James Franco has “analyzed” the appeal of Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s award-winning film Blackfish and has what I’ve seen characterized as some interesting observations. His theory is that Blackfish delivers on a dark underbelly: it dishes out blood without the guilt.
While he may be onto something about those who go to the shows at SeaWorld who may have a secret, lurking, black desire to see some violent orca-on-human behavior, much as those who go to the circus might secretly hope for the tight-rope walker to need that net, I’m thinking that doesn’t explain the appeal of Blackfish.
Rather, what resonates is the universal truth that all living beings share, which is a desire to live a fully-expressed life. What comes through is our ability to have walked on a darker side of life, to have contributed to a machine of which we were but vaguely aware or perhaps quite aware, to have been even an integral part of that machine, but to be able to truly undo, to redo, and to redress. What comes through is celebration and redemption: something that even SeaWorld could embrace if it chose.
The dark side of Blackfish? I’m not sure there is one.
If it’s dark you want, just preserve the captivity-making machine of SeaWorld, of Marineland, of Miami Seaquarium, of Loro Parque, of the Georgia Aquarium, of Shedd, of SeaWorld Kamogawa, of the Dubai Aquarium, of Atlantis: The Palm, of the Utrish dolphinaria, of the Beijing Aquarium, of the Nagoya Aquarium or the more than fifty aquariums in the nation of Japan (more than any nation on Earth). If dark you want, don’t stop the new projects that are continually wanting to emulate SeaWorld’s model.
If, on the other hand, one wants to step into an ethic that preserves and respects life, be part of closing all dolphin and whale shows and ending the capturing and breeding-for-captivity. Learn about the wild ones on their terms, without the noise, without the shows, without the artificial splashing of stuffed-toy-purchasing children and their parents.
So, at the risk of closing with a “pretty but uninspired long-lens shot of whales frolicking peacefully . . . ,” it is an image like this that is the inspiration of those who so love Blackfish and the Blackfish Effect. This is our goal for all of them.
Why do people like Blackfish? Because they resonate with truth. And because they very much like redemption. Both for us and for the dolphins.
What you can do: Respect and celebrate life. Take the pledge to never go to a dolphin show. Join the #Blackfish Brigade on Facebook and Twitter and take part in coordinated action to get the attention of the entertainment (e.g., concerts at SeaWorld properties) and service industries (e.g., Southwest Airlines) that we want to end the dolphin shows. And never stop until the shows stop.