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seeing #Blackfish

photo source: blackfishmovie.com

photo source: blackfishmovie.com

I wrote a few months back about anticipating the release of Blackfish, the documentary about Tilikum, a killer whale captured, then raised in captivity. I must admit, though I’d committed to myself to see it, I let it come and go through the local theaters, thinking of excuses as solid as the ones I use when I skip my workout. It was when I saw it advertised on television that CNN would be premiering the film that I realized if I wasn’t going to the film, it was coming to me. I set the DVR.

It sat in my feed for a couple of days, then yesterday I mustered up the courage and pushed aside denial.

I expected the film to be centered only around the treatment of killer whales and their lives in captivity–why they shouldn’t be in captivity. It was about that, but it was equally about the cover-up by Sea World, mainly, of, not only known concerns about the animals, but about the safety of their trainers. The trainers who universally loved the animals and who built close emotional relationships with them were often kept in the dark and lied to about the reality of the situation they were central to. This was news to me.

I grew up going to Sea World, San Diego at least a couple of times a year. As I mentioned in my previous post about Blackfish, it wasn’t until I was halfway through college that I changed the course of my career from that of a killer whale trainer. What the Blackfish interviews captured from the trainers about how they got started was exactly how I felt. There is just this magnificent wonder. There is a burning desire to be near these animals.

But even if one doesn’t go so far as to become a killer whale trainer, there is still the magic of being in their presence that can’t be denied. Few of us have the means to go to the native waters of these pods of killer whales, so, instead, we go to Sea World, where we can view them close-up in a seemingly controlled environment and score ourselves a hot dog and a stuffed toy in the process. Good ol’ family fun. But at what cost?

If you want to know the answer to that question, see Blackfish, which, here in the U.S. is currently being shown on CNN and is available for order on DVD. I’m not one to cry out boldly about politics and sensitive issues, as I have friends, family, and colleagues on both extremes of the political spectrum. I have close friends who frequent Sea World with their families. I see their treasured photos with Shamu on Facebook. If you’re one of those people, I’m not going to turn on you. I believe you don’t know. Because if you did, you wouldn’t be so proud of those photos. See Blackfish.

It’s akin to my philosophy about eating meat. I’m not going go shun you for doing it. Heck, I’m an almost-vegan who enjoys a beef burger every so often. I get it. But know where your meat comes from. Make an educated choice, not one in denial. See Blackfish before you go back to Sea World.

I practically grew up at Sea World. Though I haven’t been back since my college days, I could still probably navigate the park with a blindfold on. It was like a second home. If I can say good-bye to it, so can you.

My kids (age six and four) watched Blackfish with me. Yes, it upset them, but that’s okay. I want them to know the truth and be able to make their own decisions. I paused the film (thank goodness for the DVR) in several spots to help them understand. A few minutes into the film, they asked, “so we can never go to Sea World?” At the end of the film, my four-year-old daughter declared, “we’ll never go to Sea World because it’s not okay to treat the killer whales like that. It’s wrong.” My six-year-old son sat there in silence with his head down.

And that sums it up. It’s okay for them to know the truth. And it’s okay for you to know it, too. See Blackfish.

You can check out the trailer, here:


the lesson in Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow”

Chipotle‘s newest thought-provoking film is every bit as good as the last, in my biased opinion, and this time, there’s an app to go with it. I declare myself biased because my husband works for Chipotle, so some may discount my opinion based on that. Thought I’d better throw that tidbit out there right away.

“The Scarecrow,” with it’s simple, clear visuals and haunting remake by Fiona Apple of the song “Pure Imagination” from the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” challenges how we think about fast food. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will challenge you to throw off a bit of the denial the next time you take your family to the restaurant with the golden arches. By all means, what you eat is your choice, but no matter your choice (and I’ve been known to make some pretty poor choices), at least understand what you are putting into your body and what the industries you are supporting do to the animals you are eating. There ARE better choices out there. Chipotle is one of them.

