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Blackfish Rhetorical Analysis

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Clare Zeller

on 17 December 2015

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Transcript of Blackfish Rhetorical Analysis

Towards the begining of the film, two sisters who attended a show at Sealand in Canada spoke about their experience watching a girl who sliped into the tank and was attacked by the whales held captive. The sisters attended the show in 1991. The film also shows Alexis Martinez's fiance speaking about his incident at Loro Parque in Spain. He died on Christmas Eve of 2009 during a practice run-through for the Christmas Day show. The night before he was attacked, Martinez expressed to his fiance that anything could happen to him, at any time when working with the whales. The trainers also express how hard it was to watch the calves taken away from their mothers.
, the film maker, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, uses ethos the most out of all the appeals. She uses video footage of the whales being captured, the whales' injuries while in captivity, video footage of whales in the wild versus those in captivity, and even footage of the trainers who were killed by the whales. Dawn Brancheau, the most well-known orca related death, is shown interacting with the whales in a positive way, but also some clips from the actual attack. Another trainer, Ken Peters, was dragged to the bottom of the pool multiple times in a nine minute period and although he did not die, that was second time that particular whale attacked Peters. The film showed almost, if not all of the footage taken from that show. Alexis Martinez, one of the top trainers at Loro Parque in Spain died on Christmas Eve of 2009. Not much of the incident was caught on tape, but they displayed many clips of Alexis interacting with the whales in a friendly manner.
Most of the Pathos in
is demonstrated by showing footage of the orcas. There is footage of the whales interacting positively with trainers, as well as footage of the water around the orcas turning red from their injuries. Although the whales are the ones killing, the whales are not portrayed as the enemy in the situation. They're seen more as helpless pawns that Seaworld uses for finantial gain regardless of the damage done. Trainers tell stories about whales being separated from their mothers. In the wild, orcas stay with their mothers for their whole lives, often resulting in three or four generations per pod. Although, at Seaworld, calfs are separated from their mothers as early as 4 years. When one Seaworld whale had her calf taken away from her, she spent days making noises the trainers had never heard before, presumably calling out for her missing daughter.
The film uses the testimony of the former trainers to establish ethos. The audience is more likely to believe people who've experienced first hand the types of damage Seaworld has inflicted upon the whales and the trainers. They also use testimony from a man who captured some of the whales in the 80's who says it's "the worst thing he's ever done" and it "feels like kidnapping a little kid." The trainers all had very similar experiences at Seaworld, even though they did not all work at the same parks. The stories corroberate with each other, and help strengthen the testimony. It is also important that they are former trainers and did not still work for Seaworld at the time. The credibility of workers at Seaworld could be comprimised because Seaworld is a billion dollar company that does all it can to positively portray themselves.
The film uses ethos, as well, through written text. Often when there was something very suprising or sad, they would use written text to say it instead of one of the trainers or a narrator. The written text creates a neutral party to drop the important details. This is effective because it eliminates lack of credibility from a person, because it is read in your own voice, and you trust yourself.
Rhetorical Analysis

Single Effect
In Blackfish, there are many testimonies from experts. Early in the film, they introduce Lori Marino, a neuroscientist and Research Associate with The Smithsonian Institution. Her explanation of the whales' psychological damage from being in captivity helps the audience understand the effects of being in captivity on their psychological health. In the wild, orcas are extremely social animals, but being separated from other whales and living in small spaces can significantly damage these creatures. Also, a representative from OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration,
Clare Zeller
everything is terrible and bad
The target audience in
is the general public as well as people who have been to or are thinking of going to Seaworld or a similar park.
The main purpose of the film was to spread the world about the harmful effects that places such as Seaworld cause on not only the whales, but the people involved as well.
Logos is demonstrated in the film by using quantitative data. The number of human attacks by orcas in the wild is zero, but by orcas in captivity, there are over 150 attacks, 94 of which occured at Seaworld facilities, and 4 fatalities, all of which were by Seaworld's orcas. The life expectancy of orcas in the wild is about 60-90 years, but in captivity, the life expectancy is about half of that, ranging from 30-50 years.
The number of incidents with orcas in captivity is incredible. Orcas have never, to our knowlege attacked a human, let alone kill one. The psychological damage done to these creatures causes unnessisary agression and violence towards each other and the trainers. There are 57 known orcas in captivity as of today.
Clips of the whales acting positively with the trainers create the image that they are not the "bad guys" in the situation. One trainer said that some of his deepest and most magnificent relationships were with these whales. Sometimes, the whales don't understand their power and end up unintentionally hurting people or other whales. The audience is meant to sympathize with the whales, not blame them.
The tone of this film is both informative and angering. Gabriela Cowperthwaite tries to get you angry with Seaworld and other similar parks, and personally I think she did a very good job.
The point-of-view is addressed a lot by the trainers themselves. They speak about how while they worked at the parks, they did not see the damage that was being done. Seaworld kept its trainers in the dark about the incidents in Canada and Spain. Trainers worked with whales who had killed people before without being informed beforehand. After Dawn's death, many trainers finally saw the light.
The interviews are set in very casual places, anywhere from a living room to a backdrop of trees and a lake. It creates a more comfortable and less formal setting, creating a sense of trust with the audience.
The single effect from the film is anger. Not necesarrily aggressiveness, but passion about the topic. They ended the film with the trainers seeing whales where they should be, the ocean, unbothered by humans.
The trainers use diction that is not exactly formal, to make them relatable, but not to informal, to keep credibility. Although, the neuroscientist speaks very formally.
The film shows a commercial for Seawold to display the lies they are selling to the public.
The use of repetition is evident when they often bring it back to how Seaworld would never take responsibility for their actions. They often would blame incidents on trainer error.
Many of the choices made in this film are made to make the viewer passionate about the mistreatment of the whales. The lack of sensorship of injuries is very deliberate to make the viewer feel something.
A recurring motif in
is separating the whale from its destruction. They are very adament about not blaming the whale or the trainer, but blaming the situation both don't fully understand.
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