clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Sharknado 2: the movie's 10 greatest lessons

Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) fights off a shark in the subway
Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) fights off a shark in the subway
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

This article is for people who have already witnessed the greatness of Sharknado 2: The Second One. There are spoilers here.

On Wednesday, the pleasing garbage fire of a film known as Sharknado 2 premiered on SyFy. On the surface, it's a made-for-TV movie about severe weather phenomena, sea creatures, and the crystal blue eyes of Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering).

But it's so much more than that.

Underneath all of the low-fi special effects is an ambitious film setting out to dispense messages about our country, how we live, our healthcare system, and even race (we think). Here's what we (think we) learned from the movie:

1) Sharknadoes leave you with PTSD

There are very few messages that this movie wants to convey, but one that seems to resonate through the movie's brittle bones is how human beings address post-traumatic stress disorder. We watch Fin Shepard battle through the residual trauma left by the first Sharknado. This man sees sharks everywhere. They haunt him in his dreams and shake him to his core.

Fin's pronounced PTSD asserts that Sharknadoes, like major disasters and tragedies in American history, aren't inconsequential. They leave scars. And no one is the same after them.

The film also goes a step further than an "everybody hurts" message. It also makes clear that not all people care. You might think that Fin, with his damage and all, would be sensitive to the trauma of a Sharknado. Yet, what does Fin do when he's in the hospital, visiting a newly-maimed April (Tara Reid)? He makes fun of her.

"The next time you offer to lend someone a hand, don't be so literal about it," Fin says while clutching the only hand April has left or, in simpler terms: "Screw your PTSD, April. Papa has a joke to make."

2) The tribal power of chainsaws


This is a scene that happened in Sharknado 2. (Syfy)

In Sharknado canon, chainsaws are mythical weapons, the last fool-proof, fail-safe defense we have against sharks. In the Sharknado universe, you are not safe from sharks on dry land or if you have a gun. You are only safe when you have procured a chainsaw.

3) Matt Lauer is the third most important character

In this version of New York City, Matt Lauer is the people's rock. He provides information and warmth, and the man radiates safety. Apparently, in times of a disaster (like a Sharknado), the Today show, along with Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan's talk show, run for hours on end. Which brings us to my next point…

4) Sharknado 2 is a sci-fi movie, but not the way you think

While the Sharknado franchise's basic premise — sharks being sucked up into a tornado — pushes the limits of reality, that's actually not its most daring science-fiction move. It also experiments with temporal stasis and counter geography. For instance, the Today show never goes off the air, indicating that the day's events all occurred during Matt Lauer's shift, or, more simply, that there is no concept of time in the Sharknado universe.

And the movie also plays with the audience's sense of geography. The opening scene of the movie takes place on an airplane flying into JFK. We don't know where it's from, but since Fin and April (Tara Reid) are onboard, there's an implicit assumption that it's California-based (the first movie took place in Los Angeles). The pilot's instructions are in English, indicating that this is a domestic flight. Keep that in mind, as the plane encounters the beginnings of a Sharknado before landing at JFK and appears to be flying over a body of water.

Water is, of course, integral to both a Sharknado and sharks. Alas, finding a large body of salt water flying into New York from the California side would be impossible, unless you were, like Sharknado is, going rogue with geography.

5) Sharknadoes make you reassess your life choices, and interracial relationships


Skye, a new character, can kill sharks with a sword. (Syfy)

There's a slight reference to miscegenation when Fin and Skye (Vivica A. Fox), Fin's old flame, are in the elevator preparing to throw makeshift bombs at the dueling sharknadoes. (Yes, this movie has two sharknadoes.) The film makes clear that they have a connection that doesn't need words, because she nabs a slingshot from the toy store without even being asked.

Fin makes a remark about Skye's father not liking him. She replies, "It was a different time then." And, I'm just going to leave this here and step away slowly.

6) The bodega is the only good thing to come out of a nanny-state like New York

While Fin and his crew of shark saviors are driving through New York City, they are constantly reminded that the city doesn't have things like gun stores or places where you can get giant propane tanks. Some of it is a coy wink and nod to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's nanny-state regime.

With nothing open and Fin's crew needing everything, they head into various bodegas and pizza shops and find makeshift weapons, squirt guns (which eventually turn into flamethrowers), and bomb-making supplies — a crystallization of the universal truth that a neighborhood bodega is one of the most crucial things to a New Yorker.

7) There have been major advancements in prosthetic devices

April gets her hand bitten off while trying to shoot some sharks. The doctors say she'll make a full recovery and mention how prosthetic hands have come a long way. April will live a full life, her doctor says, thanks to the advancement of prosthetic technology.

The film takes this further, and sends the message that prosthetics can actually make you more valuable than you were pre-prosthetics. After her amputation, April finds a way to turn her prosthetic limb into a shark-killing machine by attaching a buzzsaw to the end of it (it is unclear what powers this buzzsaw attachment):


April, shows off her upgraded prosthetic hand. (Syfy)

This upgrade makes her an invaluable member of the shark-killing team and a more efficient shark killer:


April kills a shark on top of the Empire State Building. (Syfy)

8) New York is ill-equipped to deal with a storm, let alone a sharknado

One of Sharknado 2's worldviews is a scathing critique of New York's emergency response system and how the city deals with storms. The movie wants to remind the city of the dodgy mess that was Hurricane Sandy (there's a scene where two city workers mention the last big storm to hit the area): subways are flooded, meteorologists aren't a help, and New Yorkers are clueless when it comes to meteorological phenomena and do things like go to Mets games.

Despite this utter cluelessness, the flick paints New Yorkers with an endearing, "aww shucks" toughness, as witnessed when several New Yorkers open up the trunks of their cars and pull out assault rifles, pitchforks, and shovels to protect themselves.

Also, the movie didn't bother with Brooklyn.

9) Despite New York City being terrible, it's still better than Los Angeles and New Jersey

If this sharknado were really taking place, New Jersey would be absolutely devastated. There would be a massive loss of life there, considering the state's proximity to the Atlantic ocean, presumably where all the sharks are from. Despite the casualties, the constant message of Sharknado 2 is a callous one: New Jersey sucks.

Los Angeles is treated a bit more gently. But there's still a sentiment that it's soft compared to New York City.

10) In Sharknado 2's reality, Mets fans are optimists


Happy Mets fans. (Syfy)

Mets fans this excited and this happy is more unrealistic than a tornado full of sharks.