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Autism in Jaws

What you would find in this blog?

-introduction to why Vikram wrote this blog

-16 different points of view of how Vikram relates Jaws to his autistic traits.

Have fun reading this blog and learning about autism at the same time!

The introduction to Autism in Jaws

Autism in Jaws

No one needs any introduction to the word Jaws, even if it is nothing to do with the movie we already know it from, a series of horrific deaths due to a massive great white shark as he is pursued by a police chief, Martin Brody a marine biologist named Hooper and a fisherman called Quint. Before being a movie, Jaws was a best-selling novel of the same name written by Peter Benchley which was as successful as its later film adaptation. As a movie fanatic, it came to me as a kind of a revelation that while movies have to interest me by speaking to me and if they win me over, in the end, resulting in me becoming a fan of theirs, then regardless of their success, I often believe they are worth watching again.

I was introduced to Jaws at the age of 7 by my grandfather, who gave me the book although before I read it, the very same night, I saw the movie (that Steven Spielberg directed) with him and my grandmother (by pleasant happenstance, we went to visit Kenya the next night and returned in the New Year when I was 8). What I am surprised by is I never screamed or shouted fearfully at all (although given the tension I felt watching it, when I wanted to leave, I was encouraged to stay around for the climactic battle between the three heroes and the shark which is for me one of the highlights of the movie thanks to its score by John Williams which throughout the movie, came to represent when the shark is unseen or about to be noticed). When I read the book and saw how different it was, I understood that movies, for the most part, will not always be exactly the same as the book.

When I was 17, I realised all along that (without even having known it) that Jaws had always been a favourite film of mine and when I began to watch documentaries about how the film was made and noticed direct connections to famous people (or elements) who I idolise, it was here I abided by the above theory that, no matter whether a movie is successful or not, if we think it provides a good (no I mean great) story, then it is worth watching as many times as possible. I was later fortunate enough to have seen an interview with Benchley in another place that I love as much as Kenya, Singapore which thrilled me (he was visiting an Aquatic centre in the country which has now closed). Ironically, a Benchley-related filmThe Deep which was based on another book of the same name by him did not fare as well as Jaws although I loved it too and more so its remake Into the Blue which was released on the 30th Anniversary of Jaws, though (be that as it may) other films that were big box office hits such as Schindler’s List, Driving Miss Daisy and Star Wars (the first two by co-incidence were also Jaws-connected since Schindler’s Listwas also helmed by Spielberg and the producers of Jaws also produced Driving Miss Daisy) are among those I also believe worthy of watching again

Thanks to being a bearer of Autism (in this case, Asperger's), movies are one of my major interests in life, even though I am a picky viewer although the above theory of any movie as long as its story has won us over whether or not it is successful is worth watching again is both an Autistic theory and one on a general basis. The production of Jaws is as known as the movie itself due to the unavailability of technology at the time which only called for mechanical effects regarding the shark and due to that, the shark's mechanisms were affected when in the water making the shark work and off repeatedly as well as the script falling behind schedule which resulted in an overbudget as well as overschedule and it was here that (thanks to viewing numerous documentaries about the film's production) that I was inspired to write what I thought was seemingly Autistic during that time which I wish to share since they remind me very much of moments where I exhibited traits of my Autistic side before I was diagnosed (I was at 9 but not told until I was 13 and believe that had I known earlier that I had Autism I would not have done things which I now realise were not my fault even though I am proud to be Autistic).


The 16 observation points of the Autism in Jaws

Obsession and straying away from the main topic

Producer David Brown and his colleague Richard Zanuck heard about Benchley's novel thanks to the former's wife. They loved it so much and were fortunate to get a preview copy of the book, which they read  overnight, and were convinced (thanks to not just the book but also a card accompanying it) that the book would make a good movie. Later however, Brown claimed that had they read the book twice, they would never have made it into a movie because of the difficulties in filming some of the sequences. When the film rights to Jaws were acquired by Brown and Zanuck, theirfirst choice to direct the film was not Steven Spielberg but a man called Jim Sturges, who had just one film to his name, although he was insistent on referring to (and perhaps remaking) the shark as a whale which irritated Brown and Zanuck and caused them to drop him from the director’s chairafter which Spielberg was brought aboard as director thanks to the producers having worked with him on his first feature film The Sugarland Express. Before he was signed up, Spielberg had expressed interest in directing before Sturges was fired and told the producers that if no one was going to direct it anymore, then he would be happy to, something that worked in his favour and he briefly read the novel, comparing it to his television film Duel about a truck driver harassing a businessman upon which it excited him to be signed upthinking that Jaws also relied on harassment themes but on a deadly basis.


