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shark plus tornado equals sharknado

In defense of Sharknado

Last night, SyFy Channel aired a film about a tornado (actually, three tornados?OMGSPOILERZ) full of sharks and watching the film turned into a Twitterstorm of mostly awesome hilarity. If you missed out, some of the best #sharknado tweets have already been discussed and curated elsewhere and was well summarized by NPR's pop culture blog and TIME magazine.

Among the barrage of tweets were also some sincerely confused folks (honestly, you needed the term "sharknado" broken down for you?) and others who were pretty sure Sharknado was the worst thing ever for a variety of reasons I'd like to respond to.

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

It's tweets like these that are actually responsible for this post. Maybe I'm just overly sensitive from hearing time and again about same-sex marriage and feminism being the downfall of civilization, but, I gotta say: If a 90-minute film combining sharks and tornados and/or Mia Farrow tweeting about said spectacle can topple your civilization, it was on pretty shaky ground to start with.

Were you this freaked out by ELEVEN SEASONS of Mystery Science Theater 3000?

Because, honestly, that's what Sharknado was: a live event on two screens, the TV screen we were watching together and the livestream of tweets on our monitors and phones. No one was hurt during the making or viewing of Sharknado—not our brain cells and, honestly, not even sharks.

More important than Sharknado? You must be joking!

And children are starving in Africa.

I'm willing to bet that a lot of the people participating in #Sharknado give money to causes they think are important, volunteer and advocate on behalf of More Important Stuff (MIS) and recycle. I know I certainly do. Two things to point out:

  1. Wars, Poverty and MIS rarely play out over two-hour primetime slots, so they don't trend in the same way. In the rare instance when they do, there are plenty of Twitterstats to show people respond to and care about MIS, too:
  2. Secondly, an appeal to worse problems assumes that whatever we're carrying on about is, in fact, the only thing we can hold in our pretty little heads at any time. People are capable of so much more. I tweeted about both the events highlighted above, too. My #sharknado tweets were hardly the end-all and be-all of my interests. Similarly, Wil Wheaton's tweets about Sharknado are what reminded/prompted me to tune in; dude raised a couple grand for his local Humane Society auctioning off weird items in his garage last year. Probably does other charity stuff, too, and definitely uses his social reach to promote other issues.

I know it denies you some teeth-grating anxiety, but we can have our cake Sharknado and care, too.

Sharknado is stupid and so are you

Let's all just agree that most of the "OMG best movie ever" tweets last night were highly ironic or composed during an emotional rush that can only occur after a cinematic climax involving a chainsaw and a Great White that falls from the sky. Accepting that, all this finger-pointing and freaking out makes the same baseless assumptions as the previous tweets about MIS. Just because I had a good time watching and tweeting about Sharknado doesn't mean I'm oblivious to and/or don't enjoy the finer things in cinema or life.

Sharksploitation

Honestly, prior to being lured into Sharknado, this would have been my reaction. One of my main criticisms of Shark Week has been that it features too much about shark attacks and their victims and not enough advocacy and information about shark endangerment. And I get that post-Jaws shark advocates have cause to be "legitimately concerned" about people misunderstanding shark behavior and adopting a philosophy that's equal parts "Don't go into the water" and "Kill 'em all."

On one hand, yes, this film trades on and perpetuates sharks as pretty mindless killers. However, having seen a large portion of Sharknado (I think I missed the first 20 minutes?), it does so in such a ridiculous way that it is beyond belief. After being whipped up in waterspouts and transported across a city in tornados, the sharks are not disoriented in the least and chomp down on everything that gets in their way?ropes, people, whatever. One manages to cut cleanly through the roof of an SUV in a single bite. This is the director of Sharknado talking about the motivation of the titular creatures:

How are the sharks cognizant enough to keep biting people while they're flying through the air?

If you were a shark and you found yourself flying through the air, wouldn't you keep biting? I think you'd be pretty pissed about being plucked out of your nice familiar ocean where you're king of the predators, and you'd probably take it out on whoever got in your way. Honestly, I don't understand why people are so perplexed by this concept. The logic is undeniable.

Aren't the sharks at least as much victims of the sharknado as humans are?

Ah, well, now we're into the larger philosophical issues of the film. What does it say about humans that when poor displaced sharks are ravaged by nature's uncaring fury we try to kill them with chainsaws? I think we need to take a good long look in the mirror over that one.

You're absolutely 100% right; the creatures in Sharknado bear almost no resemblance to the majestic creatures of the ocean.

Also note that the movie's physics, meteorology, disaster response efforts and human emotions have basically zero relationship to reality as we know it. It's just campy fun.

that is a flying shark

In Closing

Believe me, I'm not suggesting that Sharknado is everyone's definition of a good time. I can't say whether it's even watchable without the added amusement of last night's tweets. However, I'd like to point out two things:

  1. I know we like to define people by their media choices—what news you watch/read, the music you rock out to, the books you read—but any one of those choices can rarely be used to sum a person up. Instead, I'd say we're the collection of our choices. I watched Sharknado and curate a site about Shark Week. I also care about GLBT issues. I own The Last Unicorn on DVD. My favorite books are Art & Lies and Catch-22. I share my home with dogs and cats. I'm not any one of these things.
  2. I'm guilty too of being dismissive of certain things: Harry Potter, Twilight, The Real Housewives of Anywhere. I'm not suggesting that all media is equal here. I'm saying there's a far cry from rolling your eyes at Sharknado or Twilight to saying it is the downfall of civilization.
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