, to me the argument the movie seems to be making is that both of these experts need this regular man - or this regular, you know, father - and cop trying his best in order to do what they end up doing.
AS: Right. Yeah, and he’s kind of a reconciliation, right? The tension between Quint and Brody throughout the movie is that Quint is a hardened man - he’s a veteran - and he keeps making fun of this effete intellectual who’s there, who is on the opposite end of the spectrum. But when everything fails with Quint’s arsenal, he’s like “What do you have?” You know, “How do we use your tools?” And the interesting thing - Carolyn said - we were watching it this morning and Carolyn said - it was so astute and on-the-nose, “it’s admirable that this guy’s made his life work about addressing his trauma.” --laughs--
SM: Yeah! That’s true!
AS: It’s true, right! It’s absolutely the truth and it’s such a great observation. It’s true right up until his death. He dies by -- they’ve essentially caught the shark as much as they can. They’ve stabbed it somehow and tied these barrels to it so it can’t go very far.
SM: It really becomes Old Man and the Shark-like at this point, because they’re just like in hand-to-hand combat at this point with this shark.
AS: It’s essentially tied through suspension to the boat and the problem with that is he’s going full speed with this boat trying to pull the shark. He does not have --
SM: And Hooper’s like “I think you should slow down!” and he’s like, “fuck you, Hooper!”
AS: He doesn’t have to go full speed, and you see that that’s where his trauma has bested him.
SM: mmm…. --
AS: You know, he’s taken out and ultimately he’s eaten by the shark.
SM: I’ve never thought of that before, but yeah, that is it.
AS: His abilities - his seemingly up to that point superhuman abilities - are undermined by him giving in to that trauma. He’s going to pull the shark full speed and it ends up being his end.
SM: Right. And can we talk about his trauma? Can we talk about the Indianapolis speech?
AS: Yes, absolutely. This is a point where they’re all finally getting along and drinking and hanging out --
SM: And quint has been giving Hooper an incredibly hard time. When I tell people that if they want to know what my dad is like, they should watch the scenes in jaws between Quint and Hooper. Where just like, I’m Hooper, and Hooper can’t do anything right. --laughs--
AS: --laughs-- You’re Hooper.
SM: I’m Hooper, and Hooper can’t do anything right.
AS: Right. And in this, they’ve turned and they’re having a bonding kind of tender moment where they’re sharing and exchanging about their scars.
SM: Yeah. And they’re quite drunk.
AS: Brody asks about one scar in particular, which it’s revealed is a removed tattoo that exposes the Indianapolis, I think?
SM: I think it might be a removal of a tattoo to commemorate him being a soldier. We learn that Quint was on the USS Indianapolis, which was a real ship that I had not heard of before Jaws, and whose legacy is now being carried partly by Jaws, which is interesting. And was “Torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, chief.” And you know, the ship goes down, and all of these soldiers, hundred and hundreds of soldiers are in the water, and they had just delivered the Hiroshima bomb, is the other big part of the story. So you also get this sense of retribution, I think a little bit, in that they have -- you know, it’s not just any ship, is it? Like they’ve taken part in this act of war, and then they become prey for the sharks. It’s interesting that you know- there are other shark stories that could have been. But it was a WWI and sharks story. And it’s just this long, beautiful monologue where he just describes these days and these nights spent in the water with all these other men slowly being picked off by sharks. He plays it so well. I was just watching Magnolia, which is another movie we have to do an episode about. And that movie has like, a ten-minute long monologue at the end by Jason Robards, who’s playing a character that’s dying of cancer. And I just, I love a monologue where a character just explains themselves. Just lets it all hang out. And truly lets someone in in a very intimate way, and lets the audience in in a very intimate way, and when that character is an old man, who are characters in media are often characters who are defined by their inability to describe anything or talk about their emotional realities, or their trauma at all. Like, I feel like that’s where Quint becomes... it’s almost like a musical. I think one of the wonderful things about musicals is that we struggle so much as humans living in a mostly non-musical world to express ourselves in a way that will convey the emotional reality of what we’re going through to the people in our lives. Whether they’re people we’re close to, or just, you know, humans generally. And musicals kind of allow everyone to have their say. If you’re watching West Side Story, then you’re taken like inside the heart of mind of these characters one by one and you get to experience what it’s like to be them and to feel what they’re feeling. Because they’re giving you that in this very direct way through music. And I almost feel like the Indianapolis speech is kind of like characters bursting into song. You’re like, I would like to live in a world where it’s believable that this incredibly mean old man who gets threatened by everything - who’s threatened by Hooper existing - will suddenly launch into this expository monologue about, like, why he is the way that he is. He’s like “By the way, boys, this is why I am the way that I am.” And will explain it so coherently and the trauma will be so bad that you cannot help but to be like “Oh… Okay. Of course, you’re like this. I get it now.” Which is just something... that’s the kind of complete communication that we don’t really tend to get with our parents. Sometimes we do, but I think that if you are going to understand the basis of someone’s trauma and lashing out that deeply, a lot of times you’re going to get that understanding over the course of years and years, not like in a couple of minutes.
