Renowned French perfumer Olivier Cresp recommends having five or six different scents on hand at all times so you’ll be ready for any occasion, but I have trouble even committing to one, much less half a dozen. My last go-to, Giorgio Armani’s Acqua di Gioia, ran dry about a year ago, and I’ve been subsisting off of a pile of Viktor & Rolf Flowbomb samples I got with my Sephora points earlier this year and the Le Labo samples my friend who works at Le Labo gives me periodically. (I love mixing Bergamote 22 with Rose 31, but sometimes I dabble with Another 13 and Neroli 36.) This is all to say that I’m very much on the hunt for a new go-to fragrance, a tender little musk to call my own. So when Deputy Editor Julianne Escobedo Shepherd texted me at 11:34 p.m. two Tuesdays ago to tell me “I want u to review Tara Reid’s perfume,” I said yes.
Could this be it? My new signature scent?
Absolutely not! But I’d like to commend Tara Reid for trying.
Shark by Tara ($37.99 on Amazon) debuted in 2014, around the time that the second Sharknado movie came out. As its titular portmanteau suggests, the Sharknado series—the sixth and purportedly final of which saw its Syfy premiere earlier this month—is about a tornado with sharks in it that just can’t stop terrorizing an estranged husband-wife duo, played by American Pie alumna Tara Reid and Ian Ziering of 90210 fame. If the movies sound awful, that’s… sort of the point. Whatever screenwriter Thunder Levin’s original intentions were when he penned the first draft of 2013's Sharknado, when it came time to promote its Magnetic Poetry mashup of disaster-movie tropes, Syfy clearly decided to market it ironically—the network used the tagline “Enough said!” on promotional imagery to imply that they, too, were in on the joke. Even Tara Reid joined in on the self-aware “so bad it’s good” angle during early Sharknado press. “Sharks flying in Beverly Hills. Like, ‘What are you talking about?’” the actor is quoted as saying in a 2013 Yahoo! article. “When I read the script, I actually thought the concept was so ridiculous, that it was almost so bad that it was good.”
While campy, that level of self-awareness bars Sharknado from being the kind of “pure camp” Susan Sontag describes in seminal 1964 essay “Notes on Camp.” Pure camp is unintentional, deadly serious, and utterly naïve of its absolute failure. She contrasts this with deliberate camp, à la Sharknado, which she says is “usually less satisfying” than pure camp. (Compare Sharknado to camp classics like Mommie Dearest or The Room, and tell me Sontag’s wrong.) One could more accurately describe Sharknado as a kind of “readymade camp,” to borrow a term from David Halperin’s How to Be Gay: a kind of bastardized (heterosexualized? gentrified?) camp sensibility that has already done all the interpretive work for you. You don’t have to wonder whether what you’re watching is good or bad or supposed to be good but bad or supposed to be bad but good. You already know it’s bad, and you know that it’s supposed to be bad. Their understanding of what makes a movie good or bad left unchallenged, the viewer can just sit back and relax as they watch all the shitty-looking CGI sharks eat everyone.
While the Sharknado film series fails at being pure camp by succeeding in trying to fail, Shark by Tara succeeds at being pure camp by failing in trying to succeed—and fail it does on every conceivable level. Its Amazon description says that Tara incorporated “a plethora of lavender[-]colored flowers” into the fragrance, which could mean that it’s supposed to smell like lavender, or at least lavender-colored flowers. It’s also supposed to have notes of iced mint, violet, lemon, jasmine, tuberose, lily-of-the-valley, cool blue rose, amber, and musk. Shark by Tara smells like none of those things, unless “tuberose” is the Latin name for unrefrigerated Jell-O juice. It smells cleaning spray, but girl. Shampoo, but carpet. It’s Axe for girls. Shark by Tara is Axe for girls.
The font is mostly fine and normal, Sharknado-evoking shark fin and all, until you realize that the shark fin R makes no sense because shark fins don’t look like Rs! They look like As! Of which there are two in Tara’s name!! Which makes you wonder why they didn’t just go with T-[shark fin]-R-[shark fin]!!!!
And then there’s what you’re not seeing: the word “Sharknado.” That’s because Shark by Tara doesn’t appear to be affiliated with the Syfy series of films in any way, shape, or form! It’s distributed by Taralinz Perfume LLC, a limited liability company variously registered under Tara Reid’s name as well as those of former Mrs. Florida International Lindsey Berman and her ex-husband, lawyer Russell Berman. (Tara + Lindsey = Taralinz, I’m guessing.) I reached out to the number associated with Taralinz Perfume’s address on the box to find out if Shark by Tara is officially tied to the Sharknado movies or if it’s just a clever cash-in on the actress’ part. I also reached out to Syfy. I’ve yet to hear anything definitive back from either party, but I’ll update this post if I do.
Moving on, it even sprays weird! Here’s what it squirts out at an approximate 12-inch range…
…and six inches…
…and one inch away from its target.
Or, from another angle…
Yes, that is a puddle of eau de parfum you’re looking at, reflecting off of the deeply Photo Booth-unfriendly fluorescent lighting overhead.
I washed my hands immediately. With soap. Three consecutive times. And yet, it lingered. And yet, I love it. From the scent and design to the marketing and application, Shark by Tara fails on every conceivable level. But in doing so, it becomes what Sharknado never could: a camp masterpiece.