From Jaws to Gums

by Kenneth Francis (August 2019)


Watson and the Shark (II), John Singleton Copley, 1778
 
 
 
When I go to the cinema to watch a movie these days, which is rare, I opt for an unpretentious arthouse film with subtitles; anything but social engineering, Tinseltown tripe. I used to like Hollywood movies but the PC, anti-Christian propaganda storylines in recent times are not worth the time and money, as our ‘arts’ subculture takes a nosedive into the virtue-signalling world of the emperor’s new identity politics.
 
The last half-decent Hollywood movie I saw was Misery, starring Kathy Bates and James Caan. That was almost 30 years ago in a small cinema in London. I can’t imagine a similar Hollywood movie being made today, depicting a likeable, masculine man abducted by a violent, nutcase woman who breaks his ankles with a sledgehammer to prevent him from leaving her. It seems nowadays, political correctness has stifled the creativity of any potentially good movie. No more ‘toxic’ masculine males or crazy women, like those also portrayed by actors Michael Douglas and Glen Close in Fatal Attraction.
 
I lament the great movies of yesteryear. An example of a few of the top films for August 1968 (in one month alone!) were 2001: A Space Odyssey; Oliver!; Rosemary’s Baby; Bullitt; Planet of the Apes; The Odd Couple, and Funny Girl. Compare those movies with what’s on offer today.
 
 
Writing last month in the Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy sums up the state of the silver screen in 2019: “From the evidence of this summer, there's a paralyzing lack of creativity accompanying a growing awareness that many of the blockbuster franchises that have defined the past decade or so are either officially done for or on the wane. No wonder audiences are looking elsewhere for their audio-visual enthusiasms.”
 
The other night, I was watching Jaws on TV. I must’ve seen this ’70s Hollywood blockbuster over a dozen times and I always enjoy it. For anyone not familiar with this movie, welcome back from Pluto, but here is a brief summary of the plot:
 
During high-season in summer approaching July 4, a Great White shark is terrorising swimmers on a beach in an island in New England, thus threatening tourism. After several fatalities caused by the massive creature, three men decide to hunt the killer shark. The men are the chief of police, Brody; an oceanographer called Hooper, and Quint, played by Robert Shaw, a salty-dog Captain Hook who served time in the military. (SPOILER ALERT): They eventually catch the shark and kill it after it devours Quint. Finally, Brody and Hooper paddle back home on barrels.
 
There’s a seminal scene in the movie with the men in the boat drunkenly exchanging stories about their assorted scars. Quint talks about how he survived the USS Indianapolis. His chilling five-minute monologue about the time the Indianapolis went down in the sea, and how he was one of more than a thousand men in the water, makes for great cinema. When rescuers eventually arrived, Quint explains that two-thirds of his fellow sailors had been killed by sharks. This scene of Quint’s monologue is shot at night in the boat’s cabin. It would be difficult to imagine a similar scene played so well if such a movie were made today or within the last decade.
 
In recent years, Hollywood studios have found it quite difficult to find masculine, traditional male leads for their movies (in fact, they probably discourage it). Contemporary stars mostly consist of boyish-men who remain wimps even into their late-40s. The White Male in contemporary culture is also portrayed as a clumsy cuck, who relies on his female partner/wife to guide and rescue him from his patriarchal blunders.
 
Writing in the UK’s Daily Mail, Danuta Kean comments on why men in movies and TV are depicted as idle, feckless idiots. “ . . . It's even in children's TV—the father in the cartoon Peppa Pig, who always seems to become the butt of the jokes, hardly inspires much confidence. All reflect an inverse sexism (or female chauvinism) that relies on the kind of hackneyed image that would cause a furore if used against women.”
 
