It should come as no surprise that captivity supporters are drawn to negative opinions about “Blackfish.” One piece which has been circulating for weeks now is “The Stupidity of the Blackfish Trailer.” This post was written by blogger, Melissa Smith, who readily admits that she has not seen the film, but is simply reviewing the trailer for “Blackfish” (which now has over 1,000,000 views!) Her post sums up the opinions that many captivity supporters hold about the “Blackfish” trailer.
At first, Melissa claims that the focus of “Blackfish” is the critique of killer whale captivity and zoological facilities. A few sentences later she changes her tune, claiming that the emphasis of this film and other anti-captivity fare is actually on “the danger of the animals, moreso than animal welfare.”
The most popular anti-captivity films such as: “Frontline: A Whale of a Business,” “Lolita: Slave to Entertainment“, or “A Fall from Freedom“, all put much more emphasis on animal welfare than on the danger of the animals. Newer anti-captivity media such as David Kirby’s “Death at SeaWorld” and “Blackfish”, discuss Dawn’s Brancheau’s death and use the topic of animal aggression as a springboard to other questions and critiques about animal welfare. “Blackfish” in particular, is the true story of Tilikum. Elements of this story branch off into questions of both animal welfare and the danger the animals pose to trainers in captivity.
Melissa then adds that anti-captivity activists have employed tactics of horror and fear in order to sway the unaware public. The truth is: using horror and fear is completely unnecessary. A simple mention of tooth drilling or mother/calf separation is enough to make people cringe. That is their natural reaction – no sensationalism required.
The author moves on to criticize the “stupid parts” of the “Blackfish” trailer. She expresses her distaste for horror movies and points out the trailer’s “horror movie editing” and dramatic music. This editing style is not unique to the “Blackfish” trailer. If you look at trailer’s for today’s most popular documentaries such as “Food Inc. “, “Supersize Me“, or “Inside Job“, you’ll see that they also feature “horror movie editing” and dramatic music. Whether or not one likes or dislikes a particular editing style is entirely subjective. It does not mean the film is inaccurate or objectively “stupid.”
I do have to applaud Melissa for remaining open-minded in regards to whether or not captive whales (Tilikum in particular) are affected by psychosis, and for pointing out that the incorporation of humans into the killer whale’s social structure is unnatural. She does say, however, that it makes sense that attacks would be less in the wild than in captivity because there is more human/whale contact in captivity than in the wild.
There have been hundreds of reported attacks and aggressive incidents by captive killer whales on their human trainers in the past 50 years, which averages out to at least two attacks each year, (though the numbers are probably far greater.) It is true that most interactions with wild killer whales happen from the safety of a vessel, but not all of them do. With tourists flocking to Norway to snorkel with wild killer whales, countless people surfing and swimming in waters frequented by killer whales, and Dr. Ingrid Visser regularly swimming with the New Zealand pod for the past several years…you would think that there would exist at least a few incidents with wild killer whales. But there have been none.
Melissa then goes on to address Dr. Lori Marino with a slew of illogical, ad hominem arguments. She condemns Dr. Marino as an animal rights activist who campaigns for “human rights for cetaceans.” In fact, Dr. Marino does not want to give cetaceans human rights. She does campaign for the Non-Human Rights Project, which works to bring non-human animals simple rights such as bodily integrity and legal recognition as individuals, rather than mere things or possessions. It DOES NOT seek to give non-human animals human rights, it seeks to give non-human animals rights in general. Furthermore, Dr. Marino’s philosophical worldview and dietary preferences hold no bearing on whether or not her claims regarding comparative psychology are scientifically sound.
The author continues, now implying that the psychosis of captive killer whales could not be that severe. After all, most of the animals never attack, and those that do only attack once every couple of years. A quick look at SeaWorld’s incident reports reveals a different story: Of the 20 documents provided, 16 have had reported aggressive incidents or attacks. Those that have not attacked trainers (such as Sakari, Nalani, and Trua), are still young and have shown displacement toward the other whales.
Melissa wraps up her review with a little enthusiasm and states that she looks forward to seeing the movie. At the beginning of her review, though she stated that viewing the movie would be an “unfortunate task.” It seems the author’s attitude toward viewing the film herself is a little contradictory.
“Blackfish” has received hundreds of rave reviews from film critics worldwide. Negative reviews of the film (or the trailer) are few and far between, but they are sought after by captivity supporters who, at this point, are a bit desperate to find objective folks who agree with them.