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
If you are watching Sharknado you are a bad terrible person who is actively contributing to the downfall of western civilization.— Jonathan Rosenberg (@jonrosenberg) July 12, 2013
That sound you just heard was civilization ending. Sounds sort of like a #sharknado Seriously though tweeps - get a life— Spencer Jakab (@Spencerjakab) July 12, 2013
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.
I saw the best minds of my generation live tweet Sharknado.— Alison Forns (@alisonforns) July 12, 2013
More important than Sharknado? You must be joking!
It'd be rad if people got as excited about equal women's reproductive rights as they did for Sharknado.— Ned Hepburn (@nedhepburn) July 12, 2013
Farm bill is more important than #SharkNado! C'mon, people!— HavenBourque (@HavenBourque) July 12, 2013
I worry that more people care about things like Honey Boo Boo, Bieber, and Sharknado more than Syria or poverty. And I hate that they do.— Nicholas Slayton (@NSlayton) July 11, 2013
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:
- 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:
- Last October, there were more than 10 million tweets in less than two hours— not because of a silly shark film, but for the first 2012 presidential debate.
- There were more than 730,000 tweets about Senator Davis' filibuster in the Texas Senate and more than 100,000 people watched the livestream on YouTube.
- 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
To everyone who watched Sharknado tonight: You just lost the right to talk shit about dumb people ever again.— Victor Agreda Jr (@superpixels) July 12, 2013
You guys, seriously. #Sharknado is making us look embarrassingly stupid to the rest of the world. They're all laughing at us. Fuh reals.— ?Undead?Cyborg? (@zombot) July 12, 2013
I'm assuming "Sharknado" is a movie, and designed to be stupid like "Snakes on a Plane" so you idiots will talk about it. #ihateyouidiots— Joe Onisick (@jonisick) July 12, 2013
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.