Jumping the Shark: White Shark Representations in Great White Serial Killer Lives—The Fear and the (Pseudo-)Science
1. Literature Review
2. The White Shark in the Media: A Shark Is a Shark Is a Jaws Shark
- Statements about the “reality” of particular phenomena in these programs do not meet the standards of logic and evidence of established science due to their unrepeatability, weakness, or outright falsehood. In other words, to be viable, these statements would necessitate the rethinking of well-established science garnered through a rigorous process of observation, testing, and experimentation (Campbell 2016, pp. 188, 193; Sokal 2006, p. 288).
- Visual communication of science is chiefly accomplished through superficial “accouterments” or “trappings”, such as the enlisting of real scientists who supply samples or provide specimen analysis, insertion of lab imagery, and the use of technology, all of which attempt to ensure a measure of credibility for the pseudoscientific theories floated in the program (Campbell 2016, p. 193; Brewer 2012, p. 324).
- Evidence collection and witness examination are usually performed by a two-person team invested in the research, who also engage in “fact-finding” missions yet fail to secure conclusive evidence to back up their claims. The team relies on uncontested interviewee statements as a form of witness testimony, which amounts to little more than anecdotal evidence. Given the lack of conclusive proof, the team’s “discovery trips” also ultimately serve as nothing more than entertainment for themselves and the production crew.
- A third party in the program functions in the role of skeptic. Yet, this individual is never allowed the last word nor the opportunity to definitively put to rest the story’s central argument, since the goal is to keep viewers from disbelieving (Campbell 2016, p. 206; Koven 2007, p. 200).
3. Materials and Methods
4.1. Plot Structure
5.1. The Investigative Team and the Jaws Shark: The White Shark as Monster
5.2. The Shark Scientist
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Segments and Sub-Segments||Cast Member(s)|
|Introduction and 6 segments: Brief recap of shark encounters between 2008–2014; Collier and McMillan seen together in intro and segment 3. |
Segment 1: Spear fisher off Devil’s Jaw struck (2016); dubbed the most recent.
Segments 2, 4–7: McMillan (alone) interviews surfers, kayaker, and other witnesses in 2008–2014 shark encounters.
|McMillan, Collier (intro, seg 3)|
McMillan (seg 4, 5, 6, 7)
|Sub-segment 1: Narrator makes the case that McMillan and Collier are thinking the shark culprit could be a female on a 2-year migration coming back to her hunting grounds. Domaier begs to differ. He is on site on a boat to deploy satellite tagging and find out whether the sharks are coming from the Farallon, Guadalupe, or Southern California. Narrator calls shark concentration in the area “abnormal.”||McMillan, Collier|
|Sub-segment 2: Collier measures shark teeth involved in “attacks” and explains measurement technique. Domaier on boat shoots down methodology: inconsistency of tooth patterns. Notes that first 3 sharks measured between 16–17 ft., last one was 20 ft. He clarifies that it is simply more sharks traveling through the area.||Collier, Domaier|
|Sub-segment 3: Report that kayaker was struck near Gaviota Beach (2015). |
Voice of male surfer interviewed by McMillan says that it felt like something massive hitting.
|Sub-segment 4: Domaier hopes to capture sharks and tag them.||Domaier|
|Sub-segment 5: Domaier finds no sharks, only a whale carcass with shark bites.||Domaier|
|Sub-segment 6: McMillan with Collier at Morro Bay (2015). |
Narrator states they have solid evidence for a single shark in multiple attacks.
|Sub-segment 7: Narrator notes that Morro Bay is just 30 mi. north of Gaviota.|
Collier bases his assertions that it could be the same shark based on 3 attacks in Morro Bay by white sharks in the span of 11 days 30 min. apart and separated by 400 yards.
