Last night, I watched the heavily notorious documentary, Blackfish. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it as it introduced me to something I knew nothing about. Prior to watching the film, I didn’t know a thing about killer whales or SeaWorld, and still don’t consider myself knowledgeable about orcas or their history. This documentary made me realize that there are so many things in the world that I am oblivious to.
I’d like to note that I have never been to SeaWorld. Growing up in St. Louis, trips to Disney World and SeaWorld were pretty expensive and impractical. I knew a few facts about dolphins and blue whales, but never had a significant interest in orcas. I am merely going off of what I have seen in the film, the opposing arguments published by SeaWorld, and a select few online articles.
My initial reaction was of shock and horror; the footage of the orca calves getting separated from their mothers, paired with the multiple accounts of killer whale-trainer incidents, was appalling. At that moment, I understood why everyone wanted to boycott SeaWorld and was getting ready to join the bandwagon.
Then I realized I was only seeing one side of the story.
Though the documentary shed some light on some of the things that happened behind closed doors, I’m not sure that I am ready to join the Boycott SeaWorld Facebook page. Everyone knows that there are always two sides of every argument, and it’s important to keep this in mind when watching the film.
As I watched the film, I noticed that the creators of Blackfish relied heavily on appealing to the audience’s emotions and incorporated footage that was recorded decades ago.
I also found it a little odd that the film never included an interview with one of the attacked trainers since Samantha Berg, one of the former trainers, stated there were “70-plus, maybe even more, just killer whale trainer accidents.” The film might be a little more credible if it contained Ken Peters’ viewpoint, being that he was bitten and held underwater multiple times by one of the killer whales, Kasatka, and this attack was referenced multiple times in the film.
But perhaps the thing I found most interesting about the film was that it criticizes SeaWorld for using Dawn Brancheau’s death as a publicity stunt or as a way to sway the public image, because I feel that Blackfish does the exact same thing. They use Dawn’s death as a way to pin the blame on SeaWorld.
In an attempt to reconcile their tainted image, SeaWorld posted a rebuttal on their website, refuting claims set forth by the creators of Blackfish. It not only denied the claims, but also discredited the former trainers, stating that they “have little experience with killer whales” and “most of them had no experience with Tilikum, and several never even performed with killer whales in the water.”
Through my advertising class and limited experience in public relations, I have learned the importance of brevity and euphemisms. Because of these tactics, it’s difficult to find the root of the story. Nonetheless, I feel that it is essential to research both sides of the argument before formulating an opinion. While I don’t deny the fact that there were fatalities and cases of abuse, I still think there is more to the story.
What about you? Have you decided to boycott SeaWorld? Or do you think that Blackfish is just another example of viral propaganda?