Rhetoric In Blackfish

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The film Blackfish by Gabriela Cowperthwaite employs rhetorical strategies to convey the alarming misfortune that orca whales experience in captivity. The film follows the appalling story of the bull orca whale Tilikum and the three human fatalities he is responsible for. Ms. Cowperthwaite uses interviews with dismayed former trainers and whale experts as a vehicle to explore the gap between the conglomerate SeaWorld’s public image and its palpable reality. The wild orcas that researchers describe as highly socialized, gentle animals are juxtaposed with the creatures portrayed in footage from SeaWorld’s marine parks. The latter are abused, confined to dark cages, and live in small concrete pools that are nothing in comparison to the one…show more content…
Early on in the film, a small enclosure is shown where whales apparently lived. According to Eric Walters, a former trainer at Sealand, this enclosure was, “twenty feet across and probably thirty feet deep… And the lights were all turned out, so there was really no stimulation. They’re just in this dark, metal twenty by thirty—foot pool for two-thirds of their life.” Following Eric’s description there is footage of an orca in the murky pool, so cramped that it can barely even move. Seeing the footage of this orca completely isolated in the dark pool evokes sadness in any viewer. Orcas are used to roaming the seas, travelling for thousands of miles per year. Yet this orca is all by itself, barely able to move an inch. Orcas are also highly socialized animals; the film states that orcas have a unique part of the brain that processes emotions in a highly developed capacity. Yet, the orca shown in the footage is completely by itself, isolated from any other whales. By abusing orcas and subjecting them to an unnatural environment how else could humans expect the orcas to react? Humans serve as oppressors, forcing the orcas to participate in shows and perform behaviors that they do not naturally perform in the wild. Seeing this poor orca all by itself evokes tremendous sympathy from viewers.
Together, the interviews and footage from Blackfish successfully evoke incredible emotion from the viewers. The film successfully utilizes visual rhetoric and causes viewers to question how humans treat orcas and the practice of keeping orcas in captivity. Watching the orca whales and their plight produces emotions ranging all the way from sympathy to anger. The film is powerful in that it provokes viewers to want to take action and perhaps even join efforts to help orcas in captivity

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