|Sub-segment 8: McMillan with male surfer who was hit (2015). McMillan states that shark was “stalking you” and surfer replies that it struck him as “predatorial.”||McMillan|
|Sub-segment 9: Collier with female surfer whose board was bit after the male surfer’s board. Collier measures distance of shark teeth on male surfer’s and female surfer’s boards and purportedly finds a match. Collier states that there is precedent for same shark coming back because the same shark attacked several people in 1916 and 2010.||Collier|
|Sub-segment 10: Narrator wonders if it is the same shark coming back on a two-year interval to kill. Domaier on boat interjects that there is no evidence of a shark that has figured out how to kill or eat people or that likes to do so but says nonetheless that the pattern of strikes coincides with his own discovery of the female 2-year migration cycle.||Domaier|
|Sub-segment 11: October 2016, 2 months after the spear fisher hit at Devil’s Jaw. Domaier and assistants reel in and tag a 14½-ft. female shark. Long sequence.||Domaier|
|Sub-segment 12: Guadalupe I—McMillan with “naturalist”/cage dive operator Jimi Partington who explains how sharks eat elephant seals. McMillan asks a leading question, noting that if an 18-ft animal can take a chunk out of an animal that large (elephant seal), a human should be no problem. Narrator adds that a large female will leave the area pregnant.||McMillan|
|Sub-segment 13: Collier expects to find out if same shark is “responsible” for the strikes. Heads to morgue for shark tooth enamel from body of surfer killed in 2010 encounter, which is taken to Cal Lutheran for DNA analysis, which is described as a revolutionary methodology.||Collier|
|Sub-segment 14: Collier goes digging for more clues: fragments left behind in any of the attacks to find the shark “responsible.”||Collier|
|Sub-segment 15: Guadalupe II: McMillan with naturalist/cage diving operator Jimi Partington who touches nose of baited shark so mouth gapes. Dubbed as rarely-seen behavior. Long sequence.||McMillan|
|Sub-segment 16: Collier with sea otter biologist in Morro Bay to collect more shark tooth fragments. Tally of 160 otters shark-bitten.||Collier|
|Sub-segment 17: Collier collects more tooth fragments in Santa Ynez, California from a shark-bit kayak in 2014. Owner notes that shark rolled kayak over and came out of the water. Dorsal size: 3 feet. Domaier on boat has also collected a tiny bit of skin sample from dorsal of female tagged for DNA analysis.||Collier|
|Sub-segment 18: Collier looks to have the DNA analysis done at Cal Lutheran and find out whether there is a match for the shark behind the 2010 surfer death.||Collier|
|Sub-segment 19: Guadalupe III—McMillan with Jimi Partington. Clip of Shark Emma going after backup air supply of Jimi’s submersed cage.||McMillan|
|Sub-segment 20: Domaier has tagged a 14½-ft female, a 17-ft. female, and a 10-ft. male. Reports location on satellite tracking device. Only first female located.||Domaier|
|Sub-segment 21: Collier and McMillan wait for results from Cal Lutheran: no match found. Narrator says with tooth enamel samples, investigation now building a genetic database of white sharks in the region. Collier: identify shark “responsible.”||McMillan, Collier|
|Sub-segment 22: No match found. Narrator notes that number of hits off Surf Beach can be explained by more people recreating in the water coming across an increasing number of white sharks. Domaier encounters a small elephant cove that puts an end to the mystery behind the strikes because it functions as a shark ‘refueling stop’. Narrator notes that humans are not on the shark menu since sharks are following a growing number of seals. But as McMillan takes to the water on his surfboard, Narrator muses about the thought of a giant hungry female coming back to the area and another appointment with the shark.||Domaier, McMillan|
|Total Appearances: McMillan: 15; Collier 13 (together in 5); Domaier: 8 (on boat)|
|Total images of sharks of various sizes and ages: 205. |
Eighty-nine visuals or 43.4 percent in presumably aggressive poses: whole sharks with mouth open, lunging, and in Jaws poses.
Shark body parts: dorsal (“stalking”), eye (“consciousness”)
|Segment/Sub-segment Sharks Totals and in Aggressive Poses|
Dorsal and Eye Number, Shot Size, and Effects (FX)
|Segment 3:||0||0||1 MCU|
|Segment 4:||5||1||1 MCU||2 ECU shark with eye on camera|
|Sub-segment 1:||9||4 Jaws||1 ECU right eye and FX|
|Sub-segment 2:||1||1||1 CU-ECU|
|Sub-segment 3:||4||2||1 CU|
|1 blurry CU eye SLO MO|
1 ECU eye
|Sub-segment 4:||3||0||1 very large ECU eye|
|Sub-segment 6:||6||2||1 MCU-CU|
1 MCU FX
|Sub-segment 8:||4||3||1 larger ECU eye|
|Sub-segment 9:||6||3||1 ECU|
|1 huge ECU eye|
|Sub-segment 11: (shark reeled in, dorsal tagged)||29||0||3 MS|
|Sub-segment 12||10||4||1 ECU|
|CU-ECU shark with eye on camera|
|Sub-segment 15||35||20 Jaws|
|Sub-segment 17||6||1 Jaws||1 MCU|
(tag attached to dorsal)
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Cermak, I. Jumping the Shark: White Shark Representations in Great White Serial Killer Lives—The Fear and the (Pseudo-)Science. Journal. Media 2021, 2, 584-604. https://doi.org/10.3390/journalmedia2040035
Cermak I. Jumping the Shark: White Shark Representations in Great White Serial Killer Lives—The Fear and the (Pseudo-)Science. Journalism and Media. 2021; 2(4):584-604. https://doi.org/10.3390/journalmedia2040035Chicago/Turabian Style
Cermak, Iri. 2021. "Jumping the Shark: White Shark Representations in Great White Serial Killer Lives—The Fear and the (Pseudo-)Science" Journalism and Media 2, no. 4: 584-604. https://doi.org/10.3390/journalmedia2040035