Can a film change the world? Probably not, but it might be able to change SeaWorld.
Last week, California state assemblyman Richard Bloom introduced a bill calling for a ban on killer whale shows at the marine park in San Diego. Mr Bloom, a Democrat whose district includes Hollywood, was moved to act by last year’s acclaimed documentary, Blackfish, which claims keeping orcas in captivity is detrimental to the animals and to the trainers who interact with them.
The film focuses on the 2010 death of Dawn Brancheau, a SeaWorld trainer killed by a particularly troublesome whale named Tilikum. The bill would prohibit both the captive breeding of orcas, and their use for “entertainment or performance purposes”. SeaWorld, which also has parks in Florida and Texas, is the leading practitioner of live, orca-themed entertainment. It claims Blackfish is mere “propaganda”, and a SeaWorld spokesperson decried Mr Bloom’s bill as the work of “extreme animal rights activists”.
The bill’s fate will likely rest not on animal rights considerations, but on economic ones: San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer says the measure would “hurt San Diego jobs”. During the summer, the city’s SeaWorld park employs about 4,500 people, and attracts about 4.4 million visitors per year.
Blackfish can already claim one quantifiable triumph, though. The ending to Finding Dory – the sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo – was rewritten after Pixar filmmakers saw the documentary.