Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jaws & the Cleansing Of America

It's a part of cinema history.
Steven Spielberg's 1975 blockbuster Jaws is commonly sited as a turning point in American movie-going: after the thriller was released to (then) historical markets, the idea of the summer blockbuster was born and films exhibited in American theaters grew in proportion to the importance of fine art in the French Louvre. And this is how we commonly look at Jaws, in terms of how much it grossed, but this post will examine why it grossed as much as it did, why it was so popular with viewers, why they were compelled to go and see this film. The long build-up I have been making in critiquing the sci-fi films of the 1950s finds its climax in Jaws: whereas films in the 1950s dealt with radiation as a sign of guilt for dropping the atomic bomb on Japan, Jaws justifies and validates why the atomic bomb was dropped, in terms Americans could understand, and absolved Americans of any lingering "radiational guilt" over the issues.
That's a pretty big claim on my part, because most people wouldn't even consider Jaws to be a sci-fi film, a thriller perhaps, maybe even a drama, but not science fiction, and certainly not in the vein of those cheesy films from the '50s. But we have to remember two things: first of all, even though Jaws is 15 years after the end of the 1950s, Spielberg grew up with those films and they are still an influence on him today.
Please remember two things reading this historical interpretation of the film: first, I have spent weeks examining other films leading up to this one, so if it seems far-fetched, please make sure that you have read all the posts in my science fiction of the 1950's series (links will be at the end of this post) and, secondly, that Spielberg grew up watching films such as Them! and Invaders From Mars and Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Monolith Monsters, so please try to contextualize Jaws as Spielberg himself. Within one of my previous posts, there is a wonderful documentary called Watch the Skies!  in which Spielberg discusses his love of those science fiction films.
Secondly, Jaws, the shark, is twenty-five feet long and weighs three tons, an abnormally large shark, just like the giant monster films in the '50s (Jaws resonates with audiences as a probable monster because he stays in the water and he is a Great White shark so he's not as obnoxious as the science fiction monsters we usually think of).
The first scenes are under the water, so just as Spielberg invites us to look "beneath the surface" for the monster, so we are invited to examine what is beneath the surface of the film, because there is the promise that something lurks there.
There is an additional element making Jaws the end and climax of the 1950s science fiction films: the film's presentation of the atomic bomb. In previous posts (listed at the end of this posting) I have carefully built up an argument that, while critics and viewers think the 1950s sci-fi genre was about Communism, it was really about us, and what happened to us has a result of dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the key scene to understanding this is one of the greatest in film history, the monologue of Quint (Robert Shaw) talking about his time on the doomed USS Indianapolis which delivered critical parts of the atomic bomb so it could be used to end World War II with the Japanese and this monologue and what it tells us is the heart of the story.
But it's always best to start at the beginning.
Happily swimming and enjoying life,... until...
When the film first opens, we cruise through the water as if we are with the shark that we know is the star of the show, and this idea of us being one with the shark means, psychologically, that we are one with the shark, the shark is something with us and Spielberg is going to separate it from us and kill it so we can be rid of it. The power of the film is that Spielberg waits to really define what, or who, Jaws symbolizes.
No other shot of the "first victim" better exemplifies how "unarmed" and unprepared for danger she is, and how helpless she is to face it and protect herself.
But then we jump to a beach shot of a casual party and Chrissy invites a young man, extremely drunk, to go swimming with her. He's so drunk he can't make it, but he's able to report to Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) the next day that she's missing.
Who is the girl?
Pearl Harbor.
The man who would go onto make Schindler's List might also be remembering the helplessness of the Jews dying in concentration camps. As Chrissy is thrown and whipped around, being devoured, she screams out, "Oh, God! Help me!" and the drunk guy is past out on the beach, not doing anything to help her, like the Jews slowly and silently being exterminated as the United States did nothing to save them. That Chrissy officially is declared a "missing person" by the symbol of justice (Sheriff Brody) might refer to all the missing Jews who disappeared and were never heard from again.
This opening shot of people on the beach having a good time illustrates how un-provoked the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was. This is Spielberg's first argument in his analysis of why dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified: we were minding our own businessunarmed and not ready for attack.
