The Ridiculous Antics of SeaWorld “Fangirls”


Being anti-captivity has granted me a new perspective when viewing the SeaWorld fandom as an outsider. Here are a few of my observations:

SeaWorld seems to be the expert on emotionalism. Their shows offer silly choreography, and anthropomorphism of animals, who “dance” and frolic with their trainers while wearing cheesy smiles. The trainers themselves sell touchy-feely messages in their commentaries which seem to center on emotional terms, describing themselves as having a special or miraculous bond with the animals, while One Ocean pitches a message on our oneness with the ocean. SeaWorld even hired Hallmark Corporation to amp up the emotional content of their show “Believe” (as if the excessively sentimental music wasn’t enough!) This surely reveals where SeaWorld’s priorities lie: in emotion rather than education. All of

SeaWorld’s “Believe” show didn’t offer much education, but was chok full of play-on-emotions.

these ingredients help to tug on the audience’s heartstrings, pulling them into the surreal world of the “happy Shamu family.” This seems to appeal especially to young girls who walk away from the shows as new aspiring trainers, infatuated with the romance of it all.  These “fangirls” will even begin to recite SeaWorld’s usage of emotionalism, describing the trainers as having a special or miraculous bond with the animals. But this isn’t even the half of it…

The most bizarre practice these fans take part in is “roleplaying.” That is to say that they create profiles (usually on Facebook) for their favorite captive whales and will play make-believe with them (a way for many of them to revel in a delusion.) Most of these roleplays involve the whales getting married, having affairs, or taking part in “complicated” relationships. It seems as though these girls treat SeaWorld as though it is a

SeaWorld fans often treat captive whales as though they are characters on a TV show.
Text Reads: “Some times orcas can be Just Like people and Be Absalute A holes to you Fine Keet Im done with your ass for the night.”

soap opera, and the whales are just characters on a TV show and they are certainly treated as such. (For instace, I have heard many captivity supporters call the orca Kalia obscene and derogatory names for “bullying” their favorite whales.) At times these fans will even edit pictures or videos of the animals “dressing them up” in human clothing and making a comedy skit out of them.  These same people tend to argue against anthropomorphization of the animals, which just goes to show that there is certainly a double standard to be dealt with here. Not all of the roleplays are fun and games though. A lot of times these girls (sometimes boys) will play that the whales are being captured, killing each other, or are stressed, depressed, and bored. Of course they will deny that any of this is a reality for the real captive whales who live in marine parks.

These girls can be heard on a variety of SeaWorld videos screaming in the background at their favorite shows. Their parents seem to fork over a lot of money for Camps and VIP tours in order to give them the opportunity to get up close and personal to their “babies.” It seems as though SeaWorld fans treat the whales like pets, and think that they are somehow entitled to the animals. It’s hard to believe that anyone who can treat living, breathing, wild animals like this would be interested in them in any serious or scientific way. The very fact that these are wild animals seems to escape these obsessed fans, but of course they want to be trainers, and claim to love Shamu. Obviously this love is simply infatuation at the expense of the animals.

Discussing the captivity issue with SeaWorld fangirls is a daunting task. Many of them are obsessed with the orcas, so they have taken the time to learn as much as they can about the animals (obviously SeaWorld isn’t there to teach them), so they argue from that

A SeaWorld page leads fans in a chant of “TSIF!” Or “Thank Shamu its Friday!”

standpoint. What some of them don’t realize is that not everyone who attends a show at SeaWorld is “educated” on whales. In fact, many of them leave believing that all the whales are generic, black and white figures named Shamu. The idea that SeaWorld is educational is simply wishful thinking on their part.

SeaWorld fangirls tend to be very protective of their favorite theme park and anyone who gets in the way of them and their dream job is fair game. Many SeaWorld fan pages are full of abuse toward those who are anti-captivity. And if it isn’t enough to speak ill toward people, the fallback plan is censorship. Many Youtube videos made by SeaWorld fans emphasize that “NO anti-captivity comments are allowed or else you will be blocked!”Of course then everything seems a bit off when the creator of the video is

Comments like these are not at all uncommon on SeaWorld fan pages.
Text Reads: “its the sound of the anti caps being thrown into the ocean with a cement block chained to their feet by the mafia.”

thanking everyone for the kind compliments on their creation as they block all the naysayers. This isn’t just limitted to their own Channels and pages, but has spilled over to books as well. Especially the book “Death at SeaWorld” which is the target of several petitions that seek to censor its contents. Some die-hard SeaWorld fans have even promoted the idea of a public book burning, and you know what they say: “They that start by burning books will end by burning men.” -Heinrich Heine. The censorship is of course an expression of fear that certain information will be leaked which paints SeaWorld in a negative light.

