Blackfish Film Reflection - Corporate Greed

Sea World seems to be fishy, in more than just one sense. Blackfish is a documentary about SeaWorld and the dolphins they train. Although this topic of SeaWorld may seem pleasant, Blackfish dives into revealing the audience the truth. This documentary details the death of trainers by killer dolphins from an interesting and real angle. The killer dolphins aren’t killing because they are ferocious, they are killing because they are frustrated with their situation and mistreatment. Although SeaWorld is contributed with invoking appreciation for the majestic dolphins to their audiences, in reality they are causing much animal cruelty and their real goal is the same goal of most corporations in America: money and power.

            Although the documentary focuses on the killings by the dolphins, the film still displays the dolphins as products of their situation instead giving the dolphin behaviors dispositional attributions. Former dolphin trainer John Jett says, “When you look into their eyes, you know somebody’s home. Somebody’s looking back.” Donaldon and Kymlicka reference Barbara Smut: “Barbara Smut says the ‘presence’ we recognize in another when we meet in mutuality is something we feel more than something we know…In mutuality we sense that inside this other body, there is ‘someone home (Zoopolis 25).’” I believe John Jett was referencing Smut as well, and, as a whale trainer or someone who spend large lengths of time with whales, if anyone spent enough time to determine whether he sensed a being inside a killer whales, it would be John Jett.

Knowing that “someone is home,” this means, according to Donaldson and Kymlicka, that since the whales are beings who have ‘someone home,’ the whales deserve inviolable rights and protection like humans have. However, animals, and in this particular case, the killer whales should have had basic rights, but, instead the killer whales were violated. The dolphins were mistreated in numerous ways such as Katina’s baby Kalina being taken away from her, which did psychologically affect the dolphins, especially in this case Katina, a relatively quiet dolphin exhibited clear signs of grief. (This example of grief signs when Kalina was taken away reminds me of Barbara King’s mentioning of a mother swimming with her daughter on her back for many miles to save her baby. Both situations are clear indications of emotional intelligence. As is the additional portion of killer whale’s limbic system portion of the brain which processes emotions. The emotions could be another sign to consider that ‘someone is home.’) Other instances of the whales being violated includes being isolated in a 20 feet by 30 feet deep floating steel box for two thirds of their lives making the dolphins virtually immobile when they were used to swimming over 100 miles a day. The whales were also subject to harsh punishment techniques for training such as deprivation of food in order to foster resentment between the whales resulting in painful rake marks on uncooperating whales such as Tilikum. As you can imagine these instances of mistreatment and captivity result in not only health issues, such as a flopped fun for Tilikum, but psychological issues too, with humans driving the orcas into a psychosis.

            Misinformation seems to be a common threat as well when it comes to SeaWorld. Higher up representatives and officials seem to contradict themselves often when it comes to the going-ons of SeaWorld. Even the employees were clueless as to what SeaWorld management was up to.  For example, even some of the employees at SeaWorld, mainly the whale trainers and depicted in the documentary, were oblivious about everything. They had no idea of Tilikum’s history and that he killed another dolphin trainer. They had no insight onto what happened when a man snuck into SeaWorld and was found dead. They were taught misinformation which they, in turn, taught the public such as the lifespan of an orca being about 25-35 years since that is the lifespan of an orca in captivity. In reality, orcas have the same lifespan as humans. The public was told the deaths were due to irresponsibilities or mistakes on the trainers’ parts. For example, in the beginning, when officials gave a statement about Dawn’s death, they said she slipped. When eyewitnesses disputed this, officials came out with a new statement saying that Dawn’s ponytail was the cause, placing the blame on Dawn in a very subtle way.

            The aftermath of this film had a profound and significant impact on SeaWorld. As you can imagine, this bad publicity deterred the public from attending SeaWorld’s production. Musicians joined the movement of fighting the captivity of the orcas as well. This aftermath was so damaging to SeaWorld’s profits that it was given a name: “The Blackfish Effect.” A court case was even pursued since SeaWorld mislead the investigators about the significant material impact to their business. The mistreatment of the orcas, the lies to public, and the lies to trainers were all done for the benefit of big corporations. All of this was for one reason: Tilikum’s semen. Why? Tilikum’s semen was worth loads of money, but, at least in death, Tilikum is free from captivity. The underlying message in this film like in Cowspiracy, Okja, and probably every other film we will watch in this class is corporate greed. The corporations and organizations in this country put a lot of emphasis on placing their own benefits over the health and well-being of the country as a whole due to America’s individualistic nature. If a big corporation like SeaWorld can trick audiences and even trainers/employees into believing misinformation on such a broad scale, could other corporations be doing the same? The scary part is we don’t actually know how deep this could run. Maybe this concept of corporate greed runs all the way to the top dogs: the government.




Works Cited

Donaldson, Sue, and Will Kymlicka. Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights. Oxford        Univ. Press, 2014.

Zaveri, Mihir. “SeaWorld Agrees to Pay $5 Million in 'Blackfish Effect' Case.” The New York     Times, The New York Times, 19 Sept. 2018,  


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