Black Fish: Blacklisting Sea World

So I finally caved and caught up with one of the latest Netflix crazes – the documentary Black Fish. If you haven’t heard of this movie… first of all, what are you doing with your life? It’s only been blowing up social media websites for a good couple of months. Second of all, because I think it’s an interesting film – watch the trailer to find out the jist of it.

After watching the movie, I realized that this film could inspire 1 of 3 different feelings:
A) Activism: You are already uploading pictures of your “Save the Whales” signs to Instagram, and planning your next trip to Orlando to join the protesters at the Sea World entrance.
B) Denial:  Killer whales killing people? Not at my beloved Sea World! This film crushed your childhood memories of getting splashed by the friendly orcas at marine parks alike, and you refuse to believe that these gentle animals could invoke such terror.
C) Nothing: Welcome to my world.

I’m not saying that I literally felt nothing. I mean I cried, partly because someone died and that’s sad. But mostly because I’m genetically programmed to cry at any movie featuring wildlife. However, I’m not surprised that people felt the way that they did after watching it.

And that’s the thing with documentaries. The serious-toned voice overs, the dramatic Lord of the Rings-esque music, the shocking behind-the-scenes film clips. Essentially, that is the formula for a perfect corporate-defaming docuhorror; they can turn anyone into a believer. I’m lucky enough to have been heavily educated in the critical analysis of any and all media products, and I think that’s why I’ve been able to restrain myself from falling on either end of the Sea World spectrum. But what about everyone else?

I think it’s so important to distance yourself from any film that claims to offer an insight into any apparently-preventable tragedy or corporate corruption.  Because in the long run, although the filmmakers are obviously passionate about the cause, they want to get their money’s worth as well. The only way to make a compelling film like Black Fish sell, is to include the utmost shocking interviews, video footage, and headlines.

And that’s another thing that I found troubling. The trainers interviewed in the film were obviously in love with the animals, and at one point, their job. But the film itself gave no insight into the back stories behind these people. Were these trainers fired? Do they have a personal vendetta against their former employer? These are questions I’ve been wondering since viewing the film, and as a viewer, I felt as though I deserved to know where their opinions are coming from. But I guess I’ll never know.

Perhaps I’m biased because I’ve worked in an animal-related theme park before, and I’ve come to respect the amount of time, energy, and money that goes into giving those animals the best lives possible. Or maybe i’m biased because I’m a part of corrupt public relations industry that consistently tells the public lies about their beloved corporations (this documentary paints a reallllly nice picture of the PR industry). But my personal bias isn’t more wrong than the bias in the film itself, and isn’t that what the media is…. bias?

If there’s one thing I can thank my university career for, it’s instilling a quality in me that prevents myself from consuming any film or music video as pure entertainment. I’m always looking at it from the critical angle. Which makes me really fun to watch movies with (ask Paul). But I encourage everyone to take their media consumption with a grain of salt. Because special effects may make something look really good… but so does Photoshop. And after all of those viral videos of photoshopped models  circulated the internet, I’m pretty sure we’re all a little unsure of what Paulina Gretzky actually looks like. So how can we be sure that the dramatic video editing and selection of interviewees aren’t simply enhancing the story as well? I’m not saying that the general Sea World story is untrue, but I think we could all examine the issue a little more carefully before drawing conclusions.

 

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2 thoughts on “Black Fish: Blacklisting Sea World

  1. I loved Blackfish and I don’t think it’s ethical to keep animals in captivity purely for entertainment. The trainers may “care” about the animals, but that doesn’t make their job any less cruel. I got the impression that the former trainers all quit (phrases like “I just couldn’t do it anymore” led me to believe that). Of course the creators of this film used their skills to get their message across–that’s the whole point–but I don’t think that fact takes away from the message itself. I’m embarrassed to be part of a society that thinks treating animals in this way is acceptable.

    • I should also add that I already felt this way before the film, but even more so now that I’ve seen it. I have been a vegetarian for seven years and care a great deal about the ethical treatment of all animals!

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