I am often both appalled and amused by the silly antics of some SeaWorld fans, but I’m not in any way blind to either side here so I can’t knock these people too much. I remember being a SeaWorld fangirl myself and I distinctly recall my feelings on what I thought would be my future career. I would be on center stage in a spotlight, leaping off of orcas with everybody in the audience looking at me in envy. I, like many other captivity supporters, saw the trainers as though they were celebrities with flashy jobs in show business and animals as the cherry on top. I wanted to be one of them. It was more about what I wanted, and less about what the animals would want. I see this when talking with wannabe trainers. It’s not enough to study wild whales, they want to surf on the whales, they want to leap out of the water with them, they want to dance with a 6,000lb animal. It’s all about the thrill and the rush of the job, maybe even to the point where they are willing to remain ignorant toward the atrocity that is the captivity industry in order to fulfill their own selfish desires.

[If you have had an experience with SeaWorld fangirls that you’d like to share, be sure to post a comment below!]

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18 thoughts on “The Ridiculous Antics of SeaWorld “Fangirls”

  1. I like how none of these nay-sayers in the comments section have acknowledged the screenshot of pro-caps threatening to drown and kill anti-caps… definitely a sign of a healthy mind. NOT.

  2. This might be a little off-topic, but I’m wondering about your opinion on other animals in captivity – i.e. non-cetaceans. Orcas are thought to be only regionally endangered in the wild (and much of that seems to be a result of capture/interference for the marine park industry), and bottlenose dolphins are classified as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN, so I can agree with you that there is really no reason to keep these animals in captivity – the “conservation” excuse just doesn’t hold up since a) the animals are not endangered and b) there are no real rehabilitation/release projects; and the “education” excuse is shaky at best (I have seen SeaWorld shows in person and on YouTube and cannot for the life of me find anything educational about them). Add to that the fact that orcas in particular are enormous animals with huge ranges and incredible intelligence, and it really does make me uneasy to think about them being kept in captivity.

    With that said, what about other zoological facilities that participate in captive breeding programs for animals that really are endangered? Amur leopards, black rhinos, Asian elephants, western lowland gorillas… all of these species are endangered or critically endangered in the wild. Of course captivity is not the ideal situation for these animals, but with their natural habitat and populations under constant assault, isn’t it better for zoos to maintain healthy, genetically diverse populations so that our planet doesn’t lose these species entirely, and so that reintroduction is a legitimate possibility someday? I work at a large, accredited, American zoo, so I see firsthand every day how the animals are treated. It’s nothing like the things I’ve heard about SeaWorld’s orcas – our animals are not denied food for refusing to participate in training (training is largely for their benefit and is completely voluntary). We don’t drill their teeth. They are not trained to do “tricks” for the public’s amusement, but rather to make veterinary procedures easier and safer, and to encourage natural behavior. Even our public presentations are nothing like SeaWorld shows: we often do public training sessions, but we always teach about the species, explain why the animals are in captivity, how training helps them, and concrete things that the zoo is doing to help their wild cousins. We have an entire department devoted to conservation biology, and we send keepers and veterinarians on dozens of conservation trips every year, all over the world. And yes, much of the money it takes to do this comes from the people who visit the zoo every day expecting to be entertained. Some people view this as sad; I view it as an effort to make amends for human screw-ups of the past. What’s done is done, and sitting by wishing that all animals could live safely in the wild isn’t helping anyone.

    I also want to point out that I watched the “Believe: Behind the Scenes” video on YouTube, and in that video I saw everything you talk about in this post: the referring to orcas as “babies,” talking to them in baby voices, treating them like giant pets, and people who have dreamed of nothing but jumping from a killer whale’s nose since they were six years old. I have also dreamed of working with animals from a young age (my area of expertise is big cats), but never once did I dream of hugging a tiger and playing with it as though it were my friend, and my job is NOTHING like the job of these orca trainers as presented in the video. I respect my animals; I recognize that they are wild, and that my role is simply to take care of them as well as I possibly can, to keep them mentally and physically healthy, and to make sure their lives in captivity are not wasted. Part of this is captive breeding for the benefit of future generations of wildlife, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done in that area. Maybe someday Amur tigers will be returned safely to their native home, because I have helped ensure that Amur tigers still exist in the world, even if that existence is captive for now.