SM: And he has that line that I love about, you know, how the shark has dead, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. You know, when they look at you they don’t even seem to be livin’. You know, he’s looked into the abyss. Yeah, they have this incredible moment of trauma bonding where in that Spielbergian way the shark stuff gets serious, like *snaps*. It’s almost like it was waiting for that to happen. The shark was like, there with its little shark ear to the bottom of the boat like waiting for Quint to finish explaining his trauma. And then it’s like, Okay, they’re a team now. They’re ready for me. --laughs--
AS: I didn’t think about the fact that that’s part of why that scene is satisfying, right? Is you’re getting revelations about trauma and sort of why someone does what they do in a way where most of the life of a living parent you are rarely afforded the luxury of hearing. But in the context of what you just said, where you hear that speech in such close proximity to his inevitable death, it reminds me of the fact that it’s like, as someone who took care of a parent while he was sick and ultimately died, you hear all those truths. If you’re lucky and your parents kind of knows that they’re on death’s door, which my father certainly did and it seems like maybe Quint knows a little bit in this case. They will start to be vulnerable about their truths. Or you hear that a lot when parents are close in that way. And I think because I’ve had that experience, I haven’t thought about it in the lens that you’re talking about, which is before that I never heard any of that shit from my father! I heard all these tiny glimmers. You know, like, watching the History Channel and seeing hsi eyes get misty about particular conflict or whatever. But I never heard my dad’s Indianapolis speeches until the very, very end.
AS: And it seems like Quint knew! You know, Quint knows they’re not going to make it out.
SM: Yeah. And you feel like he needs to die at the hands of a shark. Like, that seems to be a need that he has and a need the story has. And then also you know, I think it speaks to how you have these difficult father figures and these moments of bonding are possible. But then even with that, it’s like so… When you’re not feeling drunk and vulnerable are you still going to be mean to me all the time? Cause I don’t want to deal with that. And how like having a lasting relationship is so much more difficult in some ways than having these moments of intense connection when circumstances force people to get real. Like, being honest and vulnerable in daily life is like, something that Quint wasn’t up to. --Laughs--
AS: Right, exactly, was only capable of being vulnerable again when he realized the inevitability before him. Which I feel like is a trap a lot of us feel about our parents.
SM: Mmmmm, right.
AS: We’ll be at peace with them when they’re dead.
SM: God, it’s almost like the idea of the special time of having a baby. Where like, they’re doing so much and they’re learning so quickly. You just want to be with them every day. I feel like accompanying someone into death there is that similar sense of you need to be there. Like, you need to experience this precious time, not just because it’s all going to be over soon, but because they’re going through potentially this stage of development. If they have the presence of mind and not too much pain to be assessing what their life has been about.
