Blackfish- a word used by the indigenous to describe the massive beasts of the ocean known as Orca’s.
As most Stateliners, we grew up with Free Willy. We knew that as beautiful and majestic as they beasts are, they deserve to be in their natural habitat. But that didn’t stop us from wanting our parents to take us to SeaWorld.
When I was 6 years old, I snuck a copy of JAWS out of the library when my great grandma took me to rent Live Action Mario Bros. I got “HOOKED” on the horror of sea monsters. Next tape I snuck out was ORCA. “48 TEETH!”
I loved killer whales, and I used to think (as an active imaginer, 7 or 8 years old) THEY ARE LIKE ME. They want to be left alone, making the most out of life by capitalizing on every moment with their friends and family.
But society (SeaWorld) wanted me to believe they were monsters that we could tamed. By bringing them to a safe place where food was abundant and trainers were available all the time, we were told the Orcas have better lives in captivity. Not only do the kids believe it, the trainers believe it.
Blackfish is a story about how dangerous and cruel our captivity of killer whales is, and some of the secrets behind the glass. It focuses on Tilikum, a male orca from a small park who was trained under a punishment routine where he was often not fed and locked up alone. He was a part of the closing of Sealand, because Tilikum and 2 female whales drowned a female trainer. Fast Forward to 2010 where Tilly killed the head trainer of SeaWorld Orlando, the most experienced trainer in the SeaWorld community.
Tilly is the male breeding whale for SeaWorld, despite being an aggressive puller, his genes have been used to breed the majority of their newborns. The film claims there have been no human deaths caused by a killer whale in the wild. Meanwhile deaths and attacks have been piling up in captivity. This film tells a great story about how cruel our actions are as curious humans. But it’s that curiosity that strikes me most profoundly.
An old crusty sailor talks about his time capturing baby orcas and killing those in the net they don’t take. These are terrible accounts to hear, but they need to be told. We need to be held responsible for what we are doing. The sailor recalls it as walking into someone’s home, stealing their children, and then killing them in their home.
We suck as people, doing this just for the joy of interacting with sea beasts. The only reason killer whales go along with this is for the food. This isn’t voluntary. And the scientific community is learning more and more about these mammals who are much more like humans than we know. They share a similar brain structure, having an extra lobe we do not share. They are societal beings, living in community. Babies stay by their mothers’ side until death. They have a life span of 80-100 years. Unfortunately, they have a life span of 35 years in captivity.
They have a spiritual regality to some indigenous tribes.
This movie makes it clear how the difference between humans and whales is a spectrum, a scale. We share biological features. We even express similar emotions. They discovered a unique sound that mother whales would make when they were separated from their babies. It was a pitch so high in frequency it could travel long distance under water. They did this to call their babies home. And it is a form of grieving to the other whales.
Whales are fortunate that they don’t have our selfish vain conceit. But we don’t share the same family bonds and connections, and it’s a real loss for our species. Our communities, our families, our governments, our beliefs would be propelled by the greater need instead of the individuals desire. To me this movie isn’t just about our abuse of orcas, its about our need to wake up and engage in fulfilling lives where we appreciate life as it is, without trying to make if suit our needs and wants.
If you think that these animals enjoy this or they wouldn’t do the work, please think back to each time we have enslaved humans, and they continued to work. If you want more info, this video talks with some the people behind the film. Go see the film BLACKFISH!