    Working with animals is one of the most glamorized jobs in the world. Many people assume that I go to work every day and cuddle with baby leopards, and they tell me they wish they could do that, but they quickly change their tune when they learn that most of my job involves raking, hosing, shoveling, scrubbing, picking up poop, and being elbow-deep in raw meat. It’s a privilege to work around these beautiful animals, but it’s far from glamorous. SeaWorld’s trainers, on the other hand, seem to have all the glamor and none of the grunt, as it were. It’s easy to understand how someone could watch “Believe” and walk away wanting to be a trainer – those trainers literally get to swim with killer whales all day, end of story. It’s a showy job that appeals to emotions, exactly as you said. It seems like the only real motivation is thrill – there is no true concern for conservation, ethics, or animal welfare, only the emotional high of “living the dream” of riding on a killer whale’s back.

    I highly recommend the book “Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives” by Thomas French for a gripping, unbiased look at zoo ethics.

    Sorry this was so long, just wanted to throw in my 2 cents!

    • Thank you for all you have done for wildlife and thanks for your input!
      There are quite a few reasons why I am against the captivity of cetaceans specifically – their intelligence, their size, and of course the fact that their natural social lives and environment cannot be replicated. The cherry on top is really the goofy shows they have to put on, and the fact that it takes so much just to keep them from dying or becoming psychotic. ie, medication, tooth drilling, separating families, the hydration hose, etc. The nail in the coffin for me is really that the world’s leading experts on cetaceans and nature in general are anti-captivity. Including Ken Balcolmb, Ingrid Visser, Jane Goodall and the late Jacques Cousteau. I follow the evidence, and so do they! And it has certainly led me to this anti-captivity position.
      I am also against keeping elephants and primates in zoo-type settings (assume we are talking about small cages or enclosures.) I think that if these animals must be in captivity for the purpose of boosting a wild population – a natural sanctuary is the best place for them, of course with the intention of eventually releasing them back into the wild. I think this would be ideal for every wild animal although it’s not very practical, and captive breeding is of course acceptable if it means saving a species from extinction. As you said – the animals at SeaWorld are kept there for no other purpose but to put on shows and bring in money. There is no conservation going on nor is there educational value. I do agree that Shamu trainers are also there to be in show-business, not to help the animals in any meaningful way by studying them scientifically. And of course, the only “research” that goes on in marine parks is solely for the purpose of keeping these animals alive in the cages so they can milk them for more money. No

  3. It’s clear you have done a lot of thinking on this, but I don’t think enough, I agree that what they are doing is wrong BUT not fully.
    Yes they could do more to teach the public about the whales and what not.
    But if you released said whales, do you think they would survive? The only world they know being removed from them, it would be like taking a first time swimming and dropping them in the deep end.
    Another thing, people go to those shows to be amused, to watch the glory and the gracefulness of whales, education can be done at home if they want to learn more.

    Now about the fan girls, it’s not Sea Worlds fault. It’s the parents, not teaching their children correctly or failing to be a good role model, you can’t but the entire blame on Sea World, because these kind of things have the exact same blind following, you can’t say this isn’t true because I know of a few people.

    But here is a question I want to ask you.
    Do you know the whales don’t like the attention? Do you know the don’t enjoy the people applauding them?
    Some of those whales are probably the same as humans, just as some like the spotlight and other don’t.

    • Releasing a whale is not as simple as just dropping them in the ocean. Many of them would not be able to be released, but ALL of them are capable of living a life of retirement in a coastal seapen.
      People DO go to the shows to be amused, but using these animals for entertainment is not only unecessary, it’s also cruel.
      I think that quite a bit of what SeaWorld does is encouraging this fangirl frenzy. Of course it is not entirely SeaWorld’s fault though.
      Do I know the whales don’t like attention? Do some enjoy being in the “spotlight”? No clue. This idea that whales and dolphins are curious about people and interactive is false. They are more concerned about each other and their own business than humans, as it’s unnatural for them to seek human attention. Do the whales enjoy the applause? They don’t even know what the applause is or means…applause is a human concept, so odds are they are indifferent.
      Thanks so much for reading this post and taking the time to make a comment! It means a lot.

  4. I am an ADULT Sea World Fangirl but in a different sense. I don’t roleplay like mentioned in the article but if I was to RP it would be only for fun and nothing like the scenarios mentioned. I have been to all 3 SW parks and I found out a LONG time ago what it takes to be a Orca or Dolphin trainer so I gave up on the idea. I wouldn’t mind working at a park like cleaning the glass or sweeping near the tanks to see the animals while working and on breaks. I do HATE how SW has messed up the bloodlines with the breeding program and they pop babies out way too often. I felt a small connection with a couple of the whales but I don’t consider them my babies,pets or even friends. I just love to watch the music videos fans post on Youtube using footage of the whales mostly during the shows like Shamu Rocks and Believe. I have since become a fan of bands like My Chemical Romance,Royksopp and others. I am OBSESSED with certain whales to a point but nothing on the unhealthy level mentioned in said article. I Dined with Shamu a few years ago and got very cool close up pics and Kalia is one of my favorite whales. I have learned a LOT of info about all of the orcas mainly by reading posts and going to sites like Orcahome.de I used to be like how do people tell the whales apart in a picture or video. I can only identify a few but I enjoy them regardless.

