OPINION

2019 federal election's dolphin-infested waters

A poster for the 1975 film Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg.

A poster for the 1975 film Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg.

Some of the deep disappointment I have with the Liberal Party's unentertaining election campaign is reminding me of my deep disappointment with the film Jaws (1975).

One had looked forward to both entertainments being thrillingly, spine-chillingly, scrotum-shrivellingly scary (in the welcome ways in which the best horror movies thrill us with terror). Alas, though, both the unforgettable 1975 movie and this forgettable 2019 Liberal effort have lacked the oomph needed to chill and shrivel a discerning consumer's terror-receptive body parts.

Let me explain.

Jaws has gone on to inspire a whole genre of shark movies (more of that genre in a moment) and most of them are far better than the clunky original.

What made 1975's Jaws a failure for me was the way in which, the suspense having been brilliantly built by nightmarish fears of a giant, man-eating shark, our first real look at the shark made some of us laugh. It looked so very fake.

You'll remember how, about 20 suspenseful minutes into the action, the brute rears up out of the water, showing itself to be as big as a house and with fangs the size and shape of surf boards. The spectre of it inspires the famous remark by a shaken shark-hunter that "We're gonna need a bigger boat!"

The trouble was, for those of us who require our drama entertainments to be just a little bit plausible, the fake shark was so laughably, ludicrously fake. Looking like a bulky thing of cardboard and plaster, it lacked everything (the sinister suppleness, the lustre of a living flesh-and-blood torpedo) that gives a true shark its special cartilaginous sharkiness. It looked soooo fake.

All of the suspense that had been built up till then, in those body parts vulnerable to exciting terror, drained away as what had till then been a horror film became, for some of us, a lame comedy. None of the bathers in the sea at Amity Island seemed in as much actual danger from this poor home-made thing as a bather in Lake Burley Griffin would be from a rogue platypus.

To digress just a little for just a moment, one reason shark-horror films are on my mind is that, a keen student of current feminism, I have just read a feature story We're Gonna Need A Better Script: Uneven Representation of Women Scientists in Shark Films. The piece by Lady Science decorates the latest online The New Inquiry.

Eerily, this under-representation of women in important roles in shark films that Lady Science diagnoses, echoes the famous under-representation of women in the parliamentary Liberal Party and the Morrison Coalition government. It has been pointed out that after this election in federal Parliament there will be more men called Andrew than there will be Liberal women.

Lady Science is scathing about the sexism of Jaws, the first shark film. She goes on to look at three shark films in which women scientists appear (they are Jaws 3D, Deep Blue Sea and The Meg) but in passing is scathing about Jaws.

"The original shark feature is Jaws," she seethes, "and few films feel more invested in portraying the sea and those who work on it, including scientists and sailors, as hypermasculine [there is no woman scientist]. Even the shark named Bruce is male in the film, leading many to suggest that the film can be read as a comment on a crisis of masculinity. The women in the movie are either young, scantily clad women who serve as Bruce's victims, or mothers and wives, none of whom enter the water and merely serve to further the association of the water with men. The gender politics of this first shark film make the inclusion of women scientists in subsequent shark films particularly noticeable."

Readers, how this kind of intellectually-stimulating analysis make one vow to watch Jaws again, soon, this time wearing one's feminist spectacles!

My point is that Scott Morrison would like his and his party's repeated mention of a Shorten government's menaced "$387 billion in new taxes" to terrify voters on the way in which a giant, malicious, man-ripping shark was meant to terrify us in Jaws. The spectre of "Labor's $387 billion in higher taxes" has been supposed to lurk, ever-present, chilling spines, in the waters of this election campaign, its terrible fin breaking the surface again and again in utterances and advertisements. For example we glimpsed that fin several times in the Prime Minister's shark-whispering presentation in Monday's televised Great Debate.

Alas for me (for I would have liked the Liberal campaign to thrillingly frighten me, the way truly great horror films do) the prospect of $387 billion in new taxes sounds not chilling but thrilling. There is so much that needs to be done in Australia for the nation's sake, lots of it for struggling and underprivileged Australians, that governments can only afford to do if they first harvest the means with taxation. Taxation - gotta love it!

Every Liberal mention of "Labor's $387 billion in new taxes" not only doesn't chill my spine but, instead, warms my heart and all my other kindly, socialist, reform-loving giblets. For me the prospect of an extra $387 billion in new taxes has not so much lurked like a shark in the deep dark waters of this election as it has frolicked in the election's surf like an endearing dolphin.