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Last night, an era in motion picture history came to an end; SyFy aired the sixth and final Sharknado movie. If you haven’t seen one, just think tornadoes plus sharks.
The Sharknado movies were every bit as bizarre and entertaining as they sound. And they were innocent. They set out to do nothing more than put a smile on your face and that they did. There is real value in that.
As an immigrant to this country, one of the most striking things about it is how pervasive politics is. Back home, Britain’s king of late night is Graham Norton. He is, on his chat show at least, an affably apolitical host who coaxes entertaining turns from his guests, like Johnny Carson or Dick Cavett used to do here. In this country, nowadays, late night TV is Seth Myers or Jimmy Kimmel lecturing you on public policy. Even your sports are political.
The increased politicization of American life is not a good thing. Two of my friends are die-hard Vikings fans. One voted for Trump, the other for Clinton, but they stow that on Sunday afternoons and get together to talk rushing and running yards, kicks returned, and all the rest. Then football got political and now they spend their Sundays apart. With less and less common ground, there is a real danger that we will retreat into mutually uncomprehending tribes; one watches Will & Grace, the other watches Roseanne. Or it did, until it got cancelled.
Political ideologies that tell you that ‘everything is political’ are corrosive of the common ground that a society needs, where political opponents can see that the other side is not, in fact, an alien, existential threat. Sharknado was a little bit of that common ground. There was no politics, just tornadoes plus sharks. So do your bit for civic society, ditch the politics for a couple of hours, and watch a Sharknado movie.
John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment and veteran of six Sharknado movies.