Sunday, January 09, 2011

THE B-LIST: I LOVE TO SEE YOU SMILE

Having chosen Jaws – The Sharksploitation Edit for my next mega-review, it dawned on me that one or two of you might not know exactly what sharksploitation is. Well, that’s easily remedied. You see, after Jaws made its big splash (bwah ha ha… ha… ha… heh… sorry, I won’t do that again) in 1975, movie makers the world over did what they do best… they saw a chance to make a fast buck. Immediately, from all corners of the earth, Jaws rip offs began to inundate  the big screen. But let’s face it, not everybody who steps behind the camera is a Spielberg. So instead of offering up iconic imagery or characters you could care about, the rip offs simply ramped up the exploitative elements by increasing the amount of bloody shark attacks, decreasing the amount of clothing worn by the actors, and throwing in arbitrary subplots requiring lots of guns and explosives. You know, the “fun” stuff. But rather than just having sharksploitation explained to you, why not sample the following trailers and actually get a feel for it all.

1. GREAT WHITE – THE LAST SHARK (1981)

Except for a surprising lack of nudity (I mean, we’re talking about a movie from Italy after all), this film pretty much epitomizes sharksploitation. There are multiple exploding sharks, untold numbers of severed limbs, and enough property damage to give insurers cardiac arrest for years to come (And yet, like Jaws itself, this was rated PG when I was a kid). Other than that, Great White so blatantly rips off Jaws (Vic Morrow plays a weird amalgam of Quint & Hooper, plus there’s a conflicted mayor) and Jaws 2 (the teenage surf sailing rally and the helicopter attack) that Universal sued to have it removed from theaters. Personally, I think they were just embarrassed that Jaws 3-D and Jaws The Revenge were in the pipeline and even this piece of schlock was better than them.

2. MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH (1978)

Director William Grefe is notorious for his celluloid atrocities, so it’s no shock to find his name on this turkey. This movie turns the tables and makes the sharks the innocent victims, at least until a telepathic animal rights activist shows up and commands the put upon fishies to kill, kill, KILLLL!

3. DEVIL FISH aka MONSTER SHARK (1984)

You MSTies out there are already familiar with this bit of cinematic water torture. For those of you who are not, Devil Fish is basically Sharktopus without the cool name. Or, for that matter, any of the other handful of things that made Sharktopus watchable. Trust me, folks, there’s a reason Lamberto Bava directed this under a pseudonym.

4. THE SHARK HUNTER (1979)

And finally we have this. Now I must warn all you ladies out there, if you are the least bit fertile, don’t watch this trailer. The shark hunter is the kind of guy who is so manly, so full of machismo, so bursting with testosterone, that when he spots a shark while parasailing, he actually drops from the sky onto the back of the beast in order to do battle. I’m explaining this beforehand because I don’t want any of my female readers to view this trailer and accidentally find themselves impregnated by exposure to the shark hunter’s overwhelming virility.

Well, that should be more than enough to give you an idea of what sharksploitation is all about. Now some of these flicks are good fun and some of them are truly painful viewing experiences, but in the end, none of them are Jaws. Basically , Great White I’ll watch every couple of years for a lark, Spielberg’s movie I’ll watch every time it comes on. As odd as it might be to hear the author of a blog devoted to cinematic cesspools say so, but you just can’t replace substance with a lot of sound and fury. Well, you can, but not if you expect to give the people in the seats anything meaningful. And that goes for churchgoers as well as moviegoers. Don’t believe me, just watch this…

