Mayor Larry Vaughn first downplayed the threat, then refused to close the beach during a national holiday over concerns it would hurt the economy.
“Jaws” is one of my favorite films. It still resonates after all these years.
Boy, does it especially resonate now.
Peter Benchley’s perennial bestselling novel of the same name was the basis for Steven Spielberg’s 1975 smash, which until the release of 1977’s “Star Wars” was considered the biggest box office smash of them all, grossing $470.7 million worldwide, inclusive of $260 domestically, in unadjusted mid-1970s dollars.
For perspective, the budget was less than $9 million.
Few films, to date, have been anywhere near as profitable.
THE VAUGHN VERSION:
To be clear as to the point of this article …
As a character, Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) was an indelible creation, a selfish prick of a politician but a gregarious guy more interested in the local economy than human lives.
He was willing to take the risk, despite the warnings. He knew of the recent shark attacks on Chrissie Watkins and Alex Kitner, and yet he allowed his horrid judgement to keep Amity’s beach open for the upcoming 4th of July holiday. Under pressure from Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), he allowed several of Amity’s locals to hunt and kill the alleged creature.
And they thought they had him, until Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) spoiled the party.
But Vaughn downplayed the issue, once proven this shark was not the beast responsible.
He lied, in so many words.
So the film continued, the beach remained open for the 4th — save for a one-day closure prior — and celebrants were, predictably, attacked …
“My boy was on that beach too!” — Mayor Vaughn
Vaughn played with lives and took an unnecessary risk. Brody forced him to sign an agreement to pay Quint (Robert Shaw) $10,000 to catch and kill Quint’s so-called “big fish.” Quint’s mates: Brody and Hooper.
We didn’t see Vaughn again … until the film’s first sequel.
Quint ultimately came close in his mission, but timing being everything he became Bruce the Shark’s lunch.
It was up to Chief Brody, who was horrified of the water, to become the hero of the day …
Hooper returned from underwater, where he had been doing his part to kill the creature, and he and Brody rested on some debris as they kicked their way to shore.
Three inferior sequels followed, which are meaningless in this context, though Vaughn returned in “Jaws 2” up to his old shenanigans. He attained a second life of sorts many years after actor Hamilton’s passing, as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson pronounced him his “hero.”
Fitting, based on his early Covid-19 response. But I digress.
To summarize Larry Vaughn: a) He downplayed and even ignored the warnings of an imminent threat to human life, b) His earliest response was half-hearted at best, c) Once proof was offered, he still downplayed the calamity, which led to more lives lost, and d) Following his greatest public disaster, he took the action he should have taken to begin with.
That Benchley/Spielberg tandem was quite prophetic.
THE TRUMP VERSION:
The following came over the wires this morning, which says it all. It’s an ad created by Priorities USA, which details — in President Donald Trump’s own words — his subpar early handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Trump backtracked as the body count increased. He appeared to be, finally, heading towards saying and doing all the right things.
And then …
Trump in the Age of Coronavirus: Why the “Supporter” vs. “Cultist” Debate Matters
Despite party-line bias to the contrary, there is a difference.
How Four Days of Facebook Venting About Trump’s Coronavirus Verbiage Led Some to Listen.
Today’s Casual Racism is Hurting Innocent Asians, While White Supremacists Threaten to Weaponize Covid-19.
I wrote both attached articles, each of which contains specific information and links regarding the range of Trump’s response to our current pandemic, to his self-christened reinvention as a “Wartime President.”
Days following my posting of the second article above, a new wrinkle came to the fore, despite all the evidence of its wrongheadedness and an exponentially mounting body count:
Trump wants 'packed churches' and economy open again on Easter despite the deadly threat of…
President Donald Trump said Tuesday he wants the U.S. economy to "open" back up by Easter Sunday, despite expert…
Trump wants to salvage the economy at a cost of human lives, it appears. At the very least, he seems ready to take that gamble.
Will those wishes be fought? They are presently. Will common sense prevail in the end? It’s possible, but not guaranteed.
With the caveat that a fictional film and a handful of victims does not compare to the tragedy of a real life pandemic, I’ll stand by the all-too-scary similarities in character as heretofore referenced.
Copying and pasting from Larry Vaughn’s section, to summarize Donald Trump … there’s nothing I need to change:
a) He downplayed and even ignored the warnings of an imminent threat to human life, b) His earliest response was half-hearted at best, c) Once proof was offered, he still downplayed the calamity, which led to more lives lost, and d) Following his greatest public disaster, he took the action he should have taken to begin with.
Okay, d remains to be seen. Easter is just around the corner.
I’m not optimistic.
The moral of this diatribe: Never discount our fiction. Only through our imagination will we find the truths and the answers we so seek in real life.
I’d bet scientists and other real experts will agree with that second sentence.
Thank you for reading.
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