USS Nevada trying to escape Pearl Harbor like Chrissy trying to escape Jaws.
What about the guy trying to follow her?
He says absently, "I can swim, I just can't walk or undress myself," referring to the might of the US Navy and why Japan wanted to attack it: it could swim the distance to Japan with the aircraft carriers in the fleet, but the United States couldn't walk (the Army who generally walks to battle) because we weren't prepared for war at all (most of the men had no training), so the Japanese attacked what we did have: the Navy. (Not being able to walk might also refer to President Franklin D. Roosevelt who, stricken with polio, was unable to walk without braces and help). If this all seems like a stretch, don't worry, it all falls into place, just keep reading.
When we first meet Chief Brody, he is sitting on the edge of his bed, having just woken up, his wife waking up still under the covers, and he complains, "The sun never came in here before," referring to the glaring light that has woken up him, and she replies, "We bought the house in the fall." What is this exchange? The sun being referred to is the sun on the Imperial Japanese flag, that even though it's always been there, it isn't until now that the meaning of the flag has forced him to "wake up" to what is going on.
(Skipping a bit) there are two important aspects about Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) being on the ferry when the "city council" (i.e., the mayor) comes to sway him from disrupting the 4th of July celebrations by closing the beach. First, the mayor wears a sports jacket with anchors on it, the symbol of the United States navy (the unofficial symbol). Yet the mayor also presents the audience with the inherent conflict of the film: the very identity of the United States.
The terrible way Chrissy's body is found deepens the argument for how devastating the attack on Pearl Harbor was in psychological and emotional terms: it's bad enough to lose a loved one, but even worse when there is no body to bury, no funeral rites which can be of solace to the family and provide closure, a grave to visit throughout the year. While a fragment of Chrissy's body washes up on the shore, the crabs and sea animals crawling over it serves to remind the audience (like Ben's body later in the film) how wretched a watery grave is for family members who have lost loved ones.
The Fourth of July celebration is coming up, the mayor reminds Brody, but the Fourth of July is the remembrance of why the United States was founded, why the United States exists, why the United States fights in wars: for freedom, for our own and those of others, for the freedom of the world. We are a free people so we may aid others in gaining freedom for themselves (so we would like to think is how we always act), but there is one chain which keeps us from being able to always be so idealistic: money.
Chief Brody types up the official police report verifying that it was a shark attack which was the cause of death, not a motor boat accident, as the mayor suggests.
The mayor argues that making money is more important than the safety of the people you hope to make money from, but on the larger scale, the contradiction in the mayor's argument is that capitalism is more important than the safety of the country, and, of course, we the viewers can see how erroneous his position is, which in the larger scheme of the film goes something like, "We can't go to war because it will be bad for business," and that's a familiar argument; watching the film, we know that if we can't provide for our safety (in this case, from shark attacks) then what does money matter and Brody makes this exact argument. In terms of the war, we can't go to war because it will interrupt commerce, but what will happen to commerce if we are conquered by a foreign power?
Chief Brody on the left, the mayor in the middle, quite literally, and a councilman on the right. The mayor wears a light blue jacket embroidered with anchors, symbolic of the US Navy.
Even though Brody knows the mayor is wrong, the mayor wins this round of arguments, and this discussion on the ferry going out to the boy scouts could be compared to US soldiers abandoned in the Philippine Islands when General MacArthur abandoned them, and the United States decided to pursue the European theater of war first, and concentrate on the War in the Pacific at a later day.
This series of shots getting closer and closer to Brody's face is considered an excellent example of the power of editing, and just one of the reasons why Jaws is such a supreme film for its ability to communicate outside the usual realm of dialogue. The pacing of the increasing closer shots mimics the beat and rhythm of the famous soundtrack.
The next day, when the beach is opened and people are playing in the water, Chief Brody is anxious about what will happen, and little Alex Kintner is devoured. Why a child? Spielberg carefully sets this up in constructing for the audience who exactly this second victim is.
