A Senior Moment
'Shark Attack'
by Rev. Bob Johnston

January 29, 2017

New Perspectives

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All I could see was that enormous mouth opening ominously wide and fringed with long, sharp teeth hanging like stalactites from the roof of a cave. After an instant of panic, I tried to comprehend what a great white shark was doing at midnight in our family room while my feet weren’t even wet.  

My mind---which had understandably dozed off at this late hour--- quickly resumed its processing function and I realized with profound relief that the shark was really after Blake Lively. To be clear, this comely young actress was not sharing my couch (another dream perhaps?). In fact, I had fallen asleep and awakened to find myself watching 'The Shallows', a fear-inducing surfing film on HBO and starring the aforementioned sun-bronzed Ms. Lively.

People’s Choice had just named her their 2017 award winner as Best Dramatic Actress for this role. She portrays a young woman who is attacked by a huge and hungry shark while surfing alone in the ocean off a deserted Mexican beach. Badly injured, “Nancy” crawls up onto a small rock 200 yards from shore and proceeds to bandage her gaping leg wound, relying on recent medical school training to stop the oozing flow of blood. What stands between her and the beckoning shore of safety is that prowling aquatic beast.

This is where the suspense really begins; once high tide arrives in six hours that stony refuge will be submerged, leaving Nancy as dinner for the great white who continues to relentlessly circle the rock. Without betraying the plot, I will only add that Nancy comes perilously close, during several narrow escapes, to again experience those jagged teeth---and that was the moment when I woke up in midnight fear.

Most of us remember those four popular 1970-80s Jaws films with their haunting, anxiety-evoking unforgettable theme music. While usually a faithful fan and promoter of the “good, old movies,” I have to confess that Nancy’s watery nemesis was far more frighteningly realistic than Spielberg’s original version. The difference is digital technology versus old fashioned mechanical construction.

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When daylight summoned me from a restless sleep, I hastened to the internet and was quickly reassured by a website, 'Tracking Sharks', that sharks are not those villains which have been unfairly created by moviemakers. In 2016, only 107 “attacks” occurred worldwide, including many incidents where the shark only took an exploratory minor nibble before determining that their human target was not another preferred fish meal. Eight swimmers did end up as fatalities. (in case you are seeking a perfectly safe beach, avoid North Carolina, Smyrna Beach, Fla. and Australia, the sites most likely to give rise to these rare attacks.)

Many years ago, I found myself frolicking one evening in the shallow waters of Myrtle Beach, NC. We were there to attend an August wedding; in fact, I was to be the officiant. After reluctantly climbing out of the warm surf, I was urgently informed by the bride-to-be that dusk was the favorite feeding time for local sharks. I think she wanted to ensure the minister would be available, with all limbs intact, for her wedding the next day.

More Googling (National Geographic) revealed the tragic reality that at least 100 million sharks of all types are killed each year by humans, many thousands destroyed merely to make shark fin soup for South Asian diners. Perhaps, a shark filmmaker should produce a scary movie for an aquatic audience about the perils of savage human carnivores.

Back to Blake Lively. Just ten months after delivering her second child, she delivers an admirable performance of endurance and watery skills. A stunt double was brought in only for the last two weeks of shooting. For teen age boys—of any age--- Nancy’s orange-topped bikini is also noteworthy. What else would she wear while stuck on a rock in a Hollywood flick?

When summer finally delivers us from the icy grip of this sun-deprived Bruce County winter, I will venture once more into the cold, clear surf of our beloved Lake Huron, confident of not becoming dinner for some lurking great white. Last August, however, I was forced to share my spot on the sand with a squawking flock of fearless, aggressive seagulls who became quite annoyed and persistent when I refused to share my French fries. For an instant, I feared I might end up as bird food—just like in that old Hitchcock movie. Maybe I should move to the concrete jungle of a big city far from the pervasive perils of mother nature.

In the interim, I recommend 'The Shallows' for an exciting "vicarious Mexican adventure". You can catch it on HBO, pay-per-view or buy the DVD. Enjoy the ride!
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