Killer whale, what did you expect?

Before I even considered writing up my blog post for this week, I was contemplating veganism. I took it as a joke – that was supposed to be an interesting lead in line to this post, but I wrote it and rewarded myself by watching a video and said I was researching. I watched Earthlings, animals and our relationship with them, so because of this I had a different approach to this week’s topic and how I look at animals.

blackfish.jpg

“A mesmerising psychological thriller,” the tagline even suggests that this isn’t an animals ‘life’ – even the film showing what happens after you treat an animal as entertainment – is being used as entertainment. A ‘thrill.’ Image source. 

I hadn’t even watched the trailer for Blackfish, however I already knew I would disagree with a lot of the things the documentary covered. I was always taught from a young age that aquariums weren’t the best, because they exploited aquatic life and kept them locked up in a cage as opposed to keeping them out in the wild where they should be, where their home is. I wasn’t surprised when I first heard about Tilikum the whale taking the life of one of his trainers, because who wouldn’t get annoyed being basically kidnapped, and kept in a tank your whole life alone and for the purpose of entertainment. The film Blackfish proposes this documentary of this whale and the situation that unfolded after it’s aggravation including unfortunate loss of life – however – it comes from an obvious place of bias, that the whale was in the wrong despite the fact that it was indeed captured and the history of whales should have been considered.

This is much the opposite with the documentary Earthlings, which points to the audience as being wrong – even if you’ve eaten nothing but chickpeas all week – the narration is monotonous and almost guilt’s the viewer to believe that what humans do to animals is wrong. What we, those who watch this program is wrong and it’s supposed to open our eyes to the hidden parts of the meat and animal farming industry. There are documentary style videos to persuade an audience to believe that a certain the animal is dangerous (like Blackfish and fiction films like Jaws and The Shallows), as well as films that depict the audience as wrong – that people who consume animals are horrendous. Due to these opposing black and white views, it’s hard to find the grey area or how we should feel as an audience when films like these pull us one way and then another.

I don’t think captivity of animals or consumption of animals is fair at all – on the animal – though there are varied opinions of this all over the world, so we have to make our own minds up and not a lot is going to change unfortunately. I find it quite interesting that I was already set on my opinion on animal rights after watching Earthlings – before I watched Blackfish – I decided I would try my best to become a Vegan to support animal rights. Watching Blackfish, despite the negative stance toward Tilikum only furthered my stance that animal captivity and cruelty is wrong. We as an audience watching films about animals are probed to put ourselves or our domestic pets in that position – what if it were us/them? How would we feel? This is anthropomorphism – a way in which people can feel empathy and human feeling for an animal to better understand how they feel.

These films are a way for us as an audience to determine our stance toward particular animals – however films telling stories of what an animal has done in a negative light only pushes them further down the line of ‘they don’t matter, they are a dangerous animal and they don’t have human purpose.’ Unfortunately, this is exactly what has happened with sharks after Jaws, and movie producers still haven’t learned the negative light that they shine on Sharks in the ocean is harmful to them. Films like The Shallows are still being produced to mass audiences, showing that sharks are ‘bad, dangerous, ferocious.’ We need to change our view on animals – and the media and film industry is still deciding which light they want to paint animals in – though it’s mostly still negative.

 

REFERENCES:

Aguilera, P. (2014). VEG-GENDERED: A CULTURAL STUDY OF GENDERED ONSCREEN REPRESENTATIONS OF FOOD AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS FOR VEGANISM. Florida. Available at: https://fau.digital.flvc.org/islandora/object/fau%3A13647/datastream/OBJ/view/Veg-gendered__a_cultural_study_of_gendered_onscreen_representations_of_food_and_their_implications_for_veganism.pdf

Curmi, A. (2005). Taking a Bite Out of Fiction-Media Effects and Social Fears. A Case Study on ‘Jaws’. [online] sharkmansworld. Available at: http://sharkmans-world.eu/research/lexi_thesis.pdf [Accessed 31 Mar. 2017].

Gill, C. (2017). 1st ed. [ebook] Available at: http://openresearch.ocadu.ca/id/eprint/192/1/Caitlin%20Gill%20Proximity%20to%20Animals%20Thesis%20Document%20May%209th%20final.pdf 

Halaj, S. (2013). A Decent Proposal: How Animal Welfare Organizations Have Utilized Shareholder Proposals to Achieve Greater Protection for Animals. [online] Repository.jmls.edu. Available at: http://repository.jmls.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1951&context=lawreview

Lunden, E. (2012). 1st ed. [ebook] Stockholm University. Available at: https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:617342/FULLTEXT01.pdf 

otca. (2017). otca. [online] Available at: http://www.openthecages.org/vlp 

Griffin, E., Miller, K.L., Freitas, B. and Hirshfield, M. J. Predators as Prey. (2008). 1st ed. [ebook] Washington, DC. Available at: http://oceana.org/sites/default/files/reports/Predators_as_Prey_FINAL_FINAL1.pdf [Accessed 31 Mar. 2017].

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