This man is an unsung hero of the film: without his verbosity and monotone delivery working against the anticipation of what is to happen, this sequence in the film would lose the bite it retains today, but it also re-illustrates how the needs of the individual (in this case, keeping his property in order) is overshadowing the larger concern of the safety of the entire community. Just as this man is complaining about kids "karate chopping" his fence, karate--a Japanese method of fighting--illustrates in another way what happened: the Japanese (symbolized by karate) were tearing down the gates (defenses) of the United States.
As we see visitors relaxing on the beach and swimming in the water, Spielberg basically parades for us a plethora of possibilities as to why the Japanese attacked: there is a very large woman getting into the water and her size could easily be symbolic of American wealth; even though we were barely (if at all) coming out of the Great Depression at the time, America's immense natural wealth in terms of resources and people meant that, if we did get into the war, we would be a force to reckon with. But this woman isn't attacked, she isn't a victim.
Alex Kintner being eaten by the shark from his yellow raft.
There is a couple named the Tafts talking on the beach, and this is important because United States President William Howard Taft served in the Philippines before becoming president, and the Philippine battles during World War II were some of the most traumatic of the entire ordeal. But the Tafts aren't attacked, they aren't victims. So our role in handling the Philippines isn't to blame or American Imperialism.
There is an old man who is swimming, and he isn't attacked, so something from the past (his advanced age) isn't  the problem, that's not why we were attacked. The young couple frolicking in the water, symbolizing sexual behavior or loose morals (just in a very general sense) aren't attacked. Then the dog goes missing and the little Kintner boy is eaten off his yellow raft. Alex Kintner, as children usually do, symbolizes the future: the Japanese wanted to dominate and destroy the future of this country for future generations of Americans and put them under Japanese Imperialism. (The name "Alex Kintner"" sounds like "Al is kin" when pronounced and would make sense that it is not just one little boy lost, but the country lost one of its own, one of our own).
Panic, sheer bloody panic and that includes what Americans did to loyal Japanese-American citizens who were imprisoned in detention camps during the war for fear they would commit acts of sabotage against the US. A dog is a symbol of loyalty, it is the best symbol of loyalty that there is in fact, because of the unconditional love and friendship they offer, and when the dog "Tippet" goes missing, it references the "loss" of Japanese American's who were locked away out of fear. As we know, the skills, talent and raw courage of many Japanese Americans during the war helped to "tip it" (the war) in our favor.
But there are lots of kids in the water, why Alex?
Alex is floating upon a yellow raft, and yellow--because of the resemblance it bears to gold, the most precious of all metals--symbolizes dignity. The dignity of the children growing up during the war, and the fear of being oppressed is the second argument Spielberg sites for the attack on the Japanese. I would not have come up with this, but in the Watch the Skies! (available for viewing here) documentary about the 1950s science fiction films, Spielberg puts particular emphasis on how children were always at the center of the story in those films and the ones trying to save humanity and the future (and how he identified with them). But the little boy on the raft is also Spielberg himself, and the suffering he endured watching the psychological trauma of films throughout the 1950s. (Again, the entire Watch the Skies! documentary is here on Youtube).
Now the beaches have closed, and Mrs. Kintner offers a $3,000 bounty for anyone to catch the shark that ate her little boy. The bounty turns into a contest, and a regrettable one, because that reflects the attitude of "Remember Pearl Harbor" (that Spielberg takes up at the end) that the dropping of the atomic bomb wasn't a game, it wasn't a contest of dominance, but it had to be done. Until servicemen got a taste of the staunch foe the Japanese Imperialist army would prove to be, it was like a contest, a game, to individually repay them for the losses and trauma of Pearl Harbor, but that kind of an attitude Spielberg isn't galvanizing.
Mrs. Kintner, a widow and now a motherless widow, mourns because she has lost her husband--who could be the symbol of the founding fathers and their position of isolationism, as found in the Monroe Doctrine (but we never see a Mr. Kintner)--and now her son, the future and future generations. Wearing her glasses beneath her mourning garb illustrates hoe "far-sighted" she is in seeing the consequences of what has happened.
