Blackfish: The Tilikum impact.


One of my fondest childhood memories was one family vacation where our parents took my brother & I to SeaWorld. Two things stuck out for me on that trip: feeding the dolphins & seeing the orca show & getting splashed at the end. It wasn’t until years later (17 to be exact!) when I saw the documentary Blackfish & my eyes were really opened to how inhumane SeaWorld treats the marine life & how they profit from taking wild killer whales & making them perform shows while also showing the mental impacts being held in captivity has on the whales. Blackfish was directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite and premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. It later then got picked up by CNN Films & Magnolia Pictures for a wider release.

Are News Documentaries Honest?

In the article there was a quote, “In their zeal to draw attention to the cause, even Nobel Peace Prize laureates can make mistakes or shade the truth a little.” When Blackfish was released in came a huge controversy around the documentary and of course SeaWorld. SeaWorld claimed that they were sensationalizing a tragedy (the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau.) I remember when that happened. It was a sad incident because she was killed by one of the whales she worked with. It later came out that Brancheau’s death was the 3rd death by the same whale. Tilikum’s story is a huge focal point of the documentary. So, maybe Blackfish overlooked a few things or dramatized the truth a little. I think the main intent was spreading the awareness of how the marine animals are being treated & how they’re captured & the effects was a success. As it says, “An aware media consumer watches a feature-length news documentary experience knowing that the movie might have a bias.”

Are Documentaries Independent?

“But the lesson we can glean about independence is that this value varies depending on who’s paying the bills.” I guess you can classify Blackfish as an independent documentary. I don’t know the budget that it was made on but it pulled in about $2.3 million from the box office. I personally don’t remember it being in theaters but I watched it when I was browsing through Netflix. 😉 So, I’m neutral if it’s an independent or not.

Are Documentaries Productive?

Since the release of Blackfish it has made a massive impact. Attendance levels dropped at SeaWorld & their stocks dropped over 50% from the previous year. SouthWest Airlines after a 26 year business relationship severed ties with them. Eventually SeaWorld’s chief executive resigned his position. The release has allowed new legislation to be introduced. Such as the example of the Orca Welfare & Safety Act which was introduced in March 2014 & called for a ban for entertainment driven orca captivity & retire currently performing whales. In November 2015 SeaWorld announced plans to stop killer whale shows at the San Diego park. As current as March 2016 they also  announced plans to end their orca breeding program & to phase out all live performances. Similarly, Ringling Bros recently announced that they’re no longer using  elephants in their shows & will retire their current ones. So yeah, I’d say Blackfish was and still is productive.

On a smaller scale, Blackfish had an impact on my life in the sense that it really opened my eyes to parks such as SeaWorld that use wild animals for profit. It led me to go back to school to pursue a career in conservation, environmental and wildlife. Even though it was so sad at parts I’d recommend seeing it at least once. It’s eye-opening.



One thought on “Blackfish: The Tilikum impact.

  1. “Blackfish” is an excellent choice, as the movie clearly had a gigantic impact on places like SeaWorld — and on your own life. It’s heartening to know that we can still be moved by an act of honest storytelling like this. I cheer at this line: “It led me to go back to school to pursue a career in conservation, environmental and wildlife.”
    Great use of critical formula. Thanks for your post!

    Liked by 1 person

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