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Steven Spielberg’s Legacy – Don’t Go In The Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Steven Spielberg is on top of his profession and is, without a doubt, one of the most popular, successful and influential directors in film history. Creating, writing, directing and producing blockbuster after blockbuster, his career has spanned more than four decades as he has generated over US$8.5 billion in box office revenues.

In 1975, the 28-year-old Spielberg overcame budget over-runs and finished the film Jaws.

It was an enormous worldwide hit that won three Academy Awards and generated more than US$470 million in revenue. Jaws not only made Spielberg a household name and a young multi-millionaire, the film was also later selected by the American Library of Congress for preservation for being deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

But the thriller also immediately and effectively drove millions of people away from the world’s oceans.

Its tagline – Don’t go in the water – was taken to heart by an entire generation.

For those who saw Jaws in the 1970s, there was no greater incentive to fear sharks and stay away from the ocean. Jaws effectively served as the greatest phenomenon in world history that kept men and women of all ages out of the open water, not only oceans, but also lakes, bays and rivers.

Jaws effectively paralyzed an entire generation from ever feeling comfortable about entering the open water.

The fear Jaws created was profound and primal – and for many who saw the film, it was the only reason why they never returned to the ocean to swim.

Spielberg’s film also drove many ocean swimmers to use shark cages on their long solo swims in the 1970s and stamped on the public psyche the image of sharks as vicious man-eaters.

Ironically, the actress who was killed in the opening scene, Susan Backlinie [shown above and on left], was a competitive swimmer who was comfortable in the ocean.

While ocean swimmers gradually did away from their shark cages, the overwhelming perception of sharks as man-eaters for those who remember Jaws in the summer of 1975 may never be overcome.

But Spielberg’s effect in keeping people out of the open water is gradually being offset by the popularity of triathlons, surfing and marine sports like open water swimming as well as the availability of wetsuits and the knowledge of many in contemporary society that sharks are much more the hunted than the hunter.

As the worldwide shark populations continue to be reduced by overkilling, the number of people in the open water continues to increase due the growing craving for adventure and an individual desire to challenge oneself.

At some point, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, the fear of sharks due to a movie released in 1975 will be no longer the catalyst to keep so many people on the shorelines.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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