The city council meeting regarding whether the beaches will stay open or closed, again, brings in the identity conflict of the country and Spielberg's argument about whether we can be isolationists and capitalists, or if, to be successful capitalists, we have to be defenders of safety and freedom. This is the reason Quint uses his fingernails to scratch the chalkboard: it's the noise of what is really at the bottom of the discussion that no one is paying any attention to. The entrance of Quint into this discussion is not only dramatic, but historically significant as we discover later, because he is the one ready to "declare war" on the shark and end the whole matter, but, as we shall see, it's not the easy.
When Brody is at dinner that night, and his son imitates him, it's not just Spielberg providing us with some variance in the pacing, or releasing some of the tension from the film: just as little Michael imitates his father's gestures, so a grown-up Michael will one day look to the precedence that his father's actions set for him (and all America) and imitate that course of action. The writing of history is at stake, Spielberg is saying, and what we do now will be remembered and determine for the future generations what is expected of their actions when faced with similar conflicts and decisions.
The frenzy caused by the reward is really the frenzy caused by the press, and their power (there just is no other term for it) to decide what people will know and what they will not know, or at least their chances of knowing it (one reporter tells the mayor he'll put Mrs. Kintner's bounty back with the grocery ads), is definitely a big player in how people reacted to the war and because of News Reels and newspapers.
The third real argument Spielberg makes for why the dropping of the atomic bomb was justified comes with Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss). One of the few benefits from World War II was the invention of radar, with which Matt Hooper has equipped his boat n the guise of the fish finder, but that's not what Spielberg is saying, despite technological advances. When Matt goes down into the water, thinking he's found something, he finds argument number three of why it was justified to drop the atomic bomb.
Looking around at Ben Gardner's boat, Matt finds his corpse, and Spielberg is saying, the dropping of the atomic bomb was justified because of all the people who lost their lives and would not have, if Japan had not attacked the United States. Ben was known as an excellent fisherman, and the shark obviously attacked his boat (like the torpedoes Quint will talk about later), but Ben would have been home, safe and sound with his family, if he did not have to go out and fight against he shark.
It's not just death that men had to get used to in World War II, but terrifying and disturbing death, they kind that would haunt them all the days of their lives, if they lived through the war.
In the next scene, Spielberg wants to do a summary, so will I.
When the mayor tells people that "Amity" means "friendship," Spielberg reminds the audience how we were at peace with the Japanese; the girl on the sign (pictured below) recalls Chrissie dying and the yellow raft she is on recalls little Alex dying. The red banner at the bottom emphasizes the founding of the country--the 4th of July celebration--while the girl yelling, "Help! Shark!" re-introduces the issue of capitalism and how this struggle in the film is being used for us to better understand our identity as a country and how forces work to undermine it.
After they believe the shark has been caught, and they re-open the beaches, Jaws of course comes back, and what does he do? Spielberg uses Jaws coming into the pond, where his son is, to make his next argument in reminding Americans how close the United States was to the Japanese attacking the West coast, which Spielberg again took up in his film 1941.(Even in 2008 with the release of  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Spielberg was still thinking about atomic bombs and radiation because what happens to Indie after he escapes the Communists? He goes into a test town for atomic radiation and lives through the blast in a fridge,... "food" for thought).
One of the best (of many excellent) shots throughout the film. The "estuary victim," as he is referred to, is twice victimized: first because he is eaten by a shark, but also because he thought he was exercising safe behavior.  Even though he was only in the estuary, where he didn't think any harm could come to him, and he's concerned about the safety of others before himself, that enormous threat lurking just beneath the surface is so close, and yet he could not have possibly imagined that there was any danger where he was. This--like so many people who wouldn't go into the water after seeing this film--reminds us of the psychological damage which can be inflicted and how it changes our lives. Home is home because home is safe, but not if you're living in this area.
