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Why We're Fascinated by Shark Week

Jul 5th, 2024

Shark Week is coming! It makes a splash every summer in July or August. If you aren’t familiar with this spine-tingling television series, you can catch it on the Discovery Channel starting July 7th. Once hooked, however, you’ll most likely be compelled to binge watch all the Shark Week classics beginning with the first episode in 1988. This cultural phenomenon has captured the attention of viewers worldwide. But why do we love Shark Week so much? Let’s dive into the depths of our fascination with sharks.

Why Shark Week is so popular

Shark Week originally aired on Discovery Channel to promote conservation efforts and to correct misconceptions about sharks. Its immediate success came on the heels of the 1975 summer blockbuster movie Jaws, which had elevated the fear and fascination with sharks in popular culture. As interest in sharks continued to rise, the Discovery Channel continued devoting their content to conservation and correcting the misconceptions that Jaws helped to spread. Discovery Channel actively invested in Shark Week by sending top documentarians, photographers and videographers out on assignment. And, the audience gobbled up the programming. Here’s why:

It's thrilling

Sharks are mysterious and dangerous. They are ancient predators that have survived for millions of years. Each episode of Shark Week promises to unveil the secrets of these cagy creatures, their hunting strategies, migratory patterns, and often too-close interactions with humans. The adrenaline rush of watching these encounters offers a unique blend of fear, awe and respect for nature. Whether watching a great white shark break the surface of the ocean in pursuit of a seal or a school of tiger sharks circling a cage diver, Shark Week keeps us on the edge of our seats.

It's primal

Galeophobia is a term used for a fear of sharks. This primal fear, imbedded deep inside of us, was essential to our survival over hundreds of thousands of years. When our brain perceives any kind of danger, it signals us to pay attention and produces a rush of adrenaline. The thrill of watching Shark Week is a way to subject ourselves to something scary and yet still have some control over our level of anxiety.

It's iconic

Over the years, Shark Week has become a pop culture icon. From casual viewers to die-hard shark enthusiasts, it has spawned countless memes, merchandise and even themed food and drinks. It seems to foster a sense of community among viewers, sparking conversations and even Shark Week parties! For thirty-six years it has managed to capture the imagination of audiences across the generations.

It’s the perfect mix

We live in an era of on-demand streaming and binge-watching. And, Shark Week remains the longest running cable television programming event in history. Its powerful combination of storytelling and real-life drama keeps people tuning in again and again. It’s the perfect mix of science and drama.  

It’s a glimpse

Shark Week viewers know that they are in for a treat as they dive into the incredible underwater world of sharks. The ocean has long been a focal point for science, film and television. The breathtaking voyages into the deepest corners of the sea delight all ages. It deepens our curiosity, heightens our fascination and lets our imagination run wild.

It’s important

Shark Week also sheds light on the crucial role that sharks play in marine ecosystems and the conservation challenges they face. Insights from marine biologists, shark experts and conservationists change our perspective and offer us a way to turn our fear into appreciation. Big or small, sharks deserve our respect. Pop culture would have us believe that sharks are mindless eating machines. Shark Week works to dispel these untruths in the hopes that people will see sharks for what they are, an important part of the marine ecosystem, vital to ocean health.

It's sensational

Although Shark Week was created to correct misconceptions about sharks, it has fallen under attack in recent years for airing increasingly dramatic programs to garner viewers and popularity. This was especially true for the program Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, which became one of the most watched programs in Shark Week history due to the backlash and controversy that it generated. Unfortunately, the focus on sensationalism may have overshadowed the need for conservation and education.

Dive in

So, why do we love Shark Week? It's the perfect storm of adventure, education, community, and sheer entertainment. It taps into our primal instincts, feeds our curiosity about the natural world, and leaves us in awe of these majestic creatures. Whether you tune in for the heart-pounding action or the fascinating insights into shark behavior, Shark Week has something for everyone.

So, grab your popcorn, settle in on the couch and get ready for the next wave of shark-filled excitement. Prepare to dive in and be amazed!

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Photo courtesy Pixabay/Dieterich01

Author of Article

Barbara Bauer is a Georgia-based blogger obsessed with inspiring others in the pursuit of self-development. She enjoys exploring the outdoors, drinking way too much coffee, and speaking with a British accent whenever possible.

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