Tag Archives: documentary

Have I been naive?


I have always liked killer whales. I dunno why I just have, therefor I watch a lot of killer whale documentaries. One day I was searching for a killer whale documentary and up pops Blackfish. After I watched it I was shocked and devastated. I had no opinion of SeaWorld before this. I went to SeaWorld once when I was eight and got lost looking at dolphins that’s it. After I watched Blackfish I pictured SeaWorld as this major greedy corporation that abuses killer whales for money and I’m not so sure anymore.

I have mentioned Blackfish a lot on this blog and throughout the short time I’ve had this blog you can see my opinion slowly begin to change. After I watched Blackfish the first time I was a wannabe ‘whale activist’ set on freeing these poor abused animals from the evil SeaWorld. I didn’t consider for one minute that my emotions were being manipulated. Looking at Blackfish now my perspective is very different.

There were a few things at the start that begin to tweak my absolute hatred of SeaWorld and adoration of Blackfish. I watch a lot of whale documentaries so one day I watched a documentary called ‘The Whale’, I would advise everyone to watch this. It’s an amazing documentary, it’s not about abused killer whales or anything like that but more about the struggle of friendship between humans and animals like killer whales and how on rare occasions that wall is broken down. Anyway, I was watching The Whale when a few scenes began to look familiar. I realised that Blackfish had taken a few of these scenes then added them in at certain points for dramatic effect. This can be seen quite a lot in Blackfish. The scenes of killer whales being captured at the start comes form a documentary about Lolita and so on.

A few other things began to pop up. Halfway through Blackfish, the former trainers make a point that killer whales are dangerous to humans and at the end there is a close up of a trainer with his face all cut and bloody. This is edited in to make it seem as though a killer whale did this when actually the trainer accidentally ran into a screen and cut himself. Even after seeing this I didn’t want to believe that Blackfish was propaganda against SeaWorld. I was set on trying to make a difference to free these animals and I didn’t want to be swayed from this.

While doing another article on the proposed ban of orca captivity in California I did a bit of research. The idea to release orcas back into the wild or relocate them to sea pens is a very romantic idea. However, that’s the problem, out of all the orcas to be transported either to the wild or sea pens only one orca has a fair chance of survival after this move. That made me think am I just wrapped up in this ‘free the whales’ craze. Is this really what’s best for these animals.

The former trainers in the documentary where trainers decades ago and things change and some of them left SeaWorld in unfavorable terms so obviously they would be willing to bash SeaWorld.

Then I finally did some research into ‘the enemy’ SeaWorld. It turns out that killer whales haven’t been captured for SeaWorld since the late 70s early 80s, nearly all killer whales in SeaWorld have been bred there and the ones that haven’t been bred there were caught decades ago. I’m not saying I’m condoning it but these whales would die if they were released back into the wild. All other marine mammals are rescued with intent to be released back into the wild and so much time and effort goes into care for them.

I started reading posts and watching videos of those against Blackfish and some of the thigns make you question if you’re doing this for the whales or for yourself? Then again the stuff against Blackfish is so one sided I feel like I’m being manipulated all over again. So now I don’t know where I stand on the matter anymore because I don’t have any inside views. I can take one side or the other but really all I know is stuff coming from someone’s biased mouth.

While watching a video with a recent former trainer he made an excellent point. So many other things are happening in the world, illegal pouching, the zoo that killed their animals and that’s only the animal side of it. If this much effort went into these things that are genuinely wrong and not a case of special effects or word of mouth a real difference can be made.

The fact that Richard Bloom is trying to ban orca captivity in California after watching Blackfish shows how powerful this documentary is. However, I think it’s really, really poor of him to make such a major change to so many lives, human and animals, after one documentary.

Currently, I don’t know where to stand on the matter? SeaWorld help so many other animals and when it comes down to it isn’t evil at all but I don’t see why killer whales and other animals have to perform backflips etc. for food. Can’t they just be observed naturally. On the other hand, if you take killer whales out of SeaWorld and into sea pens and the wild the chances are these whales will die and for no other reason than because we thought it was wrong.


Whale of a time?

Killer Whales or Orcas are portrayed as cute and intelligent mammals that do backflips on cue to music and are man’s best friend of the sea.

