Blackfish is a documentary that tells the story of Tilikum, a “notoriously aggressive” orca who has been linked to the deaths of three individuals while being kept in captivity. The film, told largely by five former SeaWorld trainers, uses highly emotional footage to portray Tilikum as an animal that has been negatively impacted by his life at SeaWorld. Blackfish is advertised as a documentary but, in reality, is little more than propaganda, and rather than providing impartial and balanced information, the film uses inaccurate and deceptive facts in a clear example of how bias is used in the media to portray a certain view to the audience.
The film misrepresents the orca species as a whole by saying that “they’re amazingly friendly and understanding and intuitively want to be your companion. ” This implies that killer whales are naturally amicable and respectful to humans. Blackfish shows footage of an orca interacting with a dog to justify this statement, but does not explain that the orca shown in that video was an abandoned juvenile named Luna who had been living in Nootka Sound for five years, where he was constantly exposed to human presence and activity.
The interactions with Luna that are shown in the film are not an accurate representation of the average, well-adjusted, pod-dwelling orca. This footage is shown out of context and makes the false claim that killer whales, as a whole, are more wary of human presence and generally keep to themselves in natural conditions to skew the viewer’s opinion and understanding of normal orca behavior in the wild. Blackfish criticizes SeaWorld for lying to the general public and denying the animal’s aggression when the attacks took place, supporting the image of a “cuddly toy.
What place does violence have in the movies? Well, I believe that violence has a place in movies depending on the particular film and what the director of the film is trying to portray. If the director uses violence in his/her film and there isn't any reason behind it, then I would disagree and say that violence shouldn't be in THAT particular film. But in a movie like "Saving Private Ryan", ...
” The film utilizes the same emotional manipulation it accuses SeaWorld of to make the viewer perceive the animals as normally friendly and inquisitive in order to enhance the horror and shock value of their killing humans while in captivity. Appealing to the viewer’s emotion, Blackfish showcases its own bias against SeaWorld when it uses Luna’s uncommon scenario out of context to influence the viewer’s opinion of SeaWorld and marine parks in general. The film makes the point that normally passive animals are killing out of psychosis from their suffering in captivity.
While it is difficult to doubt or deny that captive orcas would be negatively affected by the capture processes shown in the documentary, or from a life where social conflict cannot be eased or eliminated by retreat, it is also difficult to agree with the claims that a killer whale is killing due to psychosis. We do not thoroughly understand the amazingly complex psychology of these animals well enough to be certain of what they feel and why they act the way that they do, and we probably never will.
By making the assumption that we understand these animals well enough to know the emotions and logistics behind their actions, Blackfish utilizes preference bias to influence the viewer’s attitude towards keeping orcas in captivity. One of the interviewed trainers asserts that, “in a reputable breeding program, rule number one is that you certainly would not breed an animal that has shown a history of aggression toward humans,” referring to Tilikum’s status as the most utilized male whale in regards to SeaWorld’s breeding program.
This message by the former trainer contradicts the main message of Blackfish- that a killer whale killing is a surefire indication of “psychosis”- defined as abnormal behavior- and is not the inevitable unpredictability of a wild animal. The trainer proposes that a more “even-tempered” orca’s sperm would be the best way to continue the breeding program. However, genes do not code for so-called captivity-induced psychosis.
In 2008 at the Singapore Zoo, three white Bengal tigers attacked and mauled a zoo cleaner, Nordin bin Mondongto, to death after the man walked through a moat surrounding their enclosure. Researchers asked themselves what would be the cause of these vicious behaviors being reported from many zoos across the globe, the answer being the harsh environment zoo animals are surrounded by. Many people are ...
The trainer’s suggestion that this orca would be genetically immune to captivity stress and then pass that “gene” on to its offspring is completely unfounded and scientifically incorrect and provides the viewer with the implication that this is an easily diagnosed and solvable issue. Which, in turn, aims to discredit SeaWorld by leading the audience to believe that SeaWorld is not doing their whole job in the care of their animals. Both SeaWorld and Blackfish skew facts in their favor, such as the natural lifespan of orcas. In the documentary, it is stated that they can live up to 100 or even more in their natural habitat.
However, the NOAA Fisheries website states that 30 is “typical” for males and 50 for females, with both capable of reaching 60-90. This distortion of facts lends itself to the film’s argument that captivity reduces the lifespan of orcas, rather than expand it, which makes the viewer believe that keeping these animals in captivity is dramatically shortening their lifespan. Although Sea World is grossly misrepresented in this documentary, one can argue that the corporation should put less stock in the entertainment factor of their Shamu shows.
While the shows are very educational for a marine park show, they are still used mostly as a form of entertainment rather than being used more fully to educate the general public and promote conservation, which is already done throughout the parks. There is no mention, whatsoever, in the film, of SeaWorld’s work in conservation and education, possibly leading a viewer with little to no prior knowledge of SeaWorld to believe that it is merely a chain of marine entertainment parks, and not the highly respected conservation, rescue, and rehabilitation system that it truly is.
Blackfish does not leave much room for free-thought and instead assaults the casual viewer with a shocking and incomplete perspective while also encouraging a flawed view of zoological facilities and animals in general. While many animal rights activists and casual viewers of the film advocate for the release of captive orcas, this is impractical. The idea of releasing the animals into sea pens, is promoted by most activists, and by at least one former trainer shown in the film, as the most humane option for non-releasable animals, and this is stated at the film’s conclusion.
In the increasingly entertainment based society of today filmic portrayal of historic events has become an increasingly portrayal. This re-enactment, or adaptation of past events can serve in a very positive manner as it allows issues to be brought to mass audiences. Film as a medium allows these issues to be understood from various, alternative positions allowing discussion and understanding. ...
However, what is not stated is that this could prove deadly for animals whose immune systems are not accustomed to ocean water. The withholding of this information leads the audience to believe that sea pens are indeed the best option for orcas in captivity, a clear example of bias by omission. Many critics want to see SeaWorld disappear but what they often forget is that SeaWorld is not simply a chain of marine parks. It consists of highly respected rehabilitation programs which, if SeaWorld were to disappear, would also vanish.
This would render thousands of animals which are not all “poorly cared for” homeless. This is a thoroughly destructive wish for anyone to have. The main point that people should remember regarding these topics is that captivity can always improve, while nature, which is not and never will be perfect, cannot. While Blackfish is an undeniably powerful film, it only presents one side of the story and is little more than propaganda aimed to condemn SeaWorld for harming the very animals that they have worked so hard to raise awareness of and care for.