How it reminds me of me

Growing up as a child, until the age of 22, when I partook in group activities I often used to suggest themes for our stories (as it is very common for group members to suggest ideas for the plays they are going to be in as long as they accept the final result) which strayed very far (and unnecessarily) from what the medium was going to be. I remember in my last year of intermediate for example when I was in performing arts lessons, we were going to do a story that would relate to children at play in their playground. I was just becoming a fan of Will Smith and Pokémon although in this case, I wanted to give reference more to the former than the latter when it came to this play. I was strictly told that there would be no such reference which was right in the end (and abided by me).


As an Autistic, I have had many desires in life to achieve although some of them despite still to be achieved I am waiting yet I am grateful for what I have done so recently and I look forward to achieving much more. While I am reluctant to talk about my personal life here, one thing is that it hurts me not to have a girlfriend which is exacerbated by no dating experience and its defeat (in dating) resulted in me going around telling people in relationships that I am not in a relationship which thanks to counselling slowly ceased over time and alerted me to restrict that habit only to people I know or friends of mine. It seems an obsession to this day and this is perhaps the only goal in my life which remains unfulfilled so while it seems unlikely that I will ever have a girlfriend in this life, I can only hope I will do so in the next (although I do hope I can have dating experience in this life which I wish to entertain for not just myself but the sake of friends who support me to be in a relationship and have confidence that I will in this life).


Fear due to circumstances

Steven Spielberg, despite his enthusiasm to direct the film, after signing up, somehow became reluctant to be typecast as a ‘Truck and Shark’ director and hoped to leave Universal Studios to join 20th Century Fox for another film instead which happened to be Lucky Lady but his appeal to do so was denied. Seeing that Spielberg seemed to be having second thoughts about doing the film (possibly even dropping it at the last minute) Brown helped his director stick with the project saying that once Jaws was finished, Spielberg could make all the movies that he wanted which would happen in years to come.


While casting for Jaws, Roy Scheider was the third actor cast (in the role of the police chief Martin Brody) after Spielberg met him at a Christmas party two years after the release of the film The French Connection which starred Scheider even though at first Spielberg was apprehensive at doing so due to feeling that Scheider would play the same character in the film although he was wrong in the end. When Richard Dreyfuss was approached by Spielberg for the role of Hooper after seeing him in American Graffiti (1973), he declined to do the film because he did not see himself as the right fit for the role. Dreyfuss seemed to regret his choice after the premiere of the film The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (in which he starred in) as he thought he had done a horrible job in it and felt his career was over at which he contacted Spielberg again and said that if the role of Hooper was still not filled he would take it, and fortunately that did work in Dreyfuss' favour.


How it reminds me of me

There are moments in life where I have often had second thoughts about doing something that I wanted to do and either pulled out at the last minute or halfway through doing it, Istopped interruptingly even if there were no drastic measures. In later years, I have come to know that one must not be afraid of failing something but not trying it which is the other failure and perhaps the real thing to be afraid of and since then, forthe most part, I never let hesitation hold me back. In fact when I turn down something and at the last moment regret it, sometimes I try to ask for another retry there although I have to respect whatever the decision is and fortunately most of the time I do get another chance.


Overdue work

After Benchley and several writers worked on turning his book into a screenplay once the rights were purchased, Brown and Zanuck hired a friend of Spielberg's, Carl Gottlieb, to finalize the script through another rewrite, omitting some of the subplots within the book which seemed to show the characters in poor light despite the book's success and as a result the characters, especially the three lead characters became more likeable. Gottlieb was also cast as a character from the book, but be that as it may, due to a possible actor’s strike before the shooting of the film that did not allow the script to be complete and pushed shooting up to the following year. As a result, after the director and his team arrived on Martha’s Vineyard which would serve as the location of the fictional Amity Island where the novel takes place, Gottlieb would be writing for a scene that would only shoot the following day


How it reminds me of me

It came to me as a kind of a revelation that while some academic students are overdue in their work or seem lazy in it, that idleness is because they have not discovered themselves as people and what is important to them in life. I have certainly felt that way during all my academic years although at very rare a time did I have either overdue work or seeming failure in exams or tests since most of my results were good in university (although it cannot be remembered in confirmation what it was for grammar let alone intermediate).

