SeaWorld: Animalistic PR Crisis

By Jonathan Carey, Chapter Member

jonsblog4Seaworld has quickly become a sinking theme park with publicity and PR slowly gasping for air. What once became a promotional packaged trip featured in Nickelodeon (Legends of the Hidden Temple, Family Double Dare) has become a sea park scrambling to keep afloat. In a latest article by LA Times, California proposed a bill banning orcas from performing at all SeaWorld locations. If all goes well, our friend Shamu could be set free in the Pacific Ocean.

Our controversy all started with Dogwoof’s release of Blackfish. Released in July 19th 2013, Blackfish took viewers into hidden truths of SeaWorld’s operation. From the inhuman capturing of whales in Australia to captured videos of an animal freak show, this emotional documentary turned the heads of SeaWorld fans. Fans of SeaWorld gasped at the horrors of the tragic history involving the whales and their human trainers. From a PR perspective, humans were manipulated of false facts of a killer whale’s lifespan and how killer whales carry a large heart. Blackfish broke the barriers of fabricated facts about killer whales. For instance, the claimed lifespan of the whales are 30 years for males and 50 years for females. What we don’t know is that killer whales live much longer in the wild than while being captive, which then results in cutting the average lifespan. Like cigarettes cutting out a human’s lifespan, captivity chains whales into a glass box where they struggle to escape. Killer whales contain similar emotional responses as high as human beings. We have much to learn of our blackfish friends, swimming in the Pacific Ocean. Captivity and dressing up like circus freaks only push us farther into ignorance.

Other than raking over $2 million in the box office, Blackfish raked in positive influences for celebrities jonsblog3alike.  A total of 14 bands have cancelled their gig at SeaWorld Park after learning of the barbaric treatment of the orcas.  From Willie Nelson to REO Speedwagon, conscientious musicians began protesting after viewing the popular documentary.   A twitter post from Heart, an American rock band, remarked their initial decline of an upcoming performance at Seaworld that would’ve been on February 9th.  In a private letter to SeaWorld, Joan Jett, an American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter, asked the company to cease the use of “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” as entrance music for Shamu’s rock shows.  She felt sickened that her famous tune was being blasted without her permission.  As well as musicians, celebrities flood twitter with awareness of Dogwoof’s jaw-dropping documentary.  Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul urged his fans to watch the film, calling it:

“most heartbreaking doc on the enslavement of Orca whales
at #SeaWorld on #Netflix. Everyone should see this. So sad. #BlackFish”.

Among famous Blackfish tweeters included Ellen Page, Russell Brand, Zach Braff, Ewan McGregor, and Stephen Fry.  Celebrities/Musicians are blowing SeaWorld out of water through the use of social media.  Our information received by our para-social friends has given us a second thought to attending SeaWorld these days.


It’s official that SeaWorld has become a fish out of water. Like a fish flip-flopping near the bowl, SeaWorld flops through media outlets to save itself. SeaWorld used advertisements in U.S. newspapers to defend itself from the backlashing PR they’ve received from celebrities. Current/former trainers are publicly speaking out of the project; thus, working to salvage SeaWorld’s sinking reputation. Current SeaWorld trainer, Holly Byrd, replied that Blackfish is misleading viewers through video footage and skewering images. Former trainers fight for their intended speeches, saying the controversial documentary led audiences through unintended ideas. With that, SeaWorld fights a long battle amongst the general public. SeaWorld’s Tilikum and Shamu stare aimlessly at the glass as they watch their fellow human battle it out in this Sea Park Soap Opera.

All our bickering and claims have led up to a proposed bill. Citizens of California proposed a bill that would ban SeaWorld orca shows. Within a year, a controversial documentary turned a STATE to consider banning orca shows in SeaWorld locations in San Diego. San Diego folks have felt the brunt shame in orcas being captive in a tiny fish bowl. What turned into an oppositional social media PR campaign became a life-changing issue for SeaWorld shows in California. In a few years, Shamu and Tilikum could swim the crystal clear shores of the Pacific, trotting away from SeaWorld. On a side note, other animal performers such as sea otters are not affected in the proposal. That being said, this scolding effect could spark SeaWorld’s reputation and think differently to attract publicity. SeaWorld may have to jump ship to salvage a company lacking publicity and audiences.

jonsblogWhat we have learned through this journey is the powerful effect documentaries can do to a reputation. Blackfish sparked notorious tweets from celebrities/musicians and created a strategic war of truth. SeaWorld may not have fully lost, but it brings into question what kind of future holds for the company. If no lesson has been learned through the inhuman treatments of the blackfish friends, SeaWorld could see more animals let free into the wild.   Less of our mammals could be put on the spotlight, balancing that beach ball on their noses. After human freak shows, animal shows could become a thing of the past. SeaWorld is the light being shed, pushing humans off from caging wild animals.

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