Okay, so that was obviously a bit of self deprecating parody by some of our protestant brethren, but there’s still a grain of truth in it. In a 2005 article in Bloomsberg Businessweek, William C. Symonds noted the rise of the protestant megachurches. “Evangelicalism's theological flexibility gives it the freedom to adapt to contemporary culture. With no overarching authority like the Vatican, leaders don't need to wrestle with a bureaucratic hierarchy that dictates acceptable behavior… Many evangelicals say they're just trying to satisfy demands not met by traditional churches. Craig Groeschel, who launched Life Church in Edmond, Okla., in 1996, started out doing market research with non-churchgoers in the area -- and got an earful. "They said churches were full of hypocrites and were boring," he recalls. So he designed Life Church to counter those preconceptions, with lively, multimedia-filled services in a setting that's something between a rock concert and a coffee shop… Bill Hybel's consumer-driven approach is evident at Willow Creek, where he shunned stained glass, Bibles, or even a cross for the 7,200-seat, $72 million sanctuary he recently built. The reason? Market research suggested that such traditional symbols would scare away non-churchgoers… So adept at the sell are some evangelicals that it can be difficult to distinguish between their religious aims and the secular style they mimic.”

Which is the problem. In his recent book, "The Courage to Be Protestant," David Wells suggests that "The born-again, marketing church has calculated that unless it makes deep, serious cultural adaptations, it will go out of business, especially with the younger generations. What it has not considered carefully enough is that it may well be putting itself out of business with God… And the further irony is that the younger generations who are less impressed by whiz-bang technology, who often see through what is slick and glitzy, and who have been on the receiving end of enough marketing to nauseate them, are as likely to walk away from these oh-so-relevant churches as to walk into them."

In essence, many (though not all) of the modern megachurches are following in the footsteps of the sharksploitation movies noted above. They’ve cranked up the razzle dazzle, but often at the expense of anything lasting. And that’s just one more reason the mass must never be fundamentally changed from what it is and always has been. As the Catechism explains, “As early as the second century we have the witness of St. Justin Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the Eucharistic celebration. They have stayed the same until our own day for all the great liturgical families… The liturgy of the Eucharist unfolds according to a fundamental structure which has been preserved throughout the centuries down to our own day. It displays two great parts that form a fundamental unity: the gathering, the liturgy of the Word, with  readings, homily and general intercessions; - the liturgy of the Eucharist, with the presentation of the bread and wine, the consecratory thanksgiving, and communion. The liturgy of the Word and liturgy of the Eucharist together form "one single act of worship." It’s been that way for almost 2000 years. It ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.

The mass; it may not have as many exploding sharks as your local megachurch, but years from now, you’ll still want to be coming back to it.

4 comments:

(former) Rocket Scientist said...

Shark movies are among my favorites, and I was amazed to find that I'd only seen one on your list. Now I've added them to my watch list.

I loved your comparison of the Jaws-imitations to the mega-churches. They are, after all, emulating the One True Church (the Protestant denominations, not the shark movies). I once read in a book on teaching yourself Greek that the early Protestant missionaries to China from Scotland ran into an unexpected problem with their mission and had to go home to Scotland for a while and work on their presentation. It happened because the Chinese have a great respect for origins and tradition, and were very puzzled as to why anyone would be a Protestant which stemmed from the Catholic Church. Why not become Catholics instead, since we had the tradition?

EegahInc said...

"Now I've added them to my watch list."

As always, I remind everyone there is a reason I have the word "bad" in my blog description. These movies are some real stinkers, so watch at your own risk.

That's hilarious about the Chinese.

romishgraffiti said...

Where does Orca fit in the sharksploitation spectrum?

Anyway, as some have noted, when Protestents pull the Sacraments the leave a gaping void that must be filled. So on one extreme we see empty razzle-dazzle. On the other, we see pedagogy which manifests itself as 40+ minute sermons parsing over every article in a passage of Scripture. Well, if I want pedegogy, I'll go to frickin' school.

EegahInc said...

"Where does Orca fit in the sharksploitation spectrum?"

Oh, right near the top! Why it's revenge seeking killer whale predates Jaws The Revenge by years. I just stuck to sharks to keep it simple, but you could easily add the Piranha movies, Barracuda, Tentacles, you name it.

I toyed with the idea of matching up movies with denominations. Great White is basically Jaws-lite, so that might be the Episcopalians. Shark Hunter is only tangentially about sharks, with gangsters and car chases thrown in, so it would definitely be a megachurch. I thought it might get too insulting though.