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Essay on Analysis of the 2013 Documentary Blackfish

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Blackfish is a 2013 documentary attempting to elevate public awareness regarding the orca that are being kept in maritime amusement parks, specifically SeaWorld, and the inherent danger of their captivity. The film is effective because it raises a set of important ethical questions for the viewer while presenting with a necessary fact-based style of documentation that does not evoke gratuitous scenes of abuse in order to inspire sympathy, unlike some of the other films that are intended to raise awareness about animal abuse.
The film focuses on one orca, commonly referred to as a killer whale, in particular by the name of Tilikum. The documentary begins as a group of contract fishermen hunt a family of killer whales off the coast of Iceland. The hunters are attempting to capture the whales so that they can be put on display for entertainment purposes at various aquatic parks around the world. They succeed in catching Tilikum, a large male orca, along with two other females, and almost immediately, an important question is raised in the viewer’s mind: What gives humanity the right to incarcerate and separate these animals from their natural environment and their families? As the documentary progresses, Tilikum begins to exhibit frustration and aggressive behavior at the amusement park due to the fact that he is being kept in a small underwater storage container when not on display. Eventually, this treatment leads Tilikum to kill his trainer by dragging her to the bottom of the performance tank and forcing her to drown. At this point, another question is presented: Is Tilikum’s aggressive behavior a product of nature, and the nature of orcas as a species, or is it due to his coerced captivity? Over the course of the documentary, a...


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...mals. The filmmakers provided enough evidence to support their claims which asked the viewer to question the killer whale’s aggressive behavior when in captivity and then allowed the viewer the make their own judgments based on the facts being presented.
The most effective piece of this documentary, however, was neither the structure of the film nor the specific questions that one is forced to answer regarding the ethical treatment of these killer whales, but the overall questions of whether or not these corporations should be allowed to continue their cycle of abuse toward the animals and whether or not we, as patrons, should encourage their behavior by giving them a monetary profit every day, every month, and every year. Ignorance is forgivable, but with the knowledge given in this documentary: the final two questions raised should be able to answer themselves.



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