Villains of the sea

By: Grace Helmke

Killers of the deep.

The sinister shadow that lurks beneath, ready to attack.

The shark has been plunged into the public eye inspiring widespread fear amongst individuals all over the world. Their razor sharp teeth, ready to rip practically anything to shreds, and their silent, menacing movements make for the perfect Hollywood villain. Are these sea-dwelling creatures the fearsome menace that the media portrays? 

Hollywood has made a significant impact on the general public view of sharks, depicting them as beings of malicious intent. The 1975 film ‘Jaws’ is most likely the source of the widespread fear, and Hollywood’s overuse of the demonized shark character.

Because of its incredible successes all over the nation, creating multiple millions at the box office, and bursting its way into pop culture as a well known classic film series, copycat movies were bound to emerge. It created an endless cycle of Hollywood movies based on the perpetuating stereotype of the vengeful killer shark, leaving America in a fascinated fear. 

This was an incredible shift of thought from what the notion was before the movie was released. It was once believed that sharks were harmless creatures. They stayed out of the way of humans, and humans did the same.

When swimming became a regular recreational activity, sharks were acknowledged very little. Even in the scientific world, they were seen as simply another oceanic inhabitant instead of a test subject with interesting, unusual or even dangerous enough behavior to study. They were simply just there.  But ‘Jaws’ flipped the nation overnight. It created a fearsome character that the public latched onto, and never let go of. 

Today, because they have captured public attention, sharks are studied extensively. Their behavioral patterns are documented and analyzed religiously by scientists all over the world.

What has come from this research is an enormous amount of myth debunking. The most impactful myth created in Hollywood was that sharks are man eaters. Of course, because that meant that sharks threatened human lives, they became the villain.

But the reality is that sharks do NOT like the taste of human flesh, nor do they actively hunt humans for prey.

In the extremely rare occurrence of a shark attack, it is just a case of mistaken identity in an area of low visibility. They would likely just be giving a bite out of curiosity more than have the desire to make a meal out of a human. That is why there are more documented shark bittings than shark fatalities.

There just isn’t enough blood-vessel-containing-fat on humans for us to be a hearty snack. Even an individual with a high concentration of fat on their body does not have enough fat, that contains blood vessels, for sharks to want them. Our blood and fat isn’t something they enjoy. 

That leads into the next completely false myth that sharks are just mindless killers. While sharks are predatory creatures, they don’t kill anything they see, nor do they constantly think about food. They are incredibly intelligent and evolved creatures, who can navigate themselves across the ocean using only their sense of smell.

Much like humans, sharks are curious and sociable creatures. An experiment was implemented in which two objects were placed in the water: one resembling the shape of a seal, the other a square. The great whites approached the square out of curiosity over the seal shaped object. Instead of biting and attacking the object, they would bump into it, attempting to “feel” what it was. This inquisitive characteristic was exhibited in several experiments, the sharks in question having no intent to harm the object, only discovering what it could be. 

The news has also impacted our perception of sharks. It seems that anytime there’s a shark attack or shark encounter, it’s plastered all over the news. It makes it seems as though shark attacks are common events happening all the time.

But the truth is, that there is an incredibly low chance of an individual even seeing a shark in the wild, much less attacked.

Let’s put this into perspective. You have about a 1 in 3,784,067 chance of being attacked by a shark. And that counts non-malicious shark encounters as well. When you think about the millions of people that enter the water a day, that number is extremely low. You have a greater chance of being struck by lightning, or winning an Olympic gold medal. 

That being said, do sharks deserve to be so villainized?

The answer is no. They have been wrongfully dubbed a malicious creature due to aggressive news coverage, and Hollywood’s fabrication of the shark villain. Not only do they have an aversion to the taste of humans, they are incredibly intelligent beings capable of high functioning brain activity. They have simply fallen victim to a Hollywood charade. 

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Tiger endangerment

By: Jalalaisa Geleto

The Tiger is a troubled species of cat. They have been pushed to the brink of extinction many times, and some tiger subspecies are no longer with us.

Their territories were once all of east China, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Eastern Siberia, Central Asia, and the Malaysian Islands. Now, they are restricted to small pockets in each of those lands. They don’t even exist in most of China, Korea, and Central Asia anymore. To see a tiger that doesn’t live in India, or a Southeastern Asian country, is a miracle.

The reason tigers populations aren’t increasing much, even though organizations are actively trying to save them, is because each tiger needs a lot of land for themselves. They are not pack animals. There isn’t a place that’s “densely” populated with tigers, because they live on their own and far from each other.

The average tiger male requires 23 to 39 square miles to himself. The average female only needs 7. The amount of space tigers are allowed to live in has only decreased, leading to more tigers dying.

Since 1900, 93% of tiger lands have been taken from them, severely lowering their population. Since the 1990s, their population has decreased another 43%.

Tigers are a doomed species, and there is nothing you can do about it without giving them more land to live on. Which is not going to happen.

The Indians are mostly poor and are looking for land to make farms and build infrastructure. Many of them don’t care about the cultural aspects of tigers and focus on material things. At the rate India is modernizing and growing, the tigers might not have much space left.

In China, the tigers are doomed and are on their last legs. There are barely any tiger sightings in the country anymore. In Siberia, Russia, they find the Siberian tiger once or twice every year.

The only way to save tigers is to open more lands for wildlife. Until then, they will stay rare or even become extinct (especially in China).

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​The danger of high school movies

​By: Annika Getz

There are countless movies revolving around high-schoolers, and middle-schoolers, and their many adventures and misadventures. These movies appear to be harmless on the surface, but when one thinks about the material in said movies, and the results they have on real teenagers, it’s evident that they are more harmful than they seem.

For starters, there’s a significant lack of diversity in most of these movies. The majority of the time, the main characters are white, cisgender, able bodied, and straight. It is this exclusion of races, sexual orientations, and gender identities, which results in straight, cis, and white, being seen as a sort of default.

However, it’s not just the lack of diversity which makes these movies detrimental to teenagers. Another big issue is that they’re often very dramatized. The situation which the characters are placed in are more often than not, extremely unrealistic. This sets an impractical expectation for kids going into high school and middle school. School, in real life, often seems boring in comparison to the films that teens have watched leading up to it.

Many movies also include a “quirky girl” trope. This trope creates a girl who is supposed to break stereotypes, but usually it is not carried out well, and ends up only perpetuating said stereotypes. The “quirky girl” is often portrayed to be unlike other girls, however this implies that most girls are stereotypical “girly girls.” It also degrades those who are like that.

These movies also dramatize cliques, many times even giving names to each specific one. When this is done, it only enforces the idea that everyone has to fit into a specific group in order to enjoy their experiences in middle school and high school.

And while there are groups of friends, it normally isn’t as dramatic as it is in many of these movies (this is of course only my experience, and I’m sure there are some people who have undergone different experiences).

I believe another large issue with these movies is that they are not typically made with teenager’s best interest in mind. Oftentimes, they’re just capitalistic money grabs, fueled by corporate greed. This means that they aren’t made with the viewers wellbeing in mind. And sometimes, regardless of the creators intentions, these movies still have some sort of negative influence on the teens watching.

I’m not saying that high school movies are inherently bad. There certainly are some good ones, but sometimes, it feels like for every good one, there are ten bad ones.

Given everything I’ve just listed, I think it’s incredibly important that directors and writers make sure to keep the wellbeing, of their teenagers watching, in mind when making these movies, because when they don’t, they more often than not, end up harming their target demographic.