1. John Hargrove, Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, Sea World, and Blackfish, Palgrave Macmillan, New York: NY, 2015. [return to page 1]
2. Gabriela Cowperthwaite, “Why I Made ‘Blackfish,’” CNN, October 28th, 2013, accessed February 24th, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/23/opinion/blackfish-filmmaker-statement/.
3. It grossed $2,073, 582, a not insignificant sum for this genre, even today with several finally achieving theatrical distribution. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=blackfish.htm
4. Lolita, which will be addressed later in this essay, is an important comparison here, as it is about a marine park in Florida, the Miami Seaquarium, that currently houses the oldest captive whale in the US: Lolita. The Whale is a somber story of our inability to “live and let live”—Luna, the orca, was separated from her pod and apparently enjoyed the company of humans. His life was put at risk by boaters, whose propellers on the boat’s underside could kill her—this was intensified by Luna’s desire to approach humans. Despite Vancouver Island’s protest against boating in that area, Luna did die from getting caught in propellers. And The Cove, like Blackfish, features the impassioned Ric O’Barry, a former dolphin trainer previously employed by the television show Flipper. While The Cove makes a case against unnecessary dolphin hunting that kills the cetaceans en masse each year, it is unfortunately beyond the scope of this paper. To be sure, dolphins and orcas share a similar fate: “swim with the dolphin programs,” captivity and forced performances, and other such abuses, are imposed on dolphins in the name of capital.
5. Jane Desmond, Staging Tourism: Bodies on Display from Waikiki to Sea World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999: 245. Although Desmond does not fully explicate this phrase, it best captures the relationship between trainer and orca, as one that is forced, but never openly acknowledged. The orca shows are designed to show off the orca and trainer working together, performing spectacular feats in unison.
6. In a montage of disaster the proceeds after the patron video discussed above, it is clear that all the disasters between park patrons, former trainers, and captive cetaceans would have been easily avoided if such amusement spaces did not exist.
7. Desmond, 146.
8. Or radically not—see Desmond page 248 for an analysis of the way Shamu is gender ambiguous so that any whale can fit the bill—less stress is placed on the breeding process, so long as a baby whale is available and can play Shamu.
9. Both Davis and Desmond note that minorities and those with less access to dispensable income do not patronize SeaWorld. However, varied class positions and races patronize theme parks, thus the argument that SeaWorld both caters to a specific crowd as well as encourages that crowd to return.
10. Jane Desmond, "Performing 'Nature': Shamu at Sea World," in Cruising the Performative: Interventions Into the Representation of Ethnicity, Nationality, and Sexuality. ed. Sue-Ellen Case, Philip Brett, and Susan Leigh. Foster. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1995. According to Desmond’s study from the mid-1990s, a typical day at SeaWorld would cost approximately $100 for a small family.
11. Christopher Frizzelle. “It's Time to Free Lolita, a Puget Sound Killer Whale That's Been Held Captive in Florida for 45 Years," The Stranger, September 30th, 2015, accessed February 24th, 2016, http://www.thestranger.com/features/feature/2015/09/30/22939219/its-time-to-free-lolita-a-puget-sound-killer-whale-thats-been-trapped-in-miami-for-45-years
12. John Berger, "Why Look at Animals?", About Looking, New York: Pantheon, 1977.
13. Yet, despite all of the history between us and animals, Berger suspects we are short-sighted, often not considering relations past the 1800s. Indeed “to suppose that animals first entered the human imagination as meat or leather or horn is to project a 19th century attitude backwards millennia.” John Berger, "Why Look at Animals?", About Looking, New York: Pantheon, 1977; 1980: 2.
15. Desmond, fn 31, Chapter nine, 311.
16. Carl Safina, Beyond Words: How Animals Think and Feel, New York City: Henry Holt and Company, 2015. I mention this term to stress that killer whale is an unfortunate misnomer and “panda” connotes a mammal that poses no real threat to human life.
