In honor of National Shark Week (Incidentally, the Discovery Channel just changed its tagline to “Grab Life By the Globe.” Really guys? Is that necessary?), I thought I’d write about two recent nature documentaries. The first is Deep Sea IMAX, which I saw a while ago with a pair of enthusiastic 4-year-olds.
The second is Sharknado, which I haven’t seen yet but understand to be a gripping reenactment-documentary, like Touching the Void with flying sharks.
While watching Deep Sea, I noticed a pattern in the narration (voiced by Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet). For instance:
It may not be obvious, but the coral reef owes its very survival to sharks and other large predators. They’re part of the balance.
Well yes, that’s true from a biodiversity point of view. But isn’t it kind of unsporting to point it out? Don’t krill and plankton have it hard enough without being passed over for the usual “they may not seem important but they are” role? And then it just keeps going:
… there’s a surprising bond between the sharks and these small fish. Instead of hiding from the shark, schools of small fish gather round, using him as protection from tuna, jacks, and other predators So the sharks provide another kind of sanctuary for small fish as they travel from wreck to wreck across this desert of open sand.
We’re not used to thinking of sharks as helpful creatures…
Between lemon sharks and remoras, its easy to see who benefits. By hitching a ride on the shark, the suckerfish can count on finding food.
We now know that the killing of sharks is one reason why the coral reefs are dying.
So that seems to be the thesis of this documentary: That apex predators are really important in the reef ecosystem. Which, again, is scientifically true.
One has to wonder, though, why this particular thesis arose out of the 330 hours of footage they shot for the film. Can it be that Deep Sea is both scientifically and ideologically current?
First, let’s consider the iconography of sharks, as cemented in the world’s cultural imagination by the ultimate shark movie. Well, the penultimate shark movie, now that Sharknado exists. Here’s what Fidel Castro told Francis Coppola about Jaws:
“One of the better films I have seen. It’s a Marxist picture. It shows that businessmen are ready to sell out the safety of the citizens rather than close down against the invasion of sharks.” (Nigel Andrews on Jaws: A Bloomsbury Movie Guide 118)
For Castro (a dubious expert, perhaps), Jaws was obviously about capitalism. And the great white was the ultimate capitalist.
So what are these “helpful,” “protective,” “beneficial” sharks in Deep Sea? How about the new capitalists—or “job creators,” as they’re now known?
Here are excerpts from a recent Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal by T.J. Rogers, founder and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, called “Targeting the Wealthy Kills Jobs.”
This data squares with the broad numbers showing that private investment is more efficient than government spending in creating jobs. … Yet the politics of envy, promoted most notably by President Obama himself, continuously stokes the idea that the wealthy are not paying their “fair share.” This injured sense of unjust rewards was summed up on a radio show I heard the other day, when a caller said of the rich: “How much more do they need?” How much more do I need? How many more jobs do you want?
In Silicon Valley, the rich commonly reinvest their wealth close to home. For example, I have reinvested most of my net worth in 8.5% of the shares of my own company. Since its 1982 founding, Cypress Semiconductor has been a net creator of jobs and wealth. We have returned $2.2 billion more to the economy through stock buybacks, share dividends and spinouts than we have taken out in total lifetime investments.
In other words: “Between
lemon sharks the rich and remoras workers, it’s easy to see who benefits. By hitching a ride on the shark private investment, the suckerfish workers can count on finding food jobs.”
Silicon Valley is today’s brightest example of the traditional American dream still at work. The investments for most startup companies must come from individuals who can wait 10 years to get a return on investment. Only very wealthy Americans can afford that.
In other words: “We’re not used to thinking of
sharks the rich as helpful creatures citizens… It may not be obvious, but the coral reef economy owes its very survival to sharks wealthy Americans and other large predators investors.
The horrible irony is that the government keeps telling the very people whose jobs it destroys that if we only tax the rich more, everything will be better.
In other words: “We now know that the
killing taxing of sharks the rich is one reason why the coral reefs are job market is dying.”
All of this proves either that ideology is everywhere, and that “the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas” (Marx, The German Ideology) or that it’s possible to read anything into anything.