However, after the gripping documentary Blackfish by Gabrielle Cowperthwaite, I do feel guilty calling a documentary during which three people die gripping but it’s true, many views across the globe have changed. The documentary, described as ‘chilling and haunting’,  connected with audiences on an emotional level causing petition pages to spring up left, right and centre like an Orca at SeaWorld. One example is the ‘Save the Whales’ page. Why does this documentary cause such a sense of sadness and rage for Killer Whales in Captivity?

My theory is that throughout the documentary you begin to understand the whales. Experience their torment and abuse, especially Tilikum, the Orca that the documentary is based on. When  audiences see the obvious cruelty the whales are subjected to we feel rage and injustice, not because it’s happening just for cruelty but because they’re being forced to entertain for us.

The documentary begins with showing whales being hunted by SeaWorld, ripped away from their families while the families stay and communicate to the young whale being, essentially, kidnapped. This is when the audience begins to humanise these mammals. You can see their grief and then begin to understand their family bond is similar to human. That is when the audience becomes gripped. What happens after is what causes the audience rage.

The large male, Tilikum, is the ‘star’ of the documentary. He is the epitome of the abuse that happens in captivity. Locked into a tiny box with other whales that ‘rake’ their teeth off his skin due to their frustration, having food witheld and forced to perform everyday to a crowd of oblivious spectators, I believe we feel angry throughout this documentary is because at some time or another, we or someone we know was that oblivious spectator. Happily laughing while  a Killer Whale splashed us in our seats saying ‘Oh my God they’re so smart.’ However, everything turns sinister when Tilikum kills young Keltie Burns at Sealand of the Pacific after she slips in the pool. This is when the media cover up begins and you begin to see the corruption of SeaWorld. Sealand shuts down and the whales are put up for sale. SeaWorld buys Tilikum and this is when our ‘villian’ of the story enters.

SeaWorld attains Tilikum and do not tell their employees that he killed Keltie Byrne, blaming it on the other two Orcas at Sealand. This is when the audience begins to understand the corruption of SeaWorld as they lie to their trainers. Throughout the documentary trainers, John Hardgrove, Samantha Berg, Marc Simmms and more, begin to tell their story of the questionable ethics of SeaWorld. They highlight that Tilikum was alone for most of his life in SeaWorld, away from the other whales and also other tragedies that happened in the mega corperation. John Hardgrove stated his eyes began to open to the abuse at SeaWorld ‘when we started separating moms from their calves.’

‘Contrary to what SeaWorld’s carefully prepared statements that they put out saying they’ll never separate moms from calves unless it’s medical, that’s bullshit. Total bullshit. I can give you so many examples that that’s not true. And not just my opinion that it’s not true — it’s not true. I was there for those, and I know the exact reasons we moved those whales, and it was because we had a need in another park for that particular animal, whether it was a juvenile male or a juvenile female, or a female that knew all of the water work behaviors, or a dominant female, or whatever.’

You see the female whales grieving for their young. It is heartbreaking. However, the attitude of SeaWorld was to move on and perform. The documetary continues to lead up to when Tilikum kills Dawn Brancheau in 2010, causing such horrific injuries infront of a horrified crowd. However, none of the trainers blames the whale Tilikum, they said it was SeaWorld’s actions that led to his ‘psychosis’.

After the documentary was shown at the Sundance film festival it went viral. There was a lot of backlash towards killer whales in captivity. However, there was also a lot of backlash towards the documentary itself, being described as ‘dubious’ and being one sided. Which, to a certain extent it is. It is a fact that I can’t argue against, it does only concentrate on the negative. For me personally, I do believe that the bad outweighs the good when it comes to this documentary. I understand that people believe that these mammals should be kept in captivity for educational purposes but I can’t help but look at that whales, ripped from the families, forced to perform and harming trainers as anything but barbaric.

You may or may not agree with me, you can say that these are just animals and we should worry about humans more and I do agree but I don’t see why animals have to suffer at the hands of humans and we should be okay with it because it’s entertaining. Please tell me your thoughts and if you do agree with me, please sign this petition Release the Whales. I have no romantic ideas that everyone will sign this and suddenly the whales will be free but it is start.