Classic movies like Moby Dick, if remade today, would probably change Captain Ahab’s name to ‘Mick’, as a fleet of Greenpeace rubber dinghies pursue a toxic ‘Dopey Mick’ seeking revenge on an innocent ‘Moby Dick’. And with that in mind, who could play the masculine ‘toxic’ Quint in a modern-day version of Jaws? It’s hard to imagine someone like Eric McCormack (Will and Grace) playing a rugged Quint. Or what about Pee-Wee Herman playing John Rambo in First Blood? But it could be worse: Pee Wee, sounding like he just inhaled helium, playing Ben Hur as a slave rowing in the boat’s galley, shouting at one of the commanding officers: “Hey! The coffee’s cold and my seat is too hard!” As for a movie about the Civil War, who could play General Custer, who was in his 20s when he led an army into battle and was played by Robert Shaw in the 1967 movie, Custer of the West?
 
But back to Jaws: if remade, it could be based off the coast of British Columbia; and Quint’s old leaky boat, the Orca, would have to be replaced by a little white yacht called the Tolerant Tadpole. And the lead role would probably end up being played by an uber-PC, Canadian political character, who would never get away with saying something vulgar or misogynistic like, “Here’s to swimmin’ with bowlegged women”. Eyebrows would certainly be raised about such jibes on ‘toxic’ male heterosexual fantasies which would definitely be frowned upon.
 
Also, ‘Quint’s’ dialogue would no doubt be wall-to-wall virtue-signalling, including, “We’re gonna need a smaller boat, in order to appease that person-eating elasmobranchii.” The same would apply to Brody and Hooper, played by Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, both of whom are quite masculine, despite the Hooper character being a bit nerdy.
 
And in a #MeToo culture, why does it have to be three male actors playing the part in a remake of Jaws? But it might look a bit odd with three female ‘fisherpersons’ in a boat wearing Pussy Hats, and Kathy Bates playing Quint, trying desperately hard to bludgeon the shark over the head with a sledgehammer. Animal’s rights groups would also ensure that the shark be a protected species, regardless of how many humans it savages, because, being a minority, automatically confers moral superiority on the ‘noble’ fish.
 
So, with apologies to Jaws screenwriters, Carl Gottlieb and Peter Benchley, I give you my idea of a scene from Gums, a potential, futuristic movie, highlighting a scene which is a spoof on Quint’s famous monologue; with three men in a boat (Brody, Hooper and Quint) being replaced by three pyjama man-boys in a basement: ‘Birdy’, ‘Blooper’ and ‘Squint’. The trio are aging hipsters, all of whom are single. Squint, who suffers from the gum disease, gingivitis, squints anytime he eats ice cream. He is a member of the church of Nones Unimpressed with Theistic Scripture (NUTS). The year is 2040.
 
 
INT. ATTIC OF A HOUSE – A BEACH IN SEATTLE. NIGHT.
              
With the mentality of college frat boys, the three beta involuntary celibates, sipping lattes, sit on fluffy beanbags near a window in the attic of SQUINT’S mother’s house by the sea. The trio are on antidepressants, with BLOOPER and BIRDY unemployed, while SQUINT works as a pro-abortion activist at a local clinic. They also hate God and can’t get Him out of their heads, even though they don’t believe in him. (The sound of the tide flowing outside, creaking of wood and a whale-call in the distance, make the room seem like a boat anchored on the ocean. Meanwhile, BIRDY is looking at a small white patch on SQUINT’S forearm, as they compare each other’s’ tattoos.)
 
     BIRDY
pointing at Squint’s arm)
What was written where that tattoo used to be?
 
     SQUINT                            
So, I had it, like, taken off 10 years ago.
 
     BLOOPER
Don't tell me‘Black Lives Matter?’‘Mother?’‘Vote for Hillary?’ Uhhh...'Hashtag Me Too?’ C'monwhat?’
 
     SQUINT
Tweets and Milkshake Wars 2019.
 
     BIRDY
What's that, a culling of cows and sparrows?
 
     BlOOPER
     (incredulous)
So, you were, like, part of the Great Tweets and Milkshake Wars after the Bad Orange Man became president? Wow . . .
                        
