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Sharknado 3: 7 important lessons from this cultural institution

Fin Shepard saves the day with chainsaws
Fin Shepard saves the day with chainsaws
Sharknado 3
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.

On Wednesday night, the great American tradition of whirlwind-riding sharks destroying cities and eating various C-list celebrities was reignited. Sharknado 3 premiered on SyFy.

The Sharknado franchise, like the McRib or the KFC Double Down, has become an American cultural institution bringing together America's love of severe weather phenomena and large fish.

But deep down in its submarine guts, the Sharknado franchise also reflects larger issues that occupy the American conscience like (we think) gun control, (maybe) space exploration, and city life. Here are some of the things we learned about Sharknado 3, and, ultimately, ourselves:

1) The only thing that stops a bad sharknado is a good guy with a gun

The first part of Sharknado 3 is essentially an NRA fever dream. President Mark Cuban and Finn Shepard (Ian Ziering) find themselves in the middle of a sharknado, but Cuban's security detail will not let Shepard have a gun because he doesn't have clearance. The shark storm then teaches the president's Secret Service a vital lesson, as all are taken out by various sharks.

If only they'd let Shepard hold a gun.

(Sharknado 3)

Ergo, gun control is stupid in times of natural disasters like a sharknado. Everyone needs a gun. And if you want to survive, you better hope Shepard has one too.

2) Use American flags in place of chainsaws

The most thrilling moment of the garbage fire of a film known as Sharknado 2 was a scene in which Shepard revs up a chainsaw and, holding it like an electric guitar, saws an oncoming shark in two:

(Sharknado 3)

The third installment of the franchise had its eyes on the prize, seeking to top that moment with a dose of Americana, Ann Coulter, Mark McGrath, and the sentiment that these colors don't run:

(Sharknado 3)

3) There were some very thirsty people in this movie

Thirst is the sweet spot between eagerness and desperation. And this is far and away the thirstiest, most cameo-riddled television movie ever created. The movie's cameos had cameos, ranging form Lou Ferrigno to Jackie Collins to David Hasselhoff to Anthony Weiner.

These people have all been (or still are), major fixtures in pop culture. In Weiner's case, he was a lawmaker who was voted in because people thought he could better their lives, and now he's in the third Sharknado movie. This is the world we live in. Sharknado operates like a katamari, and there will come a point in the future where more people will appear in Sharknado films than not.

4) Yes, that was George R. R. Martin getting killed

The Game of Thrones creator was one of the film's many cameos. Martin had expressed that he was a fan of the movies, and now was his time to shine. He lasted about as long as one of his GoT characters:

(Sharknado 3)

5) Washington, DC, is ill-equipped to deal with a sharknado

In the world of Sharknado, New York City and Los Angeles turned into shark-infested death traps. The Big Apple's subway system became its undoing, while the City of Angels found itself unprepared to deal with the torrential deluge that accompanies a sharknado. Sharknados only seem to plague big cities, and it all feels like a plea to move to the country.

Would DC, the nation's capital, fare any different?


(Sharknado 3)

6) If you're trapped in space, find a shark

I was not the biggest fan of Gravity. I understand I'm in the minority, but I found my people — and those people are the producers and writers of Sharknado 3. Thanks to its own crooked science (sharks can still eat you in space) and faulty logic (pregnant women apparently want to go to space) the movie sent sharks into the heavens.

But it did not stop there.

A shark eats a pregnant April Wexler (Tara Reid), who somehow manages to give birth inside the shark, use the shark's body as fishy armor upon reentry into Earth's atmosphere, and then cut herself out with her bionic saw hand. After all this, a cliffhanger leaves April's lives in the hands of a Twitter hashtag (more on that below).

This is how Gravity should have ended, Sharknado 3 asserts with two middle fingers held up to the sky. And I wholeheartedly agree.

7) Sharknado isn't immortal

After Sharknado, there was feeling that there would be no possible way to top that movie. Then Sharknado 2, with Tara Reid's saw hand and the single greatest chainsaw scene ever created, showed itself. In the third installment, we have sharknados in space and people giving birth inside sharks.

And in the fourth film viewers, will be able to decide whether April lives or dies based on a Twitter hashtag. This, I believe, will be the franchise's final installment.

You see, Sharknado works because of its complete disregard of its audience. No one asked us if we wanted chainsaws and sharks, bionic limbs with buzzsaws, or sharks in space. There's something surprising and refreshing in that defiance. Sharknado 3's ending feels like the beginning of the franchise's eventual end.

To be clear, sending the sharks into space also represents an ending of sorts. Where else is there to go? Mars? Another galaxy? An alien civilization? Earth — our world, our rules, and our science — seems finite compared with the vast possibility of Sharknado, and the franchise would need to transcend our limits to really live on after this film.

But killing off April or letting her live should be a decision made by people behind the scenes, not by the viewers. After all, Sharknado never asked for permission before. That's what made it so great.