This week in ‘merica, we are celebrating our favorite toothy-mouthed, big finned predators by not only naming a day in their honor, but an entire week: Shark Week. It mainly started as a small television event on the Discovery Channel with a week of shark-themed shows aimed at raising respect and awareness for sharks, but today if you tuned in to Shark Week you might find yourself watching shows such as “Spawn of Jaws” and “Top 10 Sharkdown” and “Sharkpocalypse” and “Alien Sharks” and “Shark Attack Survival Guide” and “Great White Invasion” and “Sharkzilla” and “Great White Serial Killer” and endless other similar titles. Those shows are for real… I literally just went through the Discovery Channel primetime lineup to see what millions of people will be watching this week.
Over its many years, Shark Week has grown into a full-on frenzy of participants including other tv networks, educational organizations, marine science centers, schools, aquariums, and many other groups all wanting to get onboard with Shark Week to help raise awareness and respect for sharks (remember: that was the original mission behind why Shark Week was created). My only problem with it is: for every good message that an organization works so hard to try to get across, just by looking at the titles of those shows, it seems like the true purpose of Shark Week is being lost to ‘sensationalism and entertainment’ (as someone put it) and I couldn’t agree more. Sharks are COOL, but I think there are better ways at getting that across than with all the negative, fear-creating discourse that these shows promote. Disclaimer: I do realize that many of these programs actually do have very good conservation messages and factual science hidden within the action and entertainment. But is that what people are really remembering and taking away after they are done watching? Maybe. I don’t think so, but that’s up for debate. Places like the one I work at currently, and ones I have worked at in the past work very hard to disband the myths and stigma of sharks as ‘vicious man-eating monsters’, so watching some of these shows is kind of disheartening. <sigh> Sorry for all that, it’s just that I LOVE sharks, and they need our help, love, and support, and I don’t think that “Sharknado” really gets that point across. …but is it ridiculously entertaining? Absolutely.
Ok, enough marine scientist commentary for now… Let’s celebrate sharks with some art! I was commissioned to do these pictures for someone who was presenting at an a conference for the American Elasmobranch Society (elasmobranch = sharks, rays, and skates) and she used these pictures in her presentation to lighten up the mood and break up all the text. People got a kick out of them and I had a fun time figuring out how to draw sharks. Verdict: they turned out cute, but I might stick to penguins and rainbow cows…
Here are a few samplings from the collection: