07 October 2013


Thirteen Things about Sharknado

13. There's a reason why every mention of Sharknado that takes longer than ten seconds also brings up Twitter. It's not because the former just happened to shock everyone by trending worldwide on the latter, but because there is no parallel universe in which the same thing did not also happen. This includes those parallel universes in which Twitter does not exist. =P 

I realised that when I finally sat down to watch it, having consciously decided not to livetweet it. What a surprisingly bad idea! LOL!

12. Had I been tweeting, there would have been one in my feed that went like this . . .

Those flooded streets aren't in Los Angeles! They're in the Philippines! #Sharknado #OndoyMemories

Don't you think I'd recognise stock footage of streets in my own city? Silly Sharknado crew.

11. But there is one American home which gets flooded--and I'll leave the residents of Beverly Hills to judge the accuracy of the art direction of that set.

Okay, okay, I'm just messing with you now. That's not "the Sharknado house." =) But it is another famous Hollywood set and your hint is buried somewhere else in this post.

10. Now for the real house, where the ground floor gets flooded right after a shark surfs in via one of the rear windows.

Oh, that poor book . . . =(

I nearly lost it when the waist-high water in the front hall stayed where it was even after the family opened the front door and escaped into an unflooded driveway on the same level . . . and then did lose it after the water came blasting out of front windows which were too high for it only a second ago.

9. And have I mentioned that this house bursting with water is on an unsubmerged hill?

It's not clear why it completely shatters from shark-infested waters while the home right next to it weathers the storm with ease. Unless the filmmakers were deliberately shooting for "so-bad-it's-good" status, in which case, they hit the bull's eye! =D Or unless it were an allegory! Read on . . .

8. Have you noticed all the recent stories in which a divorced husband and distant father has to save a family fed up with him from a threat which only he can really see and which they have to trust him on? The best example is probably the movie Taken, which I didn't review here; but the closest in template to Sharknado is the movie 2012, which I did write Fourteen Things about!

It is an awkward family dynamic which says a lot about the audience happy to watch it work itself out. There's something about divorce and remarriage which doesn't sit well with us, or else we wouldn't let an ex-husband with a crazy message have all the authority of Hamlet's father's ghost.

7. The juxtaposition of the broken nuclear family with environmental catastrophes is especially interesting. First note that the breakup of the family doesn't cause the calamities, which would have happened anyway. Sharknado doesn't lecture us about unscrupulous and unsustainable shark fishing practices, though it might take for granted that we'd assume three freak tornadoes in Southern California are a result of "global warming." After tossing the activists a bone fin, it focusses on its main message that the reunion of a broken family is their key to surviving the full force of nature's wrath.

And of course, this is a symbol. These movies must be about nature (or as in Taken, about "aliens") because if they depicted what really happens when divorce and remarriage are normalised, people would freak out they'd be documentaries.

6. Yet it makes sense that an "ex-husband figure" warning you about a supervolcano, sharks in the streets or a foreigner-run sex slavery ring is far more sympathetic than an "ex-husband figure" warning you of the consequences of children not having their father around. And really, inasmuch as a foreigner-run sex slavery ring is closest in appearance to a widespread state of fatherlessness, it is the least likely of these scenarios to be believed by an "ex-wife figure." Which is how that movie works out. 

5. Next question! Have you noticed all the other recent stories in which a decent yet underestimated fellow suddenly becomes a hero thanks to some crazy external event? The best example is the movie which gave us this semi-gnostic exchange:

"Are you telling me that I can dodge bullets?"

"I'm telling you that when you're ready, you won't have to."

Name that film!!!

There is a real desire to be extraordinary these days, but people seem to want it without having to do any of the hard work or to show any of the dedication that it actually takes. For them, three tornadoes teeming with killer sharks aren't a horrible calamity, but an opportunity to shine.

4. Which explains the character arc of the increasingly shiny ex-husband hero of Sharknado. SPOILER ALERT!!! (You may have to stop reading the rest of the post. #sorrynotsorry) Do you think he shines at the end because he gets his family back? That's only if you assume it wasn't his fault that his family left--which is what the initial setup wants you to think. Now, it does initially seem as if his ex-wife had been happy to get a divorce from a washed up surfer whose only source of livelihood is a slightly tacky beach restaurant: after all, her second husband is a guy who can afford a huge house with a pool in Beverly Hills and private schools for her children. But if that were the case, why does the ending hint that there will be a permanent reunion of the original couple, although his financial prospects are now even worse?

Yes, he's covered in blood and guts, and they're kissing

It's because money and lifestyle were never the problem. The ex-wife's issues aside, the ex-husband was also happy to get a divorce from a woman who never needed him to save her from sharks . . . until a selachian storm finally blew into town, nearly twenty years after the wedding.

I'm totally serious here. The woman asks, "Why won't my man have sex with me?" and Sharknado spells it out for her in exquisite detail. 

3. And it's not only the ex-wife who must have wondered about it. The ex-husband also has no interest in the voluptuous, bikini-clad waitress who comes on to him every day.

Nope, not even after she takes on a shark with a shotgun. In snug short shorts. (Men these days, aye, Nova?)

2. Rounding out the cast's "Scooby Gang" are a gung-ho Australian expat and an aging alcoholic. Just because you never really know who will be useful to have around during a crisis.

1. Finally, if you're wondering about how Sharknado rates as an action movie, you can watch the fan-made spoiler spree which was what got me to watch it . . .

