Here's the Thing
Roy Scheider as police chief Martin Brody in a scene from Jaws.

ACAB Includes Martin Brody

The cover of Unwinnable Monthly #175 shows artwork from Child of Light showing main character Aurora raising a sword triumphantly while standing on a rock outcropping.

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #175. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


Here’s the Thing is where Rob dumps his random thoughts and strong opinions on all manner of nerdy subjects – from videogames and movies to board games and toys.


1975’s Jaws had more than one undeniably large impact on pop culture – possibly even the world at large. It helped bring about the idea of the summer blockbuster, became a masterclass in suspense (and how to accomplish a lot when your practical creature effects don’t work) and was the catalyst for an alarming amount of damage to the shark population. It’s also just a fantastic movie with a wonderful cast, including the late, great Roy Scheider as police chief Martin Brody, who made for quite the affable and memorable protagonist and eventual killer shark . . . killer. Here’s the thing, though: Martin Brody is still a cop, and All Cops Are Bastards (ACAB).

The term revolves around the “belief” (read: fact) that modern law enforcement is an inherently unjust and oppressive system – to put it mildly – and anyone working within that system is complicit. Even if their intentions are pure; even if they’re “a good person” at heart; even if they hope to change things from the inside. This is typically where someone chimes in with that “it’s just a few bad apples” bullshit, but how does the rest of that saying go? No, seriously, finish saying it. Yeah, that’s what I thought.

But surely someone like Martin Brody who pushed to close the beaches and keep people safe, and put his own life on the line to protect his community and the hundreds (thousands?) of tourists vacationing there has to be an exception, right? Of course not, and if you really think about the events of the film, it’s kind of obvious why.

Right from the start it’s apparent that Martin believes there was a shark attack and that the safest thing to do would be to close the beaches. This is the objectively and morally correct solution, so he obviously cares. But what happens after that? He immediately caves to pressure from the mayor and town business representatives, leaving the beaches open despite knowing the risks. Chief Martin Brody, our hero and “good cop,” opts to look out for society’s financial interests instead of people. Sounds like a familiar criticism, doesn’t it?

A uniformed Martin Brody waves frantically on the beach. There's a shark in the water!

Okay, but after that one kid (just one child, that’s not so bad, right?) gets killed – after he knew something like that could happen – then he shuts down the beaches, brings in shark expert Matt Hooper (played by Richard Dreyfuss) and hires grizzled shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw). He does do the right thing! He just made a mistake! Well, no. Ignoring the fact that he didn’t make a mistake (he knowingly put the community at risk to protect economic interests), it then happens a second time.

Some locals catch a tiger shark and the powers that be decide that’s the big bad, so now the beaches are safe again. And despite Hooper showing up and debunking that theory – with Brody present to witness the distinct lack of partially-digested child during the autopsy, no less – the beaches are re-opened. Yes, it’s arguable that it was the mayor who ultimately made it happen, but Brody is the god damned chief of police. It’s difficult to believe he didn’t have enough influence to force a shut down on his own, especially in the name of public safety.

But no, the beaches are opened again and the most protection Amity Island gets is a few boats with gun-toting officers on them and a few more pairs of binoculars on the beach. Once the inevitable next attack happens, it’s only luck that keeps Martin’s own son from being killed. Instead, it’s a hapless guy who was trying to help some kids with their boat. That’s when Quint gets called in and Brody (and Hooper) take to the sea to personally put a stop to all of this.

What makes Brody such a bastard in this scenario is his complicity. He never really pushes back against the mayor or business owners despite being the law enforcement guy for the whole island. He just sort of grumbles his disapproval but goes along with these extremely dangerous plans anyway. He doesn’t put his foot down until his own child is almost a victim – until his bad decisions and spinelessness impact him personally. But by then three people (and a dog) are dead, and that’s two more people (and a dog) than there should have been for any real action to be taken.

Martin Brody isn’t an evil man, or even a bad person. He did want to do the right thing. But he is a bastard who put the needs of greedy politicians and selfish business owners above the safety of other people. He is still a cop.


Rob Rich is a guy who’s loved nerdy stuff since the 80s, from videogames to anime to Godzilla to Power Rangers toys to Transformers, and has had the good fortune of being able to write about them all. He’s also editor for the Games section of Exploits! You can still find him on Twitter, Instagram and Mastodon.


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