Seaworld: Enemy of the Orcas

Amanda Ringfelt


In her documentary Blackfish, Gabriela Cowperthwaite successfully demonstrates SeaWorld's deceit of the public and trainers through trainer interviews and stock footage of employees.

Defining the Purpose

Blackfish begins with the recent death of one of SeaWorld's most experienced trainers, Dawn Brancheau. From there, the documentary recounts the history of SeaWorld, from their capturing of wild orcas to the physical and emotional pain experienced by these animals in captivity. Throughout the documentary, the filmmaker demonstrates SeaWorld's constant attempt to hide all information that could reveal the danger of working with captive orcas, as well as the pain inflicted upon them.

Trainer Interviews

Reflecting on an accident: The image below shows an interview with one of the former trainers at SeaWorld. In this interview, the trainer is discussing a previous accident when another trainer was crushed between two whales. She explains how she never knew about this accident, and how she believes all trainers should have to see this video so they understand the dangers of their job. This demonstrates SeaWorld's tendency to withhold information from their trainers, particularly about whale aggression.
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Blaming Dawn: In another interview, one of the male trainers discussed his feelings about SeaWorld's "ponytail" excuse to explain Dawn's death. In this interview, the trainer says, "The ponytail was just that, a tale." This statement implies that SeaWorld invented this story to cover up the true reason for Dawn's death: Tilikum attacked her.
"Because she wants to.": In this interview, a former female trainer explains how she is embarrassed by many of the things she said as a trainer. She recalls saying that one of the whales doesn't do tricks because she has to, but because she wants to. This interview reveals the extent to which SeaWorld convinces their trainers that what they're doing is okay, or even natural. This former trainer's reflection, however, shows the exact opposite.


This film was very emotional. I felt sorrow for the orcas because they were robbed of the long, full lives they could have had in the wild. I felt sorrow for the trainers who felt betrayed, and for the families who lost a loved one. Most importantly, I felt angry at SeaWorld for ruining the lives of their employees and these majestic animals for nothing more than money. After watching this film, I feel less inclined to visit a zoo or any establishment that holds animals in captivity, especially if they are captured.