Nat Geo WILD: Bum Rap – A History of Vilifying Sharks

Peter Benchley, author of the 1970s runaway bestseller that spawned the movie ‘Jaws’, famously regretted his portrayal of  sharks in his fiction.  With the hype around the book and movie, a whole generation learned when it comes to sharks, you “Don’t Go in the Water”.

But who could blame them?  You’ve seen images of sharks’ gaping, tooth-lined jaws.  They certainly can look villianous, and so demonizing them as man-eating monsters is not a huge leap for those who don’t know better.  But as ‘Shark Attack Experiment LIVE’ will show, we have little to fear from sharks, and infact are much more of a danger to them.

Untold millions of sharks are killed yearly in overfishing and environmental encroachment by humans, yet the number of global shark-attack fatalities in any given year is between five and fifteen.  More people are struck and killed by lightning each year.

Benchley was not alone in his initial portrayal of sharks.  There is a long history of depicting these animals as man-eating monsters, worthy only of our fear.

Benchley worked to undo the damage his work did to the public perception of sharks by passionately advocating for their conservation later in his life.  But there is still work to do in changing the public-perception of these creatures and educating the public about conservation.  We hope ‘Shark Attack Experiment’ will be one of many steps towards that goal.

Read more about sharks’ depiction throughout history and popular culture >>


Wildlife