AS: Right. Yeah, welcome to our podcast where the only time where you can find peace with some of your parents is when they’re dead. --Laughs--
SM: Welcome to the dad show! --laughs-- I mean my relationship with my dad currently is you know, he’s 76 years old and he loves to talk about how he’s going to be dead soon. But he also doesn’t really believe in the concept of his own infirmity. And he’s not - vulnerability is still not an option for him. He’s getting increasingly old and frail and you know, is pushing 80 with an increasingly short stick. But like, That’s still not enough for him to open up. If that’s ever going to happen, he’s going to have to be truly looking the shark in the face.
AS: There’s a difference between knowing that inevitability, weaponizing it, and lording it over the people around you, and actually looking into the abyss and feeling small.
SM: --laughs--uh huh! Yes, I feel like he’s in the stage of telling everyone -- you know, being mean to people and then being like, “There’s a shark and it could get me at any time!” And it’s like, I have been hearing about this shark for my entire life and we’re still all here. --laughs--
Music - Show Me the Way To Go Home
SM: Well, we should say how it ends, so if people don’t know, they are relieved.
SM: They do get the shark, the shark gets Quint, and then Hooper and Brody get the shark. Brody is able -- and they do it through a combination of old and new means, which is nice. They have Quint’s barrels, and they have Hooper’s oxygen tanks, and they are able to write an ending where in a way that is like, probably not super accurate, but very narratively satisfying. --laughs-- Brody says “smile, you son of a bitch!” and shoots the shark, and the shark has an oxygen tank, and the shark explodes, and then Hooper and Brody swim back to shore with no trouble at all because I guess they’re not that far out anymore and it’s going to be okay.
Musical interlude- Too Darn Hot by Mosart 212.
SM: So it’s a movie about how I think emotional intimacy allows us to become greater than the sum of our parts. I think Jaws is a movie about friendship and how these three incomplete men are able to create this complete task force by hazarding this intimacy with each other.
AS: Brody is very obviously the father in this movie, but who is the daddy?
SM: Oh… Hm… Well, I mean, I think Quint is the obvious answer. But I think Brody actually is. I think that Brody has quiet authority and Quint is really like sort of a flailing drunk uncle. So if you have a summer romance with Quint, he’s going to throw up on or near you at some point. It’s just going to happen. Yeah, you’re gonna have a moment where you’re like “...Oh. Oh. I don’t know. No, no thank you.
AS: Hooper’s a fuck boy.
SM: Hooper’s a fuck boy. You want to have a finite amount of time with Hooper. You want to meet Hooper in the bar, get Hooper drunk, not in a sinister way, but just so he talks more slowly. And then you’d take him home and have a nice, fumbling experience and then in the morning you would be slightly hungover and be like, “this is too much. Too much talking.” --laughs-- I think I’ve had a crush on Roy Scheider since I was like twelve years old!
AS: Oh, definitely. I’ve always found him extraordinarily attractive.
SM: He is!
AS: Since I was a little kid.
SM: Yeah. Brody is a man who you could spend your whole life trying to figure out what he’s thinking about and never know. And that’s a daddy. And he also looks like he could do some spanking.
Sound clip from movie
AS: Quick note. Lee Fierro, the actress who played Alex Kintner’s mom- a character who delivers to government officials a reality check about the literally fatal consequences of their inaction in the face of a public health and safety crisis- died of Coronavirus in an Aurora, OH assisted living facility in May of this year. She was ninety-one. For years, Fierro was a staple in Martha’s Vineyard and a beloved proponent of the dramatic arts there. Rest well, Miss Fierro. Please join us next time when we will be joined by our great friend Candace Opper for a conversation rich in Jerry Orbach. We will be discussing dads in the context of Dirty Dancing.
We were so fortunate to have production help from our friend Mary Dooe and additional production support from Carolyn Kendrick. We also had original music from that same Carolyn Kendrick. And we also had some wonderful additional music from Mosart Nunez, otherwise known as Mosart 212. Check him out, check out Carolyn. Uh, and… that’s it.