The Blackfish Backlash

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The documentary is negatively impacting ticket sales at SeaWorld.

We recently explained the Participant Index, a ratings scale for documentaries that measures the impact films have on viewers’ lives. One documentary that would likely generate a high score on that Index is Blackfish which chronicles the captivity and training of orcas, detailing incidents of trainer deaths and the shortened lifespans of the whales, specifically at SeaWorld. It premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and has since aired on CNN.

The film’s after-effects are now being felt in the pockets of SeaWorld investors as shares have dropped a substantial 33 percent this quarter. Initially the company denied the film’s influence on its revenues, attributing it to competition from other amusement parks, but it has now acknowledged the documentary’s impact on their ticket sales.

Blackfish has prompted the introduction of legislation including the Orca Welfare Safety Act which would outlaw the use of whales and dolphins for entertainment purposes, if passed in California. Additionally publicity from the film led to a petition pressuring Southwest Airlines to terminate its partnership with SeaWorld. A recent statement announced the end of their collaboration although it did not specifically cite the petition. Southwest’s three SeaWorld themed planes will be repainted. Backlash has also been felt on social media as thousands of tweets were sent out during the CNN debut. SeaWorld responded by calling the film “propaganda.” Since then, users have continued to tweet to SeaWorld, employing hashtags like #emptythetanks and even creating memes. So far it’s clear that the film has resonated strongly with people, however its impact on the lives of the whales remains to be seen.

Photo byStig Nygaard, licensed underCreative Commons.

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