17. Although Orca is now seen as silly, it is possible that Blackfish terrifies us all the more for demystifying our beliefs about the possibility for relationships to form between humans and captive animals.
18. Jan Christopher Horak, “Wildlife Documentaries: From Classical Forms to Reality TV,” Film History: An International Journal, 2006.
19 Lauren Carroll and Louis Jacobson, “Sea World says their whales live as long as wild ones do,” Politifact Florida, March 24th, 2015, accessed February 24th, 2016, http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2015/mar/24/seaworld/seaworld-says-their-whales-live-long-wild-whales-d/.
20. Desmond 242
21. Frizzelle, np.
22. She has now been performing daily for over 45 years.
23. Frizzelle, np.
24. John Hargrove, a prominent interviewee in Blackfish went on to write a best-selling memoir about his time at SeaWorld: Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish. His testimony of the orcas being separated is particularly affective.
25. Desmond, 226.
26. Desmond, 226.
27. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard, Hill & Wang, 1980.
28. Desmond, 230.
29. Ric O’Barry states in Blackfish that withholding food is food deprivation, though we often don’t recognize it as such.
30. See their point-by-point rebuttal to the documentary which ends up inadvertently offering further information about their shady business practices in regards to the health and upkeep of the orcas. Both the response from SeaWorld and Cowperthwaite’s response can be found here: http://www.blackfishmovie.com/news/, accessed February 24th, 2016.
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31. Bill Nichols, Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Bloomington, IN; Indiana University Press, 1991: 83.
32. The orcas are quite close to the viewing area, offering patrons a rare, non-performative encounter up-with orcas. Her/his motivation to film was set-up by the parameters outlined by the park—as Desmond notes, they encourage constant recording (as do many tourist destinations) even warning patrons moments in advance to pick up their cameras. Thus, when the trainer is hauled into the water and the playfulness turns to danger, it takes the videographer a moment to register the situation. Once it becomes clear that the trainer’s life is at risk, the camera drops; it is picked up once other trainers are alerted to the situation and resumes filming her ensuing rescue.
33. Desmond, 222.
34. Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke UP, 1991: 38-45.
35. Jameson, 38-45; Desmond, 219.
36-37. Alexander Wilson, “The Betrayal of the Future: Walt Disney’s EPCOT Center,” in Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom, ed. Eric Smoodin. New York: Routledge, 1994: 119. “Almost all of the workings in Disney World are hidden from the spectator…[m]iles of underground corridors—‘utilidors’ in Disney parlance—transport workers, supplies, utilities, and telecommunications to the various parts of the ‘Total Vacation Kingdom.’” Wilson’s description reads like a scene from Jia Zhanke’s The World (2004), a film that details the hidden routines and lives of theme park performers.
38. Desmond, 218.
39. Desmond, 225.
40. Zac Estrada, “Vandals Hilariously Change Freeway Sign to Read ‘Sea World Sucks,’” Jalopnik. May 27th, 2014, accessed on September 5th, 2016 http://jalopnik.com/vandals-hilariously-change-freeway-sign-to-read-sea-wor-1582103018.
41. Zimmermann, np.
42. Thomas Waugh, "Why Documentary Filmmakers Keep Trying to Change the World, or Why People Changing the World Keep Making Documentaries," in Show Us Life: Toward a History and Aesthetics of the Committed Documentary, ed. Thomas Waugh. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1984: xiv.
43. Waugh, xiv.
44. Alexandra Juhasz, "Ceding the Activist Digital Documentary," in New Documentary Ecologies: Emerging Platforms, Practices and Discourses, ed. Kate Nash, Craig Hight, and Catherine Summerhayes. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014: 43-4.
