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article imageOp-Ed: Macy's Thanksgiving parade hitting wave after wave of controversy

By Elizabeth Batt     Nov 21, 2013 in Entertainment
New York - Bombarded by an outcry of controversy over its decision to host a SeaWorld float in its famous Thanksgiving Day parade, the upscale department store refuses to back down.
Following the successful release of the documentary Blackfish on CNN in October, emotions continue to run high. Battered by public opinion, the massive marine entertainment park has been in defense mode over its captive killer whales ever since.
In just 83 minutes, Blackfish appears to have changed some people's perception of SeaWorld forever. It was a PR nightmare that park executives refused to address beyond carefully worded statements. Given the backlash over the documentary, SeaWorld had to know the controversy would continue?
Perhaps it should have given Macy's the memo?
A letter campaign implemented by PETA, has delivered more than 80,000 missives of complaint to parade organizers.
Actor Alec Baldwin even had his say as a spokesperson for PETA. "As New Yorkers and new parents, we were disappointed to learn that SeaWorld might appear in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," he said.
Baldwin joined 84 other notable celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Leona Lewis, who chided SeaWorld in the wake of Blackfish. And further controversy is planned for parade day, PETA has pledged to continue its protests by lining the parade route with protesters.
Oh the irony!
In defending its stance, it appears that Macy's is invoking the Three Wise Monkeys. "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."
"The parade has never taken on, promoted or otherwise engaged in social commentary, political debate or other forms of advocacy," Macy’s Inc. said in a statement just this week.
Unfortunately, critics counter, Macy's philosophy does not apply to business. Just ask Joan Jett.
On the day of the parade, Jett and her band were set to represent South Dakota's tourism float but ranchers upset about Jet's PETA ties, bemoaned her presence. Macy's accommodated the ranchers and swiftly shunted the singer to another float.
But back to SeaWorld.
More hypocrisy
SeaWorld's float, named 'Sea of Surprises," features wild orcas frolicking in the ocean. Dennis Wirzman, Corporate Vice President of Entertainment of SeaWorld, discussed the float with Micechat.com, and said:
The Macy’s float is designed and built by the Macy’s Parade Studio, we work closely with their design team, and we have had a great time collaborating with their team with a lot of sculpted foam, it has a nice and beautiful undersea environment theme. Very beautiful and very realistic.
But not realistic of the sterile environment in which SeaWorld houses its killer whales.
SeaWorld Orlando
SeaWorld Orlando
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Macy's however, says the show will go on. Its parade executive producer Amy Kule maintains, "there is no controversy. Our goal is to entertain, and that is their goal, as well."
Entertain? Ouch. Ms. Kule's statement might have SeaWorld butts squirming on the benches. The park says it keeps orcas in captivity for the educational value that it provides.
The debate over whether SeaWorld shows are educational or entertainment is long-running and hotly debated. Most recently by Death at SeaWorld author David Kirby, who said:
I went to SeaWorld several times to research my book, and attended both the "Believe" and "One Ocean" Shamu shows, where I heard virtually nothing that would educate people about killer whales in the wild, how long they live, their social bonds, their hunting patterns, and ways to conserve their threatened natural habitats.
Instead, I "learned" that whales like blaring music, roaring crowds, back-flips and French kissing. When I left, instead of hearing people talk about saving wild whales, they were talking about the "Shamu whales." That's bad education, which is worse than no education at all.
SeaWorld Orlando meanwhile, has just announced its Christmas lineup:
The Shamu family of killer whales star in Shamu® Christmas Miracles, an evening show that features holiday music, soaring theatrics and a heart-warming story. Live animals share the stage with puppets in O Wondrous Night, a show based on The Christmas Story and featuring more than 30 carols.
Unfortunately, the only resemblance to Santa Claus that Shamu bears, is the ability to appear everywhere at once. She's performing at SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio all at the same time.
The original Shamu was ripped from her family after being captured in Puget Sound Washington. She died Aug. 23, 1971 from a blood infection after just six years in captivity. If we're talking "realism" here, people need only to look at Shamu's history and that of the many Shamu's behind her.
Sorry if that rains on your parade, Macy's.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about macy's thanksgiving day parade, seaworld float, joan jett, Peta, Seaworld
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