Blackfish is a documentary that exploits SeaWorld and the heart-breaking way that they treat their Killer Whales (especially Shamu/Tilikum). This film easily grabs the audience's attention by starting off showing a black screen with white text as a nine-one-one call recording plays in the background. "A whale has eaten one of the trainers." Hearing this exact line in the call makes the audience cringe and wonder what happened to that trainer, thus continuing to watch. Most people go to SeaWorld, watch the Shamu show, and leave happy or amused thinking about how cool that animal is, but never think about maybe that animal isn't happy in its living conditions.
Blackfish truly rips at the audience's emotions when they have a speaker start to explain how SeaWorld would capture their whales. The first saddening fact about this is they would only take the young one's, therefore having to capture them from their mothers. Even when the babies were captured in nets, the mothers would not leave, they would stay near the net, trying to communicate with their young, crying for their newborns. The speaker was directly on point when he said, "It was just like kidnapping a little kid away from their mother. It was the worst thing I have ever done."(Blackfish), as he begins to cry. The documentary clearly used images and videos of maternity to evoke memories of the audience's childhood and how they would never want to be snatched away from their mothers like so.
Sealand was an oceanarium, separating their captured animals from the wild animals with just a net. Tilikum was every trainer's favorite Killer Whale to train with. Soon enough Keltie Byrne, a trainer at Sealand, became Tilikum's first victim. She fell into the pool and immediately was taken under by Tilikum, which lead to her death. Sealand attempted to cover up this incident by blaming the trainer and claiming that she had drown, that Tilikum had nothing to do with her death. Over and over again the producers mentions the fact that the trainer was blamed for her own death, making sure that it sinks in to the audience and makes them want to fight for that girl who can't fight for herself anymore. "It was like three whales in a swimming pool." (Blackfish) Another trainer who knew Ms. Byrne spoke about this incident. She stated that it was certainly Tilikum who had killed her, but there were ways to stop this from happening. "When these animals are stripped from their families and transported to distant pools to live and perform for our benefit, it no doubt causes a sort of 'psychosis' and emotional trauma in the orcas" (Michael). Michael Murphy states this perfectly in his film review. It is also mentioned in the film that the whales were trapped in a twenty by thirty foot metal pool, thus leading to the start of Tilikum's psychosis. The documentary showing you short clips and images of the small corridors that these animals lived in made you never want to blame the whale for doing any harm to anyone. These images of the whales in a tank barely bigger than their bodies truly hits home for me. An animal should never be kept in captivity like so. These whales should be out in the ocean with plenty of space to swim, not in swimming pool where a human being would entertain themselves in. Directly after the incident with Ms. Byrne, Tilikum was transferred to SeaWorld "to be used as a breeder".
TILIKUM TAKES ON SEAWORLD
Upon Tilikum's arrival to SeaWorld, he was immediately attacked by the females due to close proximities. Because of the attacks, trainers had to keep Tilikum in isolation (a small tank in the back by himself) for his safety, but they never thought that this could hinder their own safety. The film shows clips of Tilikum bleeding from huge cuts on his side during a show, the whole audience is gasping and concerned for the animal. The audience acting this way and seeing that the animal could be in pain evokes emotions in the viewers making them wonder why they would bring this whale into danger with the other whales if they knew that he could not defend himself. Soon enough, Tilikum was sick of being treated the way he was and began to attack again.
Being Tilikum's second victim, Ms. Brancheau, like very other incident was blamed for her own death. Every other trainer spoke quite highly of Dawn, explaining that she was the safest trainer, studied every wrong step she took and had a great personality. The interviewees state that knowing how Dawn was the best trainer at SeaWorld, this incident could have happened to anyone. The film showing videos of Dawn happily training Tilikum and then showing videos of Tilikum dragging her to the bottom of the pool evokes many mixed emotions in the viewer. You obviously are feeling sad for the women, but also sad for Tilikum. It makes you question why this animal was ever allowed to interact with humans after his first attack at Sealand. The saddest part is that SeaWorld continued to blame the trainers, covering up Tilikum's acts because they needed him to keep their business running.
Tilikum should not be blamed for his actions, but SeaWorld should. This documentary did an amazing job to evoke emotions using the rhetoric tools. In Mr. Dewbrry and Millen's essay, they perfectly explain that music is an important part in any type of work. "Music, like all other forms of communication, is symbolic."(David) In this film music had a rhetoric impact more than any other rhetoric choice. Every clip of sound that the producers choose triggered a symbolic emotion towards the suffering animals/trainers. No doubt that after viewing this film every audience member has been touched in a way to where they believe that captivity is hurting the animals and the people involved with them.