Sharknado‘ takes jumping the shark to an art form. It is the ultimate creative challenge. How far is too far? Within the comfortable constraints of absurdist fiction, the Sharknado franchise has come to redefine absurdity. Far-fetched is the new possible. The unimaginable is now imagined.
Why do I say this like it’s a good thing? Because it opens minds. It offers more opportunities for people to be on the same side. Sure, that can mean that people of different races, gender identities, sexual orientation, income levels, or ages can agree that Sharknado‘ is the worst invention since provel cheese. (Side note: St. Louis, that stuff is nasty!) But hello? Common ground! Or a Sharknado‘ lover may discover the most unlikely ally. Also great.
But beyond that, I think it’s a good lesson for storytellers. While we may bemoan the stark contrast to the gloriously tedious Russian classics, if we writers wish for our stories to appeal to more than just hundreds-years-dead readers, we must heed the lessons that Sharknado has to teach. And there are many. The stories do follow the basic mantra of “simple plot, complex characters.” Backstory can be dealt with, but the story must keep moving forward; the sharks aren’t going to hold off on eating you until you’ve hashed out all your grievances with your ex. Anything can be part of the plot; the more you tie together, the more glorious the groans. And dialog must sound realistic. It is blatantly obvious when a line is forced or unnatural. But good writing, that is something the actors can get into. And it shows. Don’t lose the tornado for the sharks. Or vice versa. Address every threat, and find possibilities for conflict in both.
As for life lessons, Sharknado is full of those, too. The characters grow, they dream big, and success is merely a starting point. Fame and fortune mean little if your life hangs in the balance. Or if anyone else’s does. Outside-the-box thinking is the ONLY way to succeed when facing unforeseen challenges. Teamwork is the only way to go. No matter how unusual your talents and interests may be, honing them is always worth it. Practice kindness, because that strange dude with the chainsaw you scoffed at earlier may end up saving your life. Never give up hope; you never know when you’ll re-encounter the shark that bit your arm off and get your revenge (and your ring back). And finally, it’s always the right time for a pun!
So yeah, I’m ready for Sharknado 5: Global Swarming. Are you?