After A Shark Week Legend Shouted Out Jaws In Great White Serial Killer Special, Paul De Gelder Tells Us What Concerns Him About The Film's Fans

After A Shark Week Legend Shouted Out Jaws In Great White Serial Killer Special, Paul De Gelder Tells Us What Concerns Him About The Film's Fans

Discovery's Shark Week (now also streaming with a Max subscription) may be all about showcasing the animals, but some especially prolific hosts have become legends of the annual shark celebration. One such host is Paul de Gelder, whose story as a conservationist has a surprising start: a bull shark attack in Sydney Harbor in 2009 that cost him an arm and a leg. Now, fifteen years later, de Gelder will be featured in five specials for Shark Week in the 2024 TV schedule, and Great White Serial Killer: Sea of Blood was on the docket on July 8. De Gelder spoke with CinemaBlend about the special and some concerns he has from Jaws' legacy among fans.

Great White Serial Killer: Sea of Blood is the second of Paul de Gelder's five Shark Week 2024 specials, and it followed a team of attack investigators traveling to a fishing village in Mexico after a slew of fatal incidents, including one just weeks before their arrival in the Sea of Cortez. They discovered a new great white shark hot spot, and it was up to them to figure out a way to protect the lives of the fishermen as well as the sharks. About halfway through the special, de Gelder agreed with fellow investigator Brandon McMillan that the scenario is like Jaws, "sadly with the vigilantes that want to kill the monster."

Jaws is of course one of the most iconic horror films of all time, down to John Williams on the soundtrack, with a rogue great white shark attacking and devouring people. It's a great movie, but not one that truly represents great white behavior. Following one of the attacks in the film, locals reacted by killing any sharks they could catch. When I spoke with Paul de Gelder about Shark Week 2024 and the threat of vigilantism against sharks in Great White Serial Killer, he shared whether he's noticed Jaws impacting the public's perception of sharks in a negative way, saying:

What I have actually seen is the reverse. I've found that most people I've interacted with have said to me when they've spoken about Jaws, 'That's what got me interested in sharks.' And I would bet so much money that the majority of marine biologists and ocean conservationists, they all loved Jaws. The thing that concerns me the most is when people can't separate reality from fiction and they think a movie is real life. But Jaws is from the '70s. We're in the 2020s. I feel like we've come a long way as a species. We should be able to tell reality from fiction. 47 Meters [Down], The Meg, The Shallows. It's just entertainment. Come and watch Shark Week, if you want education and entertainment.

According to de Gelder, Jaws' legacy isn't necessarily that it scared everybody away from the water for good, but rather interested many people in sharks. The potential problem is when the line isn't drawn between fact and fiction as a reminder that sharks are not in fact movie monsters with vendettas. Anybody who watches Shark Week each year probably doesn't need this particular lesson, though! Steven Spielberg also spoke out about reactions to Jaws that affected real-life sharks.

Great White Serial Killer: Sea of Blood was more somber than many other Shark Week specials, even including the production that ultimately embraced the "terrible idea" of filming world famous orcas. Paul de Gelder opened up about filming in the Sea of Cortez so soon after a fatal shark attack occurred there, saying:

It was a really emotional one. 'Great White Serial Killer' sounds like a big showy Shark Week name, but this is actually a very serious investigation into why white sharks are going to these waters off of the small fishing village of Yavaros and killing fishermen while they're in the water. They're not on the boat fishermen, they're divers collecting the clams and things like that. We went and talked to everyone involved, the people that were on the boat during the attack, the families, the local community, and tried to come together to try and work out how we can not only keep the fishermen safe, but also the sharks so that the fishermen aren't going out there trying to get retribution, because this is their whole life.

As viewers saw, this special devoted time to the loved ones of the fisherman who died due to great whites as well as the investigation into the sharks themselves, and the end result was a shark cage that may be able to help the people in the village continue with their ocean livelihoods without risking their lives... or the lives of the sharks by extension. De Gelder went on:

The ocean is how they survive, and if they're too scared to go out diving, because the great whites are there, then their community collapses. No one wants that, so we really went with our hearts and our heads to try and help that community.

We can only hope that the efforts of Paul de Gelder and Co. have truly helped the community in Mexico. It was be nice if Shark Week 2025 could follow up and check in with how they're doing a year later, but that doesn't often happen on Discovery's sharkiest week of the year.

If you missed Great White Serial Killer: Sea of Blood when it aired on Discovery on July 8, you can find it streaming now on Max. Shark Week will continue on Discovery until the final special of the year airs on Saturday, July 13 at 9 p.m. ET, so keep tuning in!