Matt successfully convinces Brody to cut open the tiger shark they claim is the one that got Alex, and as they are talking, Matt mentions that a shark had eaten a rocking chair; it may seem insignificant, but as those who have seen The Woman In Black know,  rocking chairs symbolize motherhood, because mothers rock their babies to sleep in them; rocking chairs don't get thrown away, they get passed down to the next generation, unless there is no next generation to pass it onto, and that is what has happened, because husbands died and sons died, and there were childless widows left who had no need for a rocking chair.
Matt examines the tiger shark and determines it's not big enough to have killed Chrissy. Why does this happen in the film? Because the United States seriously underestimated the strength of the Japanese and their courage and tenacity in a fight. The fishermen are confident this little shark is the one that did the damage, because they are mis-identifying the enemy; the realization of how strong and powerful the enemy (the Japanese Navy, air force and home front) actually is is summarized when Brody tells Quint, "You're going to need a bigger boat," is the American realization that we were going to have to put a lot more into our effort to defeat the Japanese than originally anticipated.
When Brody and Matt go to Quint and formally contract him to kill the shark, Quint offers Brody a drink and, tellingly, Quint has "blood on his hands." This not only references the killing Quint has done to animals such as the Jaws shark in the past, but his role in the War and the blood on his hands--and the blood on the hands of an entire generation of men--because of the United States being dragged into the war (Quint complains about not being able to find any good men under the age of sixty, because that's the generation that fought the war and have blood on their hands).
We know great shots because the communicate to us, and what does this say? Quint sees the world through the appetites of the enemy (the Japanese Imperial desire to rule the world). The world outside the window is the world that has been formed by a war, and that is how Quint will always see it.
Quint's boat's name is the Orca, which, scientifically, means Orcinus orca, a killer whale. Since Jaws is a Great White, we have a killer whale going to kill a killer shark. This is the reason why the Orca will sink: as many great films have pointed out, you have to be better than your enemy to overcome your enemy; you can't be worse than your enemy if you want to overcome them, because you will be overcome yourself, and that is what happens to the Orca, as it is captained by Quint, it's not good enough to defeat the shark, the same way that America wasn't going to be good enough to defeat Japan, if it didn't change its strategy (and "good enough" here refers to the moral standing of America: we couldn't "play dirty" and hope to win, we had to do everything on the highest possible moral ground to win).
The Orca. Later, when they are trying to "tow" the shark into the harbor, the engine is about to explode, Quint puts too much pressure on it because Quint has too much pressure on himself at that moment, just like when he was so afraid he was going to miss his turn getting out of the water and be rescued when they were shipwrecked form the USS Indianapolis.  With the ship exploding and falling apart, and an enormous, intelligent shark bringing them down, this is the moment that Quint is most afraid.
As Brody chums (throwing bloody bait into the water), he starts complaining, wanting Matt to come and take a turn at chumming, and this is the moment the shark first rises from the water, Brody gets a good-look at his enemy. Brody complaining is very much like soldiers who wouldn't take orders in the army, not realizing their lives depended upon taking their enemy seriously. As Brody complains, he is feeding the shark, his dissent with orders and his part of the work that has to be done makes the enemy stronger (and certain areas of the United States armed forces not working together, or not working together well, really delayed the effort in winning the war).
He's 25 feet, 3 tons of killer. This qualifies as a monster because experts in the field usually consider a standard at 20 ft or less, with anything over that as highly unusual (although a 37 ft was caught).  It's a monster but not like Godzilla or something ridiculously huge and that's the primary reason it fits within the science fiction genre, but also the primary reason we don't think of it being in the sci-fi genre.
As they make their repeated attempts at slowing the shark down, and they fail (all the barrels and shooting it), this mirrors accurately the way the United States confidently believed effort after effort would win the war against Japan, but the United States was unable to wear down the Japanese who seemed even more resolved to win in spite of the advances of the US. A barrel hits Brody in the head and he gets dazed from it, meaning that the experience has been of "the school of hard knocks" and he, like the US military, has learned about fighting the Japanese the hard way.