     SQUINT
     (remembering)
 
Close on SQUINT (Unlike QUINT’S gravelling voice in ‘Jaws’)
 
SQUINT, sounding like a teenager trapped in an adult’s body, delivers his monologue in an irritating, millennial, vocal-fry voice with an uptalk intonation at the end of each sentence. He holds a cup close to his chest, as if to get some heat from the coffee. A slogan on the cup reads, ‘Fish Hooks Hurt Worms’.)
 
     SQUINT                    
So, we were, like, coming back from Starbucks after a day of trolling on our tablets. We’d just threatened a Christian baker to make a bomb-shaped cake with ‘Trump’ written on it. We’d, like, planned to send it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. So, we joined a platoon of screaming, purple-haired women dressed as vaginas and went on the march with them. We, like, were then joined by another group of naked, heavily tattooed, aesthetically challenged #MeTooers, smeared in menstrual blood, who were on a human-dignity Slut Walk. One of them, dressed as a blasphemous anti-pope, was stamping on a burning effigy of Donald Trump. Suddenly, we were all confronted by a sea of Great White Crackers wearing MAGA hats, chanting: “Make America great again!” Anyhow, we didn’t see the first MAGA hats again for about a half-hour: Bible-belt Deplorables; Six-footers; With attractive, curvy, big-haired wives. So, we, like, formed ourselves into tight groups, ready for the attack, clutching our vegan milkshakes like hand grenades. It was sorta like you see in Berkeley campus, where the snowflakes formed safe spaces; and the idea, the idea was when the MAGAs came to the nearest nerd, that student starts pounding and hollering; and sometimes that MAGA, he go away… but sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that MAGA looks right at you; right into your eyes. And the thing about a MAGA is he’s got piercing blue peepers, full of life… soulful, honest, Abe Lincoln eyes . . .
 
     BIRDY:
Who’s he?
 
     SQUINT:
Shh!
 
     SQUINT
     (continues)
But when he comes at you, like, he seems to want to reason with you . . . till he puts his hand out to shake your hand; and those blue eyes roll over when you pull back and refuse to shake his dirty, conservative claw; then you hear that terrible high-pitched screaming that scared liberals sometimes make if they don’t get their way. The streets, like, turn a sea of red with thousands of MAGA hats on the march. You feel like they’re ripping you to pieces. By the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred soy-boys who headed back to Starbucks for some sensitivity training. We also drank rivers of lattes all night long. Many wet their pyjamas, including me. I swore I’d never wear jammies again. (Sips coffee) Anyway, we delivered the bomb-shaped cake.
 
Suddenly, there’s a loud banging on the wall. The three men look startled. Could it be a killer shark? The sound of Squint’s mother calling him: “Squint! Have you brushed your teeth yet?”
 
***
 
 
All jokes aside, besides cinema male actors acting like men, what are the Bible’s qualifications for a real man? A square-jawed determined Quint, or a lily-livered chinless Squint? I Corinthians and I Timothy tell men to “be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love”. These verses say a true man is vigilant against danger, faithful to the truth, brave in the face of opposition, persistent through trials, and, above all, a man of love and sacrifice. And such a man must also be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
 
More: He must manage his own family well; thus, he will be worthy of respect; he must be sincere, follow after righteousness, shun sin by seeking to keep God’s law and live in God’s will; and must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. Freud would probably say such traits would still not make a woman happy with her man.
 
However, C.S. Lewis said: “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good . . . That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness—they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.”
 
Finally, Christ would certainly make the crew of the Orca look rudderless in a shark-infested sea of doubt. The Bible tells us Jesus got into the boat and his disciples followed him. ‘Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him!”.’ (Matthew 8:23-27)
 
 

__________________________________
Kenneth Francis is a Contributing Editor at New English Review. For the past 20 years, he has worked as an editor in various publications, as well as a university lecturer in journalism. He also holds an MA in Theology and is the author of The Little Book of God, Mind, Cosmos and Truth (St Pauls Publishing) and, most recently, The Terror of Existence: From Ecclesiastes to Theatre of the Absurd (with Theodore Dalrymple).

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast
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