  5. Interesting post. I do agree that the Believe show in particular was made to play on emotions (although personally I have more of an “emotional” attachment to the Shamu Adventure show, but that’s purely for nostalgia and sentimental reasons XD)
    As for the “fan-girls” well I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to offend but even as a pro-cap I’ve had my fair share on run ins with them. Especially the facebook pages who seem intent on stealing photos off of flickr and claiming them to be their own. But that’s another issue entirely.
    I’m glad you added in the paragraph at the end though. It is annoying when everyone assumes we’re all the same. Not all pro-caps are aspiring trainers who post constantly on the facebook pages 🙂

  6. What’s wrong with you? Only because of 13 years old stupid children, who are not open minded (probably like you?) you act that everyone who Support captivity behave like that. for an example I don’t behave like a Child. I Support captivity, still knowing all Bad sides (btw i red more books against cap. as books wish Support cap.) I want to see wild orcas (i didnt see orcas at all) and i want to study them in the wild, but working With capitive dolphins is an Option/ a way too. Soo i really want to know why you want to people believe, that all capitive supporters are stupid only wannabe dolphin Trainer?

    (OK, you see, my english is Bad, still hope you understand ^.^ and ya i’m rough, but it makes angry too hear all that stupid stuff from this “anti Caps” and their “knowledge” about “pro Caps”)

    Ronja

  7. First of all who the hell are you going on face book and getting my messages your not a freind of mine and you never will be!!!! 2 im 43 years old . I Have been going to sea world all my life. I Do not role play on face book.. Many of my friends Have orca names. I love and care about my friends. you will never understand the human dolphin connection..as far as your concerned lets Free all the captive dolphins and orcas .They will die out there heybut there free right???? Johanna Kapiloff

    • My computer is not capable of taking screen shots so I did not go onto Facebook to get your message. All of the screen shots here came from other sources who blurred the names out for a reason. Also, this article is not referring to all pro-captivity activists or SeaWorld fans, just the obsessed “fangirls.” I believe I will understand the human-dolphin “connection.” I am dedicating my life to their study in the wild. If you want to know what I think about freeing the whales, don’t make assumptions. Instead read this blogpost: https://cetaceaninspiration.wordpress.com/2011/12/10/a-translation-of-free-the-whales/
      Thanks for reading!

    • First of all, these screenshots were not on profiles, they were on public pages such as the SW fan page, etc.
      Secondly, no one was stalking or bothered to trawl though endless, mindless chit chat on these pages just to find one or two screenshots to put here. They happened to find them by pure luck.

      So how about you stop worrying about anti-caps posting quotes and comments like this (which by the way, were made anonymous anyway so you pretty much just revealed your own identity), and start worrying about what you say in public and how it might offend people.

      Thanks.

  8. Great blog!!.

    Here’s one of my favorite recent pro cap quotes regarding the Death at Seaworld book –

    “I do not want to read the book. It is rude to say negative things about animal captivity in a book that will be sold to the public, and it could hurt pro-caps feelings. and it really is depressing to hear the negative things about animal captivity, and it is sad for Seaworld to hear about this book about their animals”

    They just want to stay in there nice safe bubble, thinking that everything is perfect and one day they too will be BFF’s with a killer whale. Sometimes when you watch a show, especially Believe, it seems like one big job advertisement aimed at little kids, instead of anything meaningful or educational.

    They truly don’t want to hear anything that might shatter their illusions. I was banned from the Loro Parque Facebook page just because I said I didn’t like their tiger exhibit.

    When I said I didn’t like one of SeaWorld attractions (I forget which one it was), all the groupies rounded on me and told me to stay off “their page”. When I tried to point out that it was up to SW weather to ban me or not and not them, all I got was abuse.

  9. This is a double edged sword for me because on one hand I do agree with you and I would go a step further by saying this. These young ladies know little to nothing about the whales and probably never will so. Hence, what are they doing and why? I go to aquariums and zoos quite often, but not for the reasons spoken above. I became a lover of dolphins when I was little because my parents took me to an aquarium and I saw them up close and because of that I fight for them via numerous campaigns by Greenpeace and other groups. The town of Omaha NE has a rain forest area as well and I learned a lot and due to that I too am fighting via campaigns as well. I keep wondering if there is a little give and take, for instance, maybe if seaworld didn’t keep their animals for so long and maybe if they did more to educate instead of doing what was written above.

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