Yes you heard me correctly; this post is in fact about Shark Week. You may be wondering why exactly I’m talking about sharks when Anthropology is the study of people but bear with me you’ll get it in a second. This past week was in fact shark week and in case I forgot all I had to do was stick my head out of the window of my office and look down the block to see the giant shark busting out of the Discovery Channel building.
So why is Shark week so huge (literally and figuratively)? I mean this week I couldn’t go on twitter or facebook without coming across posting about shark week. Many people across the country were glued to their couches as they watched hours upon hours of shark shows. So why are sharks so enthralling? I mean we don’t see Discovery featuring a “Tiger Week” or an “Elephant Week.” No it’s specifically sharks that people are devoting their weeks to. What is it about these creatures that draw people in? Well think about it a predator that lurks beneath the ocean just waiting for prey as then suddenly they attack.
Heck why do you think the movie Jaws did so well? The shark isn’t just an ordinary fish; it’s a symbol of mystery and intrigue. Even now with shark shows and scientists working to find out more and more about sharks they remain pretty elusive. It isn’t like other animals that can be plucked from the wild and studied they are hard to catch and hard to study. This being said it is interesting also to note that sharks have been around for thousands upon millions of years (depending on which scientists you talk to). They have survived this long without much evolution because they’re perfectly engineered for what they do.
There are many cultures around the world that both greatly fear and worship the shark. Many Polynesians worship the shark-god and place offerings in the ocean for him. So what about the shark makes it so magnificent and in some cases divine? Well we then go back to the shark being elusive and mysterious. As a society we mostly have a fear of the unknown and the shark swimming around in the water below you unnoticed ready to attack at any time is the ultimate unknown. Thus like many things in our society that we fear we have to showcase it.
How better to showcase it then to create an entire week dedicated to shows that share more knowledge about sharks, sharks and more sharks. The stories of survival, of attack, of mystery are all so thrilling to us and the fact that they are all about sharks is thrilling to us. They are beautiful majestic creatures that are also one of the deadliest on earth. It’s that paradox that will continue to entertain the masses for decades to come.