And now we get to the most important part of the film, Quint's monologue. They have been in the famous scene of comparing their wounds and Matt asks Quint about the one on his arm, and Quint replies it was a removed tattoo. Matt says, "Let me guess, 'Mother,'" and he laughs. The reference here to "mother" means what experience "gave birth" to Quint, what experience made Quint the man he is, the man "with blood on his hands?" Quint replies that it was the USS Indianapolis, and Matt knows instantly what that means, but Brody doesn't, so Quint tells him:
This monologue is what the entire film is about: "We delivered the bomb." All the great (and the not-so-great) science fiction films of the 1950s were inspired the releasing of radiation into the world and that's why those films were made as they were, they were trying to deal with the guilt of what we had done and the unforeseen consequences of the people it turned us into and the possibilities of actual chaos from radiation. Spielberg, on the other hand, was inspired by the events themselves which prompted us to drop the bomb and, since stories repeat themselves, this is exactly what happens in Jaws. After Quint has finished his monologue, the shark starts pounding on the side of the boat, just like the Japanese torpedoes that sank the USS Indianapolis.
The USS Indianapolis, 1937, Pearl Harbor.
Now is a great time to talk about each of the main, three characters and what they represent. Now that we have heard Quint's monologue, we know what he is in Spielberg's scheme and why Quint cannot be the one to kill the shark, to overcome the enemy: revenge. Quint is the ultimate symbol of revenge in the film, and we can know that because of the way that he himself dies.
Even though his eyes are wide open in this scene, his name is Quint because he "squints," and ignores what he doesn't want to see, which includes that his actions are, as Brody says, "Certifiable!" for certifiably insane.
In his monologue, he talks about Herbie being bitten in two, and that is exactly what happens to him, bitten in two by the shark. Quint has blood on his hands and wants to rub it off, and in his mind, dropping the bomb on Hiroshima was justified because America had a right to take revenge for Pearl Harbor and the men who died and suffered on the USS Indianapolis. But we know Spielberg doesn't agree with this and that's why Quint dies.
Bit right in two. The film does a better job of illustrating the graphicness than just this one still. Please note, if you will, the machete he uses to cut into the shark; the machete became a familiar weapon to US soldiers during the Pacific War because of the jungle warfare that had to be fought against the Japanese. Using the machete against the shark "sinks in" who and what the enemy is, at least in Quint's mind at this moment of his death; further, as Quint dies, blood comes out of his mouth, symbolic of his "hunger for blood." This is also the same weapon he uses to bust up the radio so Brody can't call for help. Why would Quint do that? Because that is exactly what happened to them on the USS Indianapolis, the distress call didn't go through, and stories repeat themselves.
Next is Matt Hooper.
He doesn't die, but he does get "removed to the sidelines," which is frequent of the 1950s science fiction films. As a scientist, Matt belongs (artistically speaking) with all scientists, the ones who developed the bomb that could be dropped on Hiroshima. Is he a bad guy? No, but there is also another problem with him: he's independently wealthy. We don't find out exactly how much he's worth, but he's obviously "from money," and this important conflict with Quint over working class and his hands "being soft," compared to Quint's hands that have blood on them, invokes the money argument about dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, that they rich didn't want to go and die in the war the way the poor/working class was.  Matt works hard on the boat and does everything he can to aid in victory, and since he lives, Spielberg doesn't condemn the upper-classes for not doing enough or only protecting themselves and financial investments the war might have put at risk.
The cage, flimsy as it is, could symbolize how the public perception of scientists kept them "insulated" during the war and how being scientists kept them "caged in" and not being able to think outside of the cage in terms of whether or not science should have developed the bomb.
There is even Matt's willingness to sacrifice himself by getting into that flimsy shark cage to poison the shark. But the most important moment for Matt is when Matt and Brody are tying off the shark's ropes on the ship's cleats and the rope catches Matt against the boat, nearly tearing him in two, just as Quint would be bitten in two. This moment reveals to us how, psychologically, Matt is being torn in two between being a scientist and being a layman possibly about to lose his life and what he should do next to not only fulfill his duty, but save himself.
