Summer 2023 marks an important cultural milestone. That’s right, it has now been ten years since the release of SharkNado, which became a full-blown franchise with six movies, tens of millions in ad revenue and merchandise sales, real-world references in the floor of Congress, and near-universal awareness- all things that are otherwise unheard of for made-for-tv SyFy channel movies.
Me attending the tenth anniversary theaterical re-release, August 2023
“It’s been incredible gift to be able to share something this fun and silly with so many people over all this time,” Thunder Levin, the writer of the SharkNado franchise, told me in an interview. “It’s been extraordinary how many different people seem to have embraced it. I get to interact with fans who come from all walks of life, I even get to argue with shark scientists!”
SharkNado has always had it’s thumb on the pulse of pop culture
The Bad Shark Movies genre is rich and storied, but none of the others have had anywhere near the cultural impact or legacy of SharkNado. I’d like to try and explain what made the SharkNado movies special, and explore what that means for cinema, for sharks, and for me.
Welcome to Volume #5 of Dear Shark Man, an advice column inspired by a ridiculous e-mail I received. You can send your questions to me via twitter (@WhySharksMatter) or e-mail (WhySharksMatter at gmail).
Dear Shark Man,
What’s the history of the shark’s cultural image as a sneaky aggressive predator? Do other cultures see it differently?
Imaginative in Irvine
Much of the large-scale public fear of sharks we see today can be traced to the movie “Jaws” (read my Gizmodo article about this here). Shark conservation biologists actually use the term “the Jaws effect” in peer reviewed scientific literature. Terror of sharks resulting from that movie is fairly common even among people you wouldn’t expect; for example, both of my parents are outdoorsy and have post-graduate degrees, and yet both reported being afraid to go swimming in pools or lakes the summer after Jaws came out. Personally, I don’t think that modern shark b-movies like “SharkNado” or “Two-Headed Shark Attack” inspire the same level of public misunderstanding because they’re obviously silly, but others disagree.
Media coverage of shark bites also plays a major role. If someone gets bitten by a shark anywhere in the world, it’s headline news everywhere even if the bite isn’t severe enough to require more than a band-aid. In Australia, 38% of reported “shark attacks” didn’t even involve any injury at all. This is part of why I, along with many other shark scientists, have called on the popular press to avoid the inflammatory and inaccurate term “shark attack” in favor of a typology of other terms (shark sighting, shark encounter, shark bite, fatal shark bite).
Other cultures absolutely see sharks differently. Where I now live in western Canada, coastal First Nations have stories about a supernatural being called the Dogfish Woman. In some South Pacific cultures, sharks are seen as spirits of ancestors called aumakua (briefly referenced in Moana, see below), and there are even shark gods like Dakuwaqa.
Maui in the form of a shark, from Moana. You’re welcome.
Last fall, I received an e-mail from a representative of one of my favorite companies: the Asylum, the film studio that brought you such cinematic masterpieces as “MegaShark vs. Giant Octopus,” “MegaShark vs. Crocosaurus,” and, of course, “SharkNado.” Following the spectacular success of SharkNado, they were interested in supporting shark science and conservation. After months of discussion, I am pleased to make an exciting announcement! If you help support a bonus scene in SharkNado 2: the Second One, you’ll also be supporting our lab’s shark conservation research!
Here’s how it works:
The Asylum is crowd-funding a bonus scene in SharkNado 2: the Second One, and to describe it, they wrote “we don’t want to give away too much, but here’s what I can tell you: there will be sharks, chainsaws, and chainsaws being used in the vicinity of sharks. ” If that doesn’t excite you, I don’t know why we’re friends.
They are trying to raise at least $50,000, and are offering some amazing rewards to anyone who donates, including a signed poster, getting to have your scream appear in the film, and even getting a walk-on role!
10% of all funds raised for this crowd-funded bonus scene will be donated to support our lab, the RJD Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami, and our ongoing shark conservation research! If enough funds are raised, the Asylum will adopt a shark, which you can track (along with all of our other satellite tagged sharks) from this website.
In short, if you donate to help create an amazing piece of shark pop culture history, you’ll also be supporting important shark conservation research! Learn more about their crowdfunding campaign here.
SharkNado 2: the Second One will air Wednesday, July 30th at 9 p.m. on SyFy!