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Op-Ed: 'Blackfish Effect' continues, seven acts cancel SeaWorld gigs

By Elizabeth Batt     Dec 14, 2013 in Entertainment
Miami - SeaWorld continues to encounter backlash in the wake of the documentary, Blackfish. Rather than dissipating since premiering to record viewers on CNN last October, the Blackfish Effect is gaining momentum.
It's not quite one year since the documentary Blackfish premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, yet Gabriela Cowperthwaite's film continues to churn the waters of SeaWorld's orca-laden tanks.
As the giant marine mammal park celebrated the birth of another baby 'Shamu' at its San Antonio facility, SeaWorld Orlando is enduring the gradual dissolution of its 2014 planned celebration: Bands, Brew and Barbecue.
The exodus first began on November 27 when the group Barenaked Ladies announced that they were withdrawing from their gig slot because of the Blackfish movie. "Hey everybody," the group said on its Facebook page, "we've talked things over, and decided not to play at Seaworld at this time. We watch movies too, ya know!"
The band's sentiment was swiftly followed by cancellations from Willie Nelson, Heart, Cheap Trip, Trisha Yearwood and REO Speedwagon. Just moments ago, Martina McBride announced on her Facebook page that she too is canceling her SeaWorld gig:
I've decided that given all the issues that have been aired recently, the time isn’t right for me to play at Seaworld. I have cancelled my scheduled performance at the Bands, Blues & BBQ event in March 2014.
In response, SeaWorld has now removed the schedule completely. According to CNN, the festival:
Now simply promises "incredible concerts with top artists in classic rock and country music."
Country music living legend Willie Nelson
Country music living legend Willie Nelson
Photo Courtesy of David McClister
SeaWorld spokesperson Nick Gollattscheck hinted to CNN that the newly formatted schedule was pulled as a preventative measure to halt the targeting of acts by 'misinformed individuals'. The move followed a series of petitions signed by thousands of people requesting acts withdraw from the Orlando festival.
To date, SeaWorld's canned response to the cancellations seem to have ignored one fundamental fact. Blackfish, which examines the history of captive killer whale Tilikum and his less than ideal life, is making a lot of people angry.
Take Cash for example, a five year old who watched Blackfish in early December. Cash's parents discovered their son watching the film after he "snuck in the living room ... and caught a few minutes" of it on CNN.
Initially uncertain as to whether the documentary was something their son should watch, they talked with Cash at some length about it, and then allowed him to continue watching.
The documentary had such a profound effect on the youngster, that he has asked everyone not to visit SeaWorld on his birthday, December 22nd.
Four days ago, British Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton posted this comment on Instagram:
I have just watched an incredible documentary about killer whales. It has to be one of the saddest things I have seen of recent, please watch it. It is inhumane what humans do for money & I think each & everyone one of us should help stop these assholes from hurting these beautiful creatures, not only whales but all types of animals. #Fseaworld
According to some, SeaWorld could be foolish for underestimating the power of a movie and its backlash.
"Sometimes, the best lessons are learned while in the middle of a crisis," said the Orlando Business Journal two days ago. "And that’s what SeaWorld’s PR team is facing."
But waiting out the Blackfish Effect could take longer than the corporation might like, the documentary is currently in the process of winning awards.
Having picked up a runner-up award for Best Documentary at the Boston Society of Film Critics' annual awards, Blackfish fully secured the title at the recent Washington, D.C. Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) awards. It has also been shortlisted for an Academy Award.
SeaWorld continues its reprimand of Blackfish without mounting any type of defence worthy of note. Despite the furor surrounding the film, the corporation went to federal court last month in an attempt to overturn an order preventing its trainers from close interactions with killer whales.
The company's attorney, Eugene Scalia, argued that interaction between trainers and orcas is "the premise of SeaWorld's entertainment." According to Reuters, Scalia also requested that the ruling against SeaWorld "be dismissed ... because a previous judge relied on testimony from an unqualified expert witness with limited knowledge of whale behavior in captivity."
Scalia's statement suggests that his clients are the ultimate authority on orca behavior. Yet in 22 years and after three human deaths, SeaWorld still cannot determine why an animal that has never killed a human being in the wild, chose to kill in captivity.
On the contrary, Cowperthwaite's Blackfish suggested several theories in just 83 minutes. And from the public response so far, its concept is one that ordinary, everyday people are resonating with.
Blackfish (2013) is now available for purchase on DVD at
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
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