Matt's willingness to enter the cage and go down is highly commendable, but fruitless. It's odd, isn't it, that Matt escapes the cage and being eaten, but goes "off screen" for the rest of the film? That's because this is art and things like that can happen in art. The cage that's destroyed is the barrier of his wealth as a member of the upper-class (the war and rations didn't effect them as much as the lower classes), and the insulation of being a scientist and the public's perception of scientists since they developed the bomb and "won the war."  Because scientists, as a class in American society, could be good (the lives saved by dropping the bomb) or bad (they developed the bomb and now radiation is going to kill us all) Matt doesn't have to die, but he also doesn't get to contribute in the shark's demise.
The shark devouring the ship symbolizes "the ship of state" and exhausting it was trying to find a course of action that would end the war and save lives because there was so much cost, in terms of lives, material goods and not being able to get the economy converted from war-time back to peace-time
Which now brings us to our main character, Chief Brody.
Throughout the film, he has been torn in two, just like Quint and Matt, between the mayor and Brody's official role as sheriff for the town and as a father and citizen like the victims. The question is, why is it Brody who kills the shark, who "defeats the Japanese?" Because Brody is not out for revenge, he's not out to advance science, or make money, or make a name for himself; Brody is the one capable of killing the shark because Brody is the hand of justice. In terms of the film, when Brody puts the tank of air into the shark's mouth, "Brody delivers the bomb," just as the Enola Gay did.
In Spielberg's terms, it was right to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because we didn't start the war, the future generations of America had been put at risk because of the war, men and women died who would not have died otherwise, people were not born who should have been born because their parents died pre-maturely, and because the only reason why the Japanese attacked us was the appetite for power and control (we had done nothing to provoke it or deserving of justice ourselves).
The sheriff occupies the crow's nest, that is, he's been given a special "bird's eye view of what has happened and he has determined the best course of judgment.  Lest we argue that he's "too removed" from circumstances, he sinks with the ship, being on the same level as the enemy.
Japan's appetites for power is the reason why the bomb is swallowed by the shark's mouth (the mouth symbolizes the appetites) and that Jaws "blows up" in a film where there is the talk of how the bomb was "delivered," can only serve to build up the argument that Americans should no longer feel guilt and anxiety over an act that was justified on every level. This is the reason why Jaws became such a blockbuster, the people of 1975 needed to be assured of this message, needed to be convinced that it was all right and justice had been served and that the dropping of the bomb was not a mere act of revenge or intellectual issue.
Not exactly a mushroom cloud, but pretty impressive.
Debates over whether it was correct to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki still wage (you can read issues on both sides over dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki here). But there is another side to this story: the Japanese. What did they think of the dropping of the bombs?
Who else was "an enraged monster that wipes out an entire city!"? The United States, wiping out Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
As I have said before, films are social documents that archive and document thoughts and psychology which might not make it into the historical record otherwise. Just as Americans used the monster Jaws to articulate our fears over the Japanese, the Japanese used Godzilla to articulate their nightmares over what the United States' dropping the atomic bomb did to them. What is so interesting about Godzilla, however, is the evolution from dastardly beast that must die (the United States is evil), to being a beast that would actually protect Japan from Mothra and Rodan (the United States as beneficiary), other giant monsters wanting to destroy the country. This evolution may be a result of the Japanese witnessing China, North Vietnam, North Korea and Russia all falling to Communism and the United States keeping Japan a capitalist country.
How many times have you seen Jaws? The most popular film of our time! What historians have failed heretofore is questioning is why it was the most popular film of the day and why people went to see it so many times that it had an 8th record week!
Jaws was a cultural phenomena that turned into a box office phenomena; while cinematic history holds a special place for Jaws, I haven't felt that it properly understood why it earned that place and why it had the impact upon people that it did. If you are interested in the preceding posts leading up to this one, they are, in order: The Second Original Sin: Art In the Atomic Age, The Decade Of Turmoil Film In the 1950sLove In the Sonic Age: Attack Of the 50-Foot Woman,  One Of Us Has To Die: The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Salt Of the Earth: The Monolith Monsters, And the Beasts Shall Reign Over the Earth: Them!, Promiscuity & Gender In the 1950s: The Thing From Another World and Mirroir-Noir: Invasion Of the Body Snatchers