Campfire Tales: So, Seriously – How Badly Did “Jaws” Fuck Up Your Life?

Hello, Campers! Might be best to come out of the lake for this round of our insanely addictive group share feature, because it involves the crushing fear – however irrational it might be – of being eaten by a shark.

Nearly 30 years ago, Jaws scared the living dayshits out of millions of people and made an entire generation terrified of the water. And then it did it again. And again. (And then it made Michael Caine embarrassed to go out to eat for a year, but we don’t talk about that one.) In fact, pretty much no one I have ever met has NOT been seriously scarred by this toothy little gem.

This week, Shark Night 3D aims to one-up Spielberg’s smear campaign on ocean swimming by putting sharks in a lake. (Deep Blue Sea did the same for underwater research labs – haven’t had the nerve to set foot in one since!) Of course, the movie will probably suck hairy balls and won’t actually scare anyone, but I thought it was a good opportunity to ask…

Just how badly did Jaws fuck up your life?

I’ll share my own personal hell below, but then I wanna hear from YOU!

I first saw Jaws when I was around 10 years old when my extended family was staying at a lake house in Wisconsin. Each day all we had to do was either swim or hide from my grandmother (she was a bit cranky sometimes), and each night we huddled around the television to watch the one station that it got: WGN, out of Chicago.

It just so happened that the week we were staying at the house was WGN’s “Beast Week”, and the movies shown Monday through Friday were Jaws, Jaws 2, Piranha, Piranha 2: The Spawning, and Cat People. So each day we would splash around in the massive lake (you couldn’t see the other side and there were giant boats on it, so to my Midwestern eyes it may as well have been the ocean), and each night I would watch people get devoured in their swimsuits.

It was the deaths in Jaws and Jaws 2: Keith Gordon Boogaloo that really got me. Every day I would stay closer and closer to the shore, convinced that if a shark were to attack, it would attack someone else further out first and I’d have time to escape. I also knew that we were on a lake and that it was impossible for there to be sharks in it, but fear knows no logic. I was freaked the fuck out.

So the last night at the house, what happens? My brother and a few older cousins call me out to the end of the long pier in the foggy dark, tell me that they saw a shark fin, and throw me into the water.

Ladies and gentlemen, that little boy grew up to be the walking mess that you see before you today.

For years I wouldn’t go into water of any kind. No rivers. No lakes. No swimming pools. I was afraid of bathtubs and sinks. Once, alone in my kitchen as a pre-teen watching Friday the 13th: The Series on a chilly Friday night, I became inexplicably terrified of a glass of chocolate milk. I so wish I were making this up.

I was plagued by graphic, horrifying dreams involving sharks for almost 20 years. For a time shortly after the incident at the lake they were so frequent and so intense that I would wake up screaming and my parents thought I was losing my tiny mind. Every now and then I still have one, and more frequently than I’d care to admit I have a mild shark terror before drifting off to sleep when I am momentarily convinced that the bedroom floor has turned to ocean water. To this day I will not sleep with my arm hanging off the side of the bed.

Anyway, I don’t know if I can blame Jaws, or my brother (whom I adore), or the godless killing machines that glide beneath the waves themselves for an entire life of crippling, ridiculous fear. But the moral of my story is clear: Cat People is one stupid fucking movie and never scared nobody.

So that’s my story (and I’ll leave your hourly fee with your receptionist on the way out, thanks). Do you have a scarring Jaws-related memory to add?


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About Buzz

Buzz created CampBlood.org in 2003 to meet a need for a safe place for weirdos of all stripes to discuss horror movies from a queer perspective. Now that the campers have overtaken the Camp staff and locked them in the Arts & Crafts cabin he is questioning that decision.