Somebody on Facebook made an offhand reference to Sharknado the other day. I had no idea what a “Sharknado” could be, except the mind-numbingly stupid idea suggested by the phonetics of the “word.” It turns out that is exactly what it was. Despite the fact that sharks exist in places like Florida and tornadoes exist in places like Oklahoma (not a lot of overlap there), the movie is about tornadoes that pick up sharks and throw them through the air at unsuspecting people. (The sharks are, of course, still alive and hungry contrary to everything we know about biological entities that get picked up in twisters.)
I once wondered why the “Sci-fi” channel changed its name to the “Syfy channel.” I now know that it must have been the threat of false advertising lawsuits that spurred this change. (Of course, this doesn’t explain why the “History channel” isn’t the Sasquatch Alien channel.) Sci-fi is short for science fiction. Let’s break that down. First, the reference to “science” means one would expect some speculative universe which is constrained by scientific laws–either the laws of physics as we know them or some reasonable set of scientific principles by which a universe could be held together. It is not a magic universe, as required by Sharknado. The target demo for science-fiction is geeks and nerds (said in the most complimentary sense of those words)–in other words, people who overthink (or, at least, think.) The target demo for Sharknado seems to be pubescent boys failing science and in need of an opportunity to masturbate to Tara Reid.
Second, fiction is a creatively-engineered story, and I’m not even sure Sharknado qualifies on this front either. The creative component seems to be limited to cramming two things that terrify people together into one word or phrase. This may work in some cases, such as with the term “divorce lawyer.” However, the two concepts that one smashes together have to have some credulity as a unified threat. The fact that motherf#$%ing Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t save Snakes on a Plane, should have made this apparent to all.
As a thought exercise, let’s try some examples:
1.) Which of the following terror-inspiring dualities are devices around which a movie plot could be built, and which are just awesome rock band names?
c.) Black Mamba-Teen Driver
e.) Spiders in a Tuk-tuk
i.) Mother-in-Law / Attorney-at-Law
By the way, if the Syfy channel comes out with any of the above movies or series, please shoot me an email so I can claim my Executive Producer credit. It’s more likely this will be the starting line up for Lollapalooza 2025.