“March is wearing novelty slippers each shaped like a shark, with sound chips in the heels so when she walks around they play the opening of the Jaws (1975) theme. ‘Where can I find these, price is no object, I can write it off.’ I’ll ask my grandson, he bought them with his allowance – Ice’s money, but I figure if it went through the kid, then maybe it’s laundered enough.” Pynchon, Bleeding Edge 267
This passage occurs directly after Maxine has received the package containing the video with the footage of the team that is practicing a military operation on top of the Deseret. After Maxine has seen the video, she decides to take it to March to see if she would be able to post the footage on her blog. It’s important to note that the footage was filmed on top of the Deseret, a building Maxine frequents and also happens to be owned by none other than Gabriel Ice.
The reference here to Jaws has multiple interpretations, as well as implications in the plot. Bleeding Edge is a novel that deals greatly with technology on the bleeding edge, and the history of Jaws fits into this theme. For one, Jaws is a film that was completely ahead of it’s time from a technological standpoint. Featuring extensive underwater shots as well as complex mechanical sharks, Spielberg’s film endured production delays, as well as a ballooning of the budget to over twice it’s original amount. Jaws also ushered in a new era of filmmaking after a five-year downturn in Hollywood. The film was released in the summer of 1975 to positive reviews, and soon would become the most successful film of all time. Essentially, Jaws was the original summer blockbuster that we see so commonly today. Before Jaws, summer releases were seen as the dumping ground for poor films, while winter release dates were reserved for studios’ more prestigious efforts. Jaws was also one of the first films to open widely around the country with an extensive media campaign (television ads serving as the centerpiece), as opposed to a slow rollout.
Pynchon plays with the film in several ways in this passage. The Jaws theme being played by March’s slippers is one of the most iconic pieces of film music ever. In the film, the two chords are used for suspense when an attack by Jaws (the titular shark) is imminent. When the audience hears those chords, they know an attack is coming. In this scene, the theme is played by March’s slippers when she walks. No shark attack will occur. The commercialization of the theme has led to a reduction in the ‘aura’ of the theme. Taken out of context of the film, the chords essentially mean nothing. The theme is meant to signify an attack by a lethal shark, whereas in this scene the theme is simply played as March walks around her apartment. It is also interesting to note that this commercialization is only possible due to the technology in the slippers, as Pynchon carefully notes “with sound chips in the heels”. The sound produced from the slippers is probably tinny and quiet, whereas in the film the theme is overpowering and obvious; ill fitting for a soft, comfortable object like a slipper. Perhaps technology, in this case the sound chips, has led to the loss of the ‘aura’ of the Jaws’ theme.
Notably, the Jaws reference is not listed on the Bleeding Edge wiki, but some interpretations into the plot can still be made. Jaws’ plot revolves around a small New England beach town besieged by a man eating great white shark and the police chief who is charged with hunting the shark down. At the beginning of the film the mayor of the town chooses to cover up the existence of the shark avoid losing tourism until more victims are killed by Jaws. Brody, the police chief, then goes out to kill the shark with two others. A parallel to the plot of Bleeding Edge can be seen here. March can be seen as the police chief, while Gabriel Ice can be seen as Jaws himself. Through her blog, March has been insistently targeting Ice, who at this point in the novel is clearly dangerous. March, like Brody, is aware of the danger of the target, yet feels some kind of moral obligation to bring down Gabriel Ice.
The fact that Pynchon brings up Ice is the latter part of the passage allows more connections to be made between Ice and the shark. Jaws looms over the plot of the film, yet is only seen a few times. Gabriel Ice functions similarly in Bleeding Edge. He is at the crux of the plot of the novel, if there was no Gabriel Ice, there would be no Bleeding Edge. Yet, the reader rarely gets to hear Ice’s own words or actions in person. Ice permeates the novel with connections to nearly every character, yet he himself is not quite a character, more so a personification of greed and evil. Every character reveals a detail about Ice’s character and actions and the reader is left to put these together for themselves. The reader hears so many things about Gabriel Ice, yet never gets to make a judgement for themselves. In the party scene when Maxine and Ice come face to face they do not even interact, and when they do at the end of the novel it is somewhat anti-climactic. Jaws differs in the sense that there is obviously a dramatic final confrontation (this is Hollywood at it’s finest afterall), but there is a similar idea at work. Like Ice, Jaws is the crux of the plot, defined solely by his aggressive bloodlust for humans. In Bleeding Edge, Gabriel Ice isn’t too far off.
“Jaws Released.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.
Pynchon, Thomas. Bleeding Edge. New York: Penguin, 2013. Print.
Quirke, Antonia. Jaws. London: BFI, 2002. Print.