45. Juhasz, 44.
46. Juhasz, 47.
47. This is a link to a time-lapse film, shot by activists who then played their film at the CCC hearing in order to contradict SeaWorld’s claims. In the film, a whale, for several minutes, motionlessly floats in the pool as the audience looks on. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVTwe2HZ4UY
48. Though many, including Cowperthwaite worry that though the traditional show will no longer continue in San Diego. See Joshua Emerson Smith, “’Blackfish’ Director wary of Sea World plan,” The San Diego Tribune, November 9th, 2015, accessed February 24th, 2016, http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2015/nov/09/gabriela-copwerthwaite-seaworld-blackfish-whales/.
49. Jenny Staletovich, “Lolita, Miami Seaquarium killer whale, is declared endangered,” Miami Herald, February 4th, 2015, accessed February 24th, 2016, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article9304634.html.
Associated Press. The Guardian. December 30th, 2015, accessed February 24th, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/30/seaworld-sues-california-over-ban-on-breeding-captive-killer-whales.
Berger, John. "Why Look at Animals?" About Looking. New York: Pantheon, 1977; 1980. 1-26.
Carroll, Lauren, and Louis Jacobson. “Sea World claims their whales live as long as wild ones do.” Politifact Florida. March 24th, 2015, accessed February 24th, 2016. http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2015/mar/24/seaworld/seaworld-says-their-whales-live-long-wild-whales-d/.
Cowperthwaite, Gabriela. “Why I Made Blackfish.” CNN. October 28th, 2013, accessed February 24th, 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/23/opinion/blackfish-filmmaker-statement/.
Desmond, Jane. "Performing 'Nature': Shamu at Sea World." Cruising the Performative: Interventions Into the Representation of Ethnicity, Nationality, and Sexuality. Ed. Sue-Ellen Case, Philip Brett, and Susan Leigh. Foster. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1995. 217-36.
Estrada, Zac. “Vandals Hilariously Change Freeway Sign to Read ‘Sea World Sucks.’” Jalopnik. May 27th, 2014, accessed February 24th, 2016. http://jalopnik.com/vandals-hilariously-change-freeway-sign-to-read-sea-wor-1582103018.
Frizzelle, Christopher. "It's Time to Free Lolita, a Puget Sound Killer Whale That's Been Held Captive in Florida for 45 Years." The Stranger. September 30th, 2015, accessed February 24th, 2016. http://www.thestranger.com/features/feature/2015/09/30/22939219/its-time-to-free-lolita-a-puget-sound-killer-whale-thats-been-trapped-in-miami-for-45-years.
Horak, Jan Christopher. “Wildlife Documentaries: From Classical Forms to Reality TV,” in Film History: An International Journal, 2006.
Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke UP, 1991.
Juhasz, Alexandra. "Ceding the Activist Digital Documentary." New Documentary Ecologies: Emerging Platforms, Practices and Discourses. Ed. Kate Nash, Craig Hight, and Catherine Summerhayes. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 33-48.
Nichols, Bill. Representing Reality:Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Bloomington, IN; Indiana University Press, 1991.
Safina, Carl. Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel. New York City: Henry Holt and Company, 2015.
Smith, Joshua Emerson. “’Blackfish’ Director Wary of SeaWorld Plan.” The San Diego Tribune. November 9th, 2014, accessed February 24th, 2016. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2015/nov/09/gabriela-copwerthwaite-seaworld-blackfish-whales/.
Staletovich, Jenny. “Lolita, Miami Seaquarium killer whale, is declared endangered.” Miami Herald. February 4th, 2015, accessed February 24th, 2016. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article9304634.html.
Waugh, Thomas. "Why Documentary Filmmakers Keep Trying to Change the World, or Why People Changing the World Keep Making Documentaries." Show Us Life: Toward a History and Aesthetics of the Committed Documentary. Ed. Thomas Waugh. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1984. Xi-Xxvi.
Wilson, Alexander. “The Betrayal of the Future: Walt Disney’s EPCOT Center.” Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Ed. Eric Smoodin. New York: Routledge, 1994.
Zimmermann, Tim. “How Far Will the Blackfish Effect Go?” National Geographic. January 13th, 2014, accessed February 24th, 2016. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/01/140113-blackfish-seaworld-killer-whale-orcas/.