Please check out “The Scarecrow.”

The littles and I have watched “The Scarecrow” a couple of times. The first time, I let them just watch it to see what they would pull from it on their own. They understood that it was sad, and they felt bad for the animals.

Porter (6) asked “Why are these Chipotle things always so sad?”

It’s hard to explain it to a six-year-old. You can’t really go into the politics of it all, so I did my best: “They are supposed to make you feel sad, because they want you to feel so strongly that it changes the way you think.”

The second time we watched, I did some commentary and paused it if they asked questions. Porter seemed to understand as I explained that the people are just eating the food, and they don’t know about all of the chemicals in it, and they don’t know how badly the animals are treated. All they see is the cute little store front and the yummy-looking food, so they buy it, and they eat it. What “The Scarecrow” is showing us is what goes on in reality. “Oh, so that’s why you won’t take us to McDonald’s and fast food very often,” he concluded, then asked “but why can’t we just eat the good kind of animals, and why can’t the fast food places use those?…Chipotle does.”

So he got the message perfectly. “Exactly, Porter.” I said. “They don’t because it’s cheaper to buy the yucky stuff, so that means they make more money.”

“That’s just wrong,” he declared. Bingo.

Campbell (4), my little self-proclaimed vegetarian, had a few more questions and had some very strong feelings: “The poor cows need us. And the pigs. And the chickens.” Yes. “Mommy, I want to save a cow.”

I asked her how we could do that.

“We could make a home for it at the farm.”

“That’s a great idea. But we don’t have a farm,” I reminded her.

“So what can we do?” she asked.

“Well, how about we don’t buy the animals from the factories. If we don’t eat many animals, and the ones we do eat come from little farms that treat them right–rather than factories–we’ll be helping the farmers who are doing the right thing. If everyone does that, then the guys that are doing the wrong thing will go out of business and they won’t be able to hurt us or the animals any more.”

She thought for a minute and then spoke again. “But how do we get everyone to do that? Mommy, can we change the world?”

And that’s just the question. Can we?


anticipating Blackfish

From the day I discovered you could be something when you’re all grown up, I had a singular dream. Until the middle of my college career, I worked hard to become a Killer Whale Trainer. Did you just giggle a little? It’s no joke.

I became a certified SCUBA diver. I was a docent at a marine museum. The license plate on my first car read “TINORCA.” I chose my college based on it’s Marine Biology program. I honestly can’t put my finger on one reason why I ultimately decided to go down a different path. I’m not sure if it was fear or concern for the animals or a combination of the two, but I never realized that dream.

As a child, I spent a great deal of time with the killer whales at Sea World. I have yet to take my children there. I no longer wish to support that industry. That fact leaves me in mourning. I so want my children to see the magic of the killer whale in person. I want to share with them the excitement that I experienced as a child, but I know I can’t. I can’t.

ImageBlackfish, a film by Magnolia pictures, was recently released. As described on the Blackfish web site:

Many of us have experienced the excitement and awe of watching 8,000-pound orcas, or “killer whales,” soar out of the water and fly through the air at sea parks, as if in perfect harmony with their trainers. Yet, in our contemporary lore this mighty black-and-white mammal is like a two-faced Janus–beloved as a majestic, friendly giant yet infamous for its capacity to kill viciously. Blackfish unravels the complexities of this dichotomy, employing the story of notorious performing whale, Tilikum, who–unlike any orca in the wild–has taken the lives of several people while in captivity. So what exactly went wrong?

Shocking, never-before-seen footage and riveting interviews with trainers and experts manifest the orca’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity over the last four decades, and the growing disillusionment of workers who were mislead and endangered by the highly profitable sea-park industry. This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals.

Although I am quite anxious about seeing the movie, I am very much looking forward to it. It is out in limited release, so I’ll have to wait until August. I know the experience of viewing the film will be emotional for me.

Are you planning to see Blackfish?