Sea World is a well-known park that allows visitors to get up close to their favourite sea creatures. It is also famous for its orca shows. However, in 2013 a documentary called Blackfish was released and has to affect Sea World dramatically. This documentary was based on Tilikum, a performing killer whale within Sea World. The film also unravels how the animal was being captive and how its living conditions were not favourable for it (Blackfish, 2013). It also revealed the truth about Tilikum killing several people but was still used in the park after these incidences. They still used him for performances and for breeding purposes.
Reviewing Blackfish, it had a lot of facts to back their claims but the more I watched it the more I felt it was a bias film. Evidence was presented about how sea world was treating their orcas but at the same time, the film was made to trigger an emotional reaction from its views. In fact, even exaggerate some parts of the film so that viewers may empathise more with the orca. The orcas were filmed in an anthropomorphism way. What this means is that we give the animal-human attributes so we can relate better towards it. We are able to empathise with it even more.
There was a scene in the documentary where they showed people hunting for orcas. At one point, they do manage to corner it. Once cornered, the narration then said that the hunters had taken the calf away from the mother. Following that, you could hear the calf crying helplessly for its mother. According to Chris Dold, Sea World’s head veterinarian. The sounds the calf was giving off was fake (Calderwood, 2015). Not only that but the orca calf that was taken was not a calf but an adult with her own children (Entertainment, n.d.). Although this was not proven to be true let’s say that it was true. This shows that Blackfish was biased in the sense that it was providing its views with false information so that we may sympathise with the orca. This is also another point of anthropomorphism. Using the reference of a mother losing its child by force. Allowing viewers to relate themselves more towards the animal.
At the end of the film, they did mention that they tried to interview Sea World but they refuse to be part of this documentary. Once again referring to my previous point on the movie being bias. If Sea World were to participate in the interview I believed that it would have been manipulated to the producer’s perspective. Of course, this is not a black or white situation. Is Sea World at fault for keeping Tilikum after he had killed three people? Was it right for Blackfish to exaggerate the calf seen with face sounds and inaccurate information? The point I’m making here is that it’s not just who’s right or who’s wrong. There is more towards the story, the deeper you go into the story that line of justification can be blurred.
The Documentary also raised some interesting points. From my understanding of the documentary is that just because people are having fun does not mean the animals are having fun as well. True the trainers and animals are doing stunning tricks together and putting up an amazing show but animals are animals. They have their own instincts to follow and an orca can still be very unpredictable. What cause it to be violent can be due to many things. Maybe Tilikum was getting to much stress from performing so close to people. Maybe it was the conditions of its tank, keeping it too enclosed made him uneasy (Sperb, 2016). This can also be applying anthropomorphism again. We keep giving it human attributes we forget that it is still a predator. “I am having fun so you should be having fun too”.
Another point from the film is that they show how trainers may not actually know anything about the animals they are working with. They might be physically good and is an excellent trainer but knowledge on the animals itself isn’t there. An example would be the orca’s dorsal fin. When its top fin goes lumpy it means it is not in favourable living conditions (Seaworldfactcheck.com, 2017). However, staff and trainers were told that this is a common symptom when in fact it is rare for wild orcas to get this. As a conclusion, the documentary raises a lot of issues regarding what Sea World did but I believe that there is more to it. There are more factors contributing to the use of animals for entertainment. We could blame people because we are the one that creates the demand to see these performances. We can question ourselves that we easily look away to such cruelty for the sake of entertainment.
Blackfish, 2013, About, viewed on 30 March, 2017, <http://www.blackfishmovie.com/about>
Calderwood, I , 2015, Seaworld film Blackfish ‘distorted truth’ and ‘faked scenes’, Mail Online, viewed on 30 March, 2017, <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3124645/Seaworld-investigation-Blackfish-faked-scenes-mother-whale-crying-calf-taken-away-distorted-truth-park-three-people-killed.html>
Entertainment, S. (n.d.). Truth About Blackfish, Seaworldcares.com, viewed on 30 March, 2017, <https://seaworldcares.com/the-facts/truth-about-blackfish/#1>
Sperb, J., 2016. From Nihilism to Nostalgia: Blackfish (2013) and the Contradictions of the Nature Documentary. Journal of Popular Film and Television, 44(4), pp.206-219, viewed on 30 March, 2017.
Seaworldfactcheck.com, 2017, SeaWorld Fact Check – Dorsal Fin Collapse, viewed on 30 March, 2017, <http://www.seaworldfactcheck.com/dorsalfin.htm>