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
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
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
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
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!]