The Not-So-Fresh Prince of SeaWorld

Will Smith. Great actor, legendary goofball and television icon. As I write this, I am watching the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It made me think about Blackfish. In a metaphorical sense, Tillikum and Will are opposites. Will was stuck in a not so great part of town, got into a bit of trouble, and was sent to live with his aunt and uncle. His extremely wealthy aunt and uncle. He was provided with all the freedom, comfortable living space and luxuries he needed. Tillikum was quite the reverse. He was free in the wild, living life as he should, but was separated involuntarily from his mother, family and community, taken to a prison where he was battered by his cellmates, negatively reinforced when he did not perform properly, and held in a finite space barely large enough to turn around in.

Imagine being held, for essentially your entire life, in the same small space, with roommates who abuse you, and have food withheld from you because you wouldn’t stand on your head for the parade of people passing by your room. Don’t you think that would take its toll on you psychologically? Personally I would start taking shots at the guards every time they entered my cell to express my frustration. Now, say I managed to manufacture a shiv out of something, and ended up fatally wounding one of the guards. Then the warden went on to state in his press conference that it was a safety mistake of that guard to enter my cell in the first place and that he acted irresponsibly.

One of the former trainers interviewed in Blackfish can be quoted as saying (and I am quoting from memory..) “….for them to come out and publicly blame her for making a mistake that ended up costing her life… That’s unbelievable. How dare you? How dare you blame her when she isn’t even here to defend herself?”

I mentioned in class about the deceit of corporations when it comes to things like this. Corporations will do and say whatever they have to in order to save face when adversity comes their way. Anything that they can do to maintain the influx of money. This relates back to my ethics rant. People in a position of power will always exploit that authority at some point in time, whether it be to feel more powerful, or maintain their position. The late Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter changed which party under which he was running TWICE during his tenure in the senate, solely for the purpose of maintaining his seat of power. He ran as a democrat from 1951-1965, as a republican from 1965-2009, and then as a democrat again until his death in 2012. His values did not change, but he changed the public expression of his values to deceive people into voting him into office again.

So how far will people go to maintain their power? It appears that SeaWorld will completely disregard the feelings and well being of other sentient beings in order to make a buck. I spoke of irresponsibility in class today. Both on the part of SeaWorld and the trainers, as well as the patrons of SeaWorld. I believe it was Kevin who mentioned that everyone is at fault, not just the “faceless corporation.” He’s right. SeaWorld is at fault for money-grubbing, mistreating their whales to the point of psychological distress, and having zero remorse for the impending injury and death of more than one of their employees. The trainers are not so much at fault as they are responsible for assuming the risk associated with their line of work. And we as patrons are at fault for comprising the income for this deceitful and misleading company.
But then that begs the question, what if everyone began boycotting SeaWorld? They go bankrupt, can no longer afford to care for the captive whales, and are forced to shut down. Do they even bother to release the whales back into the wild? Or do they just euthanize them? Say the whales do get released into the wild… Do the whales still possess the instinctive hunting knowledge that they need to survive in the wild, or will they just starve and perish?

To me, this feels again like a situation where nobody can truly win. At what point do we just cut our losses and move on? Let me know what you think.



  1. I agree that at this point, these is no good solution to this problem. Many of the whales have lived in captivity for most of, if not their entire lives. If they were to release them into the wild all of a sudden, they may not have developed the knowledge they need to survive. On the other hand, it seems even more cruel to just keep them locked up and wait for them to die. I hate to say it, but I think euthanizing them is the most humane answer.

  2. I love the analogy to Fresh Prince. Interesting to think about. Boycotting SeaWorld i don’t think would do much, they would discard of the whales the most economically efficient way possible. In this capitalistic economy if there is the demand for a world of the sea someone else would step in and fill the void. Maybe doing so in less humane means.

  3. I agree with Phil that the Will Smith take was an interesting way to look at the Blackfish situation. I also strongly remembered the quote from the movie about the corporation blaming the trainer. It makes sense from the company’s point of view to blame the trainer since the trainer will not suffer any financial or legal consequences where the company would. However, I believe it is unfair to tarnish the reputation of someone who has passed. The multiple trainer deaths should be an indicator that the whales in captivity is unnatural and unethical to both the animals and employees.

  4. trying to take down a multi-million dollar corporation theses days is impossible, especially one that attracts nearly 50million costumers a year. even though there treatment is extremely inhuman there is nothing we can do about it. these animals are helpless, their is no other option because they do not have the skill or knowledge to survive in the wilderness. in this world people tend to do the things that are the most profitable. this means that if they can make money on the mistreatment of whales, then they will not stop as long as the money is coming in.

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