BOSTON (CBS) – Why are we so obsessed with sharks? There’s no disputing the grip they have on popular culture. The Discovery Channel just aired its 30th annual “Shark Week,” and even President Trump is said to be fascinated by shark videos, even forcing Stormy Daniels to watch one during one of the get-togethers they never had.

It seems like every summer, our focus on sharks becomes more intense, and this year, with beach closures amid dramatic sightings like the one off Wellfleet last week, it’s worse than ever.

An aerial image of a great white shark off of Truro, August 7, 2018. (WBZ-TV)

So what explains this never-ending cultural compulsion?

It’s certainly not the actual threat posed by sharks, you are more likely to die from a dog attack than from shark assault. But shark-related tourism is booming, a phenomenon most likely tied to an iconic cultural moment for baby-boomers.

A picture of the mechanical shark used in the 1975 movie “Jaws.” (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The 1975 blockbuster “Jaws” was the smash-hit movie version of a best-selling novel, and it was the top-grossing movie in history before “Star Wars” came along.

You might be interested to know that we weren’t always this interested in sharks. It took a series of shark attacks off the Jersey shore in the summer of 1916 to make sharks a public enemy, one we’re doing such a good job of fighting that the worldwide shark population has rapidly dwindled.

But still, you wonder – why do we dwell on a nightmare that is so astronomically unlikely to happen?

A great white shark feeding on a whale carcass off the coast of Provincetown in August 2017. (Image Credit: Joanne Jarzobski)

I have no snappy answer, but I do have a prediction – as long as sharks make for good business, and the mass media keeps hyping the shark threat, we’ll keep on gawking, and cringing.

Share your thoughts with me via email at, or use Twitter, @kelleratlarge.

  1. I’m not focused on sharks, Jon, and I spend a lot of time in shark country.

    Perhaps it is as simple a thing as “if it bleeds, it leads”, the mantra of the news media,,,something you hint at in your essay. The problem was that you didn’t take it beyond the “hint” stage. Shame on you.

    Don’t try to blame others for a phenomenon that you in the press have created.