This documentary has been referred to as a “psychological thriller”. That’s an interesting way to sell a non-fiction story but it is pretty true. Briefly, this movie depicts the plight of killer whales in captivity by focusing on Tilikum, a bull orca stolen away as a baby and raised in captivity by SeaWorld. He has experienced a difficult childhood, like a human child suffering in abusive foster homes, and has developed psychotic tendencies as an adult whale. He has killed a few humans, often in gruesome ways, yet he is used to breed more offspring that are sometimes kept and sometimes sold to other such waterparks. SeaWorld has in a vast majority of instances downplayed the dangerous nature of these creatures and the pitiful conditions they are kept in, and continues to draw in business. What the hell.
I have to be honest about this – it was a deeply disturbing movie and I cried at the end, a little bit. As children, we go watch these performing animals and enjoy seeing things that we may never see in the natural world ourselves. I really enjoyed watching Free Willy. But as knowledgeable adults aware of the problem, we keep encouraging these theme parks to continue existing and perpetrating atrocities against animals and the humans that work with them. It’s quite shocking to realise that SeaWorld is still making money (although at a progressive loss), more than 2 years after this movie was released!
It’s in a way good that I’ve finally watched Blackfish now, as I am going to watch Jurassic World tomorrow. Massive predators kept in captivity for human entertainment, and specifically a mosasaur (not exactly a dinosaur, more an actual prehistoric water lizard) treated like a performing killer whale, leaping out of the water for a shark hanging as bait. Yes, the dinosaurs aren’t cute enough to garner sympathy like the orcas are, perhaps, but they are certainly fearsome enough to deserve our respect and a healthy dose of “better left alone”. I am certainly curious about how that movie will handle this subject.