Fight in frustration

There were at least two food fights during the filming of the movie which was delayed due to how the shark was malfunctioning (and as a result going on and off in working)thanks to water intervening in its mechanics which slowed it down. As a result, filming went both over budget and overschedule. Scheider who seemed to be frustrated with how delayed how everything was going, started a food fight at a buffet which was mostly dessert save for a few gravy and potato pies (as well as mince pies) after he whispered about it to the son of Verna Fields, who was the movie’s editor. That did happen when he flung a gravy and potato pie at Spielberg and in retaliation, Dreyfuss hit Scheider with his own dessert resulting in Scheider throwing three desserts this time but his unsuccessful attempt to hit Dreyfuss resulted in another person getting hit. Zanuck and Brown realizing what was about to happen immediately left and they were right because soon everyone was throwing food at each other. At the strong behest of the producers, knowing that if production stopped, it would never resume, filming still continued despite the shark not working at times and following an exacerbation in filming when the fishing boat the Orca used by the shark hunter Quint to find the shark with Brody and Hooper sank with the entire crew much like the shark did once and much like that time, frogmen were sent to bring it back up to the surface although this time, unlike the first two times the shark did not succeed in water testing, everyone felt that if the boat sank again, the production would be breached. Spielberg eventually decided to use the camera for the shark's point of view after running out of things to shoot and this seemed a useful (as well as paying-off) technique until the shark finally worked well enough for him to shoot the last third of the movie. Following the conclusion of filming, another food fight broke out but in a humorous circumstance.


How it reminds me of me

During hardships in a person’s life when there is what appears to be a form of devastation in their family, it exacerbates the sadness that they are already going through and pushes each other away and they appear to see each other as an enemy and not a blood relation. That has certainly happened with me three times in my life although it was most of all wherein during family tension in regards to how my parents often protest what I do due to irrational fear that they entertain which has no meaning which is harder on them than it is on me (even though it is reasonable parental protection, as is known parents at times should be allowed to make their children take their own decision as not it is not an evil one). The most arduous moment in my life was when my uncle died of covid two years which certainly exacerbated family conflict due to their concern for my choices which were misused by them and caused them to see me as an enemy as much as vice versa. None of the year was enjoyable almost like we could not stand the sight of each other. One day, when I was assaulted with fear by my parents, I could take it no longer when they said I was pushing people away and upon assaulting myself, they realized then that they had not been fair to me and apologised profoundly going on to say that they would not repeat their mistakes and respect whatever I wanted to do in life. By the end of the year, our 'wars' as I liked to call family conflict had died down and we realized then that devastation of any kind, as tragic as it may be has the potential to push people apart regarding an already discomforting situation but it can be avoided. Since then, we have been doing our best to mend our familial relationship and have a better understanding of each other because we know that not only will it help us as a family but also my uncle’s soul has found peace as a result of that and he is proud of seeing how stronger our family relationship has become.

Disrupting the shoot

During production of Jaws before filming even began, Spielberg was also involved in rewrites of the script and turning the movie into a screenplay but his work he kept to himself as far as the new ending of the movie was concerned. In the book, during the battle against the shark, the three menreturn to shore several times during the hunt during which Hooper dies on the second day (when he is lowered into the shark cage to try to wound the shark) and it is only on the third day that while sinking the boat, the shark is finally killed due to excessive wounds and barrels shot onto it although Quint dies in the process much as he does in the final film and Brody is left as the only survivor of the terrifying aquaticordeal as he returns to shore.

