Fitzmartin’s review published on Letterboxd:
If Jaws came out in 2021 people would say it's commentary on COVID-19 was too on the nose. Murray Hamilton would be criticized for parodying Trump too hard. Keeping the beaches open on July 4th during a public health crisis? Officials knowing about the danger well in advance and downplaying it to the public? Scientific experts and public safety officials being contradicted by an elected leader in a public forum?
I know I'm not the first one to point it out, but Jaws pretty accurately predicted every beat of this crisis we're going through. If Trump had seen this movie, he might've realized his plan to ignore COVID-19 would backfire. Contagion was prescient, sure but Peter Benchly, Carl Gottlieb, and Steven Spielberg were downright prophetic.
Jaws is often regarded just as brilliant entertainment, but the first half has some really strong political themes. I've seen some describe it as a Vietnam metaphor, but as Roger Ebert said, "sometimes a story is a just a telling of itself". Jaws is about greed being more important than lives. There's a line in the movie where Quint says if the shark isn't caught, the whole town will have to go on welfare. Well, in a fair society, when people's livelihoods are ruined by an act of god, we would have a good social safety net.
When are we getting that second stimulus again? Oh we aren't? The extra $600 runs out next month too? Cases are rising to their highest ever also? Sweet. What a great system we have here.
This film actually has more radical political content of most of Spielberg's more overt films. Movies like Bridge of Spies, Amistad, Lincoln, and The Post, call out injustice, but don't call it out too hard. Frequently in Spielberg films, societal problems are seen as the actions of a few bad people. His films rarely critique structural problems. The Jurassic Park could be a searing critique of capitalism and corporatism the way Alien and Aliens are. They stop short by painting the problems on a few deranged rich people.
Jaws blames not solely the Mayor, but also the community that elected him, and the unchecked capitalism that prioritizes profit above lives. The people at the town hall are furious when they find out the beaches will be closed. Their anger is what pushes the mayor to reopen early, and leads to more death. Again, this movie is PROPHETIC.
Entertainment is the primary purpose of Jaws, above all else. Jaws is FUN, and intended to be so, but watching it this July 4th I'm honestly depressed. Forty Five years later this movie is more relevant than it ever should have been, except maybe it was too optimistic.
In real life, our mayor is telling us to ignore the sharks, that it's safe to go in the water, even as our friends and relatives get devoured in record numbers around us.
I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to get back in the water yet.