Stereotyping the wild animal as a monster
Wild animals, in particular large predators like tigers, lions, grizzly bears, the extinct dinosaurs, the komodo dragon, anaconda, crocodiles, wolves and sharks (and this is probably not the complete list) are often described as ferocious, blood thirsty and very dangerous for humans.
In the distant past our ancestors lived in caves as a protection against the cold winters, their (hominid) enemies and wild animals. Animals were killed, not only for the ancestors safety, but also to provide meat to survive. Chasing and killing a wild animal that also had the hominid on its menu was very dangerous, and often resulted in fatal injuries. Now in modern times when there are not many of these predators left, and meat comes from the supermarket, the instinct of our ancestors might still be slumbering deep in our genes as a remnant of our evolutionary past. There still are big game hunters that love the thrill to go after wild animals like elephants or lions on an Africans safari, eager to bring home that trophy for which they probably paid thousands of dollars.
Film makers also are aware that fear for wild animals can be exploited to sell their products. Some famous examples are 'King Kong' (the tragic giant gorilla with a weak spot), 'Jurassic Park', 'Jaws' and recently 'The Revenant' with Leonard Di Caprio, attacked by a big (fake) grizzly bear in the icy woods. There is nothing wrong with using human fear to thrill people in cinemas. As long as people realize that the shocking images are the product of the film makers fantasy. Like in 'The Birds', made by the genius producer Alfred Hitchcock. He borrowed the story from Daphne du Maurier, perhaps the greatest master of horror that ever lived.
But movies that use (real or fake) wild animals as actors can also have a negative side effect. Unfortunately, many people in particular young children really BELIEVE that these 'monsters' exist, and are not just a caricature or product of fantasy. For example, quite some children and even adults seem to suffer from some form of shark phobia. Without having seen a single shark in their lives. The images of ‘Jaws’ probably reactivated old evolutionary fears slumbering in their genes.
Unjustified stereotyping has been with us for a long time and often goes hand in hand with words that embed a negative attitude or wrong perception of people. What about wild animals? Often we see in the papers the word ‘shark attack’. According to the American Elasmobranch Society (AES) this is misleading, because it may lead to the idea that sharks are more dangerous than they really are. Sometimes a ‘ shark attack’ only describes an event where a swimmer of scuba diver was approached by a shark without any physical contact at all. And the rare event of a real bite or injury caused by a shark means headline news, receiving much more attention than the many dog bites or poor persons killed in traffic. AES therefore has proposed not to use the phrase 'shark attack' anymore, but a a 'more accurate (and less inflammatory) wording that is scaled to represent real risk and outcomes'. They propose : shark sightings (no physical contact), shark encounters (physical contact like a bump or a bite of a kajak or surf board), shark bite (mild or serious injury) and fatal shark bite.
See for further details. :