By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
I’ve never been to SeaWorld, and after watching Blackfish, it doesn’t look like I ever will. No, not because of the noxiously whitebread, plastic wholesomeness that all advertisements and media depictions I’ve seen it in sport (ditto for Disneyworld/land/archelago/gulag). Nope, these bastards are just… evil.
Welcome to Satan’s Playground
At first blush, Blackfish is about one particular killer whale, Tilikum, who’s more than proven his name, having killed 3 people already, and attacked more than that. The last, trainer Dawn Brancheau, galvanized her former trainer workmates to speak about the attack… and how and why it happened. What emerges isn’t just a picture of one whale who should never interact closely with another human again, but a system whose relentless profit drive puts people in danger, and perhaps worse, creates monsters of a creature whose intelligence and sensitivity we are just beginning to fathom.
Blackfish builds a damning case, and bolsters it with voices from scientists to OHSA experts to simple witnesses of horrifying SeaWorld routines gone wrong. The conclusion reached is that orcas are both more intelligent than we realize and much more socially developed than our minds literally can comprehend (orcas have an extra lobe of the brain that no other mammal has, including humans, that is believed to be devoted to socialization). So, when you take them from the wild, often separating them from their mothers and social group, then throw them in a small enclosure with other whales from different parts of the world (like tossing you in a Mexican jail), you’re going to end up with an orca with a whale of an emotional problem.
Sorry. I’m so sorry.
This can, and very often has, lead to violence, and even without being overly graphic, Blackfish creates a sense of dread and communicates the terror of that violence all too well. It’s a disturbing film, but one that must be so. One fact sums it up for me. Despite all of the violence displayed by killer whales in captivity, there has never been a recorded case of an orca causing harm to a human in the wild.
Unlike those goddam rapist dolphins.
There’s no other opinion voiced in the film, but the fact that SeaWorld refused to be interviewed, and any current trainer would be almost certainly be coughing up bits of pink slip soon after talking, that’s understandable. Still, it would have been nice to talk to a former trainer that doesn’t have reservations about their job, as the long career of many (like the supernaturally calm man who narrowly escapes death on a tape later in the film) seems to indicate exists. Also, a few of the less developed tangents, like the fact that Tilikum’s breeder status means many whales in captivity share his genes, smack a little of trying too hard to make dots connect.
This film reminds me of The Cove, not just for its focus on sea mammals, but for the hard to watch, but undeniably convincing way it makes its case. A must watch for anyone, especially those considering a trip to SeaWorld.
Take a Drink: whenever you see or hear something seriously f’d up.
Take a Drink: whenever you learn a new mind-blowing killer whale fact
Do a Shot: when somebody jacks off a whale
Kinda puts that collapsed dorsal fin statistic in a different light.