Just be warned that the editing of this video is of much higher quality than the editing of the actual movie. =P

Image Sources: a) Sharknado poster, b) Beverly Hills 90210 Walsh house, c) Sharknado screen cap, d) Sharknado house, e) 2012 movie poster, f) Sharknado kiss, g) Nova


Strannik said...

Nice review - and with some pretty astute analysis, too. I just have one quibble.

There is a real desire to be extraordinary these days, but people seem to want it without having to do any of the hard work or to show any of the dedication that it actually takes.

Which is a trend, sure, but I don't think the Matrix is a best example. I think it was more of "you have a potential for greatness - you just need to be able to get past things that are holding you back from realizing it."

Oh, and as for the locations thing - while I've never seen St. Petersburg and Chicago stand in for something else, there have been many movies and TV shows that were intensively set in Chicago but were very clearly filmed in Toronto, of New York, or what have you. And when you see things like streetcar tracks, lake shore that looks nothing like Lake Michigan, or even wrong-colored buses really takes me out of the story.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks for coming over, Strannik! =D

I'd have to watch The Matrix again before digging my heels in on this (LOL), but the reason I think it's a good example already happens to be in your comment. This may sound a bit harsh, but I don't think it's true that everyone has an equal potential for greatness. Even if I finally clocked a full 10,000 hours of piano practice, for instance, I wouldn't find myself the equal of Beethoven. It is much less likely that if a tornado blew a piano into town, I would be able to play it at a virtuoso level. On the other hand, if someone uploaded a programme into my brain . . . But that's cheating! ;-)

I'd venture to say that the belief that one has the potential for greatness may actually hold people back from achieving anything remotely close to it. Why test themselves against something real when that idea can be Schrodinger's cat forever?

Have you ever seen the intro of the 80s sitcom Perfect Strangers? It really shows Chicago off! I've had fun watching YouTube parodies featuring different cities in the same way. =) I'd do one of my own, if I could find enthusiastic friends willing to be cast and crew with me!

Belfry Bat said...

Re. 10 and 9,

These were no ordinary sharks, hunting for vengeance in the path of three tornadoes... Hm. Is it fair, really, to keep comparing stories to The Epic? Or maybe I should ask: is it fair of the world to keep producing stories that just ignore everything that makes... sense?

Watching the clip reel, I did like the nod to Jaws, with the cannister. It seemed to go by rather quickly, more of a waste than anything; but it's reassuring to think that even such film-makers as these realize they aren't working in a pure narrative vaccuum... It was a genuine nod, yes?

DMS said...

I have heard about this movie and the fact that it is wildly popular- but I didn't really know much about it. Your post was extremely helpful and it definitely made me curious to watch the movie (the reel helped too). :)

Enbrethiliel said...


Bat -- To answer your first question, I think it would be fair to treat Sharknado like an epic, because it follows the conventions: starts in medias res, has supernatural elements, has a hero whose surfing title works as a Homeric epithet, etc. I'm not sure what you mean by your second question. Fair to whom in that case? SyFy seems to have perfected the art of making movies that are "so bad they're good." They also gave us Sharktopus, you know! ;-)

I think that most American movies about killer sharks will end up homaging Jaws. Another great example is the opening scene of Shark Night 3D. Yes, I've reviewed it, too!

Jess -- When I first conceived of this post, I knew it would have to be a build up to that reel! =D

Sullivan McPig said...

What disturbed me the most was the waitress being hot for the hero and then finally hooking up with his son... Talk about twisted.

And I hated the ex wife with a vengeance. I kept waiting for her to turn into sharkbait... alas...

Enbrethiliel said...


I don't really like Tara Reid or "ex-wife figures" in general, but I wasn't too annoyed by April. She has probably weathered other storms in that big house and Fin really does seem a bit nuts the first time he calls her.

It was actually Nova the waitress whom I was very annoyed by! She can't have known Fin for long if she blurted out, "You have a wife?!?" like that, but she was coming on to him really strongly, not caring that he was her boss. It struck me as a very superficial attraction on the part of an irresponsible girl, and yet she felt a little betrayed that he never mentioned an ex-wife . . . and then a daughter . . . and finally a son. =P

There is something creepy about her switching her sights from father to son like that, but the son is much closer to her in age anyway, and I think her going for a more age-appropriate beau can even be taken as a sign of maturity! So we can write off her crush on the father the way we'd write off our own embarrassing teenage crushes and let her start with a clean slate now that she's with a more realistic prospect.

NoelCT said...

Even if I finally clocked a full 10,000 hours of piano practice, for instance, I wouldn't find myself the equal of Beethoven.

Ah, but that's because you're trying to specifically define which greatness you may or may not have the potential for. Sucking at one greatness doesn't mean you don't still have another greatness in you waiting to be uncovered so it can flourish. :)

Enbrethiliel said...


How is the example of playing a piano different from the example of dodging bullets? Or rather, why may the Wachowski brothers use a metaphor while I may not? ;-)

My very general point is that "You have greatness within you" is an empty moral if it also rests on the idea that the greatness Will Just Happen when the time is right. It's like someone with a history of infidelity and poor impulse control saying, in the middle of cheating again, "I could be faithful if I just found the right man/woman." The condition should not rest on something outside you, but on yourself.

Basically, Neo could have quit his cubicle job at any time and found a more fulfilling lifestyle for himself. But he chose to continue his drone existence--a bad choice justified by the lucky fact that he has been in the matrix his whole life. That's like a girl committing creepy and even criminal behavior because she is 100% certain that the new guy in town is a vampire/werewolf/whatever, and then being justified when she turns out to be correct and he turns out to be in love with her. =P