The new ending had Brody on the sinking boat after Quint was seized by the shark (different to the book where during harpooning it, his leg gets entangled and he drowns after the shark dies since he is pulled into the deep, dark waters). When the shark tries to get at Brody, he throws a scuba tank in its mouth and after fending it off with a tall harpoon stick which is taken from him by the shark, he later shoots the tank and it causes the shark to blow up (as a result). Hooper is also revealed to have survived (since Steven wanted him to due to having immensely enjoyed working with Dreyfuss) and the two men return to shore. When Spielberg proposed his new ending to Benchley, the latter was dissatisfied with this and kept trying to tell Spielberg not to do it even though Spielberg did try to convince him that, unlike the ending in the book, the new ending would excite the audience. Benchley strenuously stayed with his disapproval of the new ending and several times during the shoot came in and kept screaming that thenew ending should not be done and finally had to be not only removed from set but on banning terms told not to return until filming wrapped. When the movie opened, Benchley after seeing the new ending, regretted that he tried to disrupt the shooting and he even apologized to Spielberg for his actions.


How it reminds me of me

When I was 9 years old, there was a play known as the catwalk. I auditioned for it but I was declined from partaking. I asked my mother to talk to the organisers many times and I was given the same answer that I would not be a good fit because, at the time, it was harder for me to follow instructions most of the time than it is now. I was not satisfied with the answer, and many times I would just barge onto the shoot next to the others, (attempting to dress) as a centaur (since I had a fascination with centaurs then), having to be ushered off the set repeatedly. After this, I gained a reputation as a naughty person and for reasons unknown (perhaps because I had not been told of my recent Autistic diagnosis) I seemed to enjoy living up to that. Finally, just as production on the catwalk was about to wrap, the organisers decided to give me a role but it would not be as part of the play.

Instead, at the end of it all, I would be giving a speech in front of the audience which depicted the production itself and the ups and downs experienced as the play was brought to the fruition of its final result. This seemed to be a compromise on their part to provide satisfaction for me.


Nervousness both in the present and future

Despite proposing his new ending to the movie from the book, Spielberg was not actually present for the final shoot when the shark blows up because he was afraid at the wrap party (since the actual end of the final scene was filmed only after the first wrap party and there would be a third after the final scene was filmed) from what he heard that the crew were going to throw him overboard despite it being in humour so he left as soon as possible.

When he got to Boston he reunited with Dreyfuss who was already there before him and when Dreyfuss asked him about the final shoot and Spielberg told him it was happening at present although without him, Dreyfuss noticed how stressed Spielberg seemed to be and reassured him that it would be completely alright when they returned to Los Angeles the next day. It is now thought that Steven's energy and time were wasted during that hellish production which caused that seeming breakdown.

He also thought in the end that the film due to going over budget and delays would destroy his career something also shared by production designer Joe Alves (who was responsible for selecting Martha's Vineyard for the filming)and the producers since preview audiences knew the shark was not real but all of them were proven wrong when audiences laughed, cheered and (above all) screamed at the movie because they all loved it.


How it reminds me of me

One thing I have learnt in life is that problems are not problems but the problem is how we see the problem that we have. We must instead focus on a better viewpoint when presented with a certain challenge and turn it into a project that succeeds in the end. The fear of it should not be failing it but not trying it which is certainly what Steven did during the troubled production of the movie regarding filming. However, his days at sea which kept him there due to the shark malfunctioning as well as other issues certainly wore him down and even at the end of filming, he thought his career was going to be over but was wrong when the film opened and became a huge hit.


Given the above, it would certainly apply to both Autistics and neurotypicals in that when we are presented with a working schedule which is complex or arduous, it certainly takes up our emotional capacity to a point that we feel that even if our work is complete, it may be the end of our professional lives, especially if we have fallen behind in the work itself. I remember sometimes having to do a university assignment I found out about at the last minute that was supposed to have been submitted the next day andmiraculously, thanks to my dear parents (who have supported me during my academic years and shared my interest as well as) who I owe it to for moving us to New Zealand so I could have a better life as an Autistic, I was able to complete and hand it in.

Think it’ll work?

Jaws marked Spielberg’s second collaboration with music composer John Williams who earlier composed music for The Sugarland Express. The now-recognisable and simplistic two-note score has come to represent all kinds of sharks (although mostly the great white shark and even became a symbol for danger in any form both approaching and seen). When Williams saw the movie, he thought it was similar to a pirate film and thought a seeming pirate-themed score would do justice to it. The next day, Williams was ready to present to Spielberg what the music would be like on the piano but when Spielberg heard it he thought it was funny and thought that Williams was preluding to make him laugh before actually starting to play the theme. However Williams clarified that was going to be the music heard in the movie and after Spielberg requested Williams to play the score a couple of times more, he realized that Williams was right in the selection of the theme due to its simplicity and trusted his judgement that the chosen music would work well. Thanks to this not only did Williams receive an Academy Award for his music (that too his first on a movie that Spielberg directed) but also without the score, the movie would only have been as half as successful as it is today.


How it reminds me of me

The beauty of my parents is that they are spiritually encouraging, supportive, and motivating and share my interests with so many others. In life, when I have challenges or worries, I always turn to my parents for help and most of the time, I am provided with solutions by them which also most of the time works well. Sometimes even if things go otherwise, it paves the way for them to make another suggestion that does work well for me. Still, we sometimes feel that the suggested techniques may not work in our favour but their affirmation of it being able to work is certainly the foundation of a technique working out well in the end.


Jaws was responsible for creating the first summer blockbuster through its worldwide gross of $472,412,960 and gave both a light and dark emphasis as well as interest in real sharks. The movie went on to win three Academy awards for editing, sound and musical score (as mentioned earlier) Most of the time, however, when it came to this subject, people only saw sharks as villainous, believing that they purposely set out to attack humans for food which was also what Benchley and Spielberg believed at the time as well.

Sharks in movies after Jaws were always seen as creatures to keep away from since they would appear to ‘kill for the sake of it’ and shark studies as well as the subject of sharks, in general, would bring to mind no shark other than the great white, making people think that all sharks were like the great white shark as well as the tiger shark, the oceanic whitetip shark, the bull shark and the hammerhead shark just to name a few, always out to attack people.

However, later on, perhaps as a result of this interest in sharksand the discovery of less menacing species, such as the whale shark and the basking shark,  Benchley and Spielberg were among those who started to understand that sharks do not prefer to hunt people as part of their diet and only do so due to mistaking them for their usual food. We began to further our study of sharks under the auspices of their history, learning that they have been around for years, even longer than dinosaurs and understood that not all sharks are like the great white and that there's a versatile spectrum from the whale shark to the lemon shark and even the angel shark. Shark conservation projects since then have fought for the survival of sharks.

Sharks are essential to the food chain. Without them, there would be an imbalance in the ocean. Their reputation as blood-thirsty killers of man is not accurate or fair. They have had a home on earth longer than us. It would be a great shame if they disappeared from the sea forever.


How it reminds me of me

I was diagnosed with Asperger's when I was 9 but was not told until I was 13. I had always been weird before that and even after that although it took time for me to figure out right from wrong and in the end fulfil one of the main purposes in mankind's life: to discover what makes them who they are. Many Autistics are thought of as weird or burdens and while being frowned upon by those who see them that way are equally supported by those who see their capability. I certainly felt like that at times but as I was getting organised with my life, I began to realise not just what makes me the person I am but also where I stand in life. I achieved so much greatness along the way through two academic certificates, one degree, being a writer and an active advocate in the Autistic community such as a facilitator for one of the organisations that represents Autistics.

Autism has been labelled a disability and almost compared to other disabilities such as being in a wheelchair or an inability to see but thanks to organisations like the Autism Rights Movement, what is also known as Autism is completely separated from actual disabilities which are physical rather than psychological (or unseen). It is not a fair statement to say at all that Neurodiversity (another word that subsumes all kinds of Autism such as Asperger, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Tourette's and, of course, Autism itself) is a kind of disability when it can actually be seen as a kind of gift for those who have it and gives them an inspirational meaning in their lives.

Numerous Autistics famous or not have gone on to find many forms of greatness in their lives not just through academic degrees, singing songs or acting in movies but also by bringing to fruition something in their lives which to them is gratifying in and of itself. As much as neurotypical (normal people or at least those who do not bear Autism), those with Autism have every right to succeed in the world and achieve their heart's desire.


Thank you to the Xabilities committee for producing this blog.

The team:

Author - Vikram Wagh

Chief Editor - Aidan

Graphic designer - Tamara Grant

Producer - Xabilities

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