The Animal – Blackfish

This week in tutorials we watched the 2015 documentary Blackfish. Blackfish is about killer whale Tillikum, captured in the wild at a young age and taken to live and perform in aquatic parks in Canada and The United States. Focusing on the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, the documentary explores the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry.

 

 

Before the tutorial I had see this documentary once and I understood while the whales acted out the way they did but I also didn’t understand why after the first incident or even the second involving Tillikum, that he wasn’t set free back into the ocean and then after two more incidents put into isolation and treated like a sperm bank for breeding purposes until his death in 2016.

This kind of behaviour doesn’t just occur in killer whales, it happens to many animals kept in captivity. For example what happened with the gorilla Harambe at Cincinnati Zoo. If you are not familiar, in May 2016 a little boy climbed into the gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo and grabbed and dragged by a male gorilla named Harambe, The employees of the zoo feared for the boys life and felt the only solution was to shoot and kill the gorilla. The incident was recorded and cause worldwide controversy over the zoos choice to kill Harambe. The screams of the those watching on are said to be what agitated and disorientated the gorilla. This also highlighted the danger of animals kept in captivity in close proximity to humans and the need for better standards of care much like Tilikum’s situation.

During the lecture we also spoke about ‘Speciesism’ which is the idea that preferences of certain species such as humans should be catered to over other species such as animals, like a form of discrimination. But the documentary shows that the orca whales featured, use a special kind of pitch to communicate with their calf’s after they are separated. In the documentary these vocals never heard before was described as long range vocals, from the mother looking for their calf.

 

 

These creatures are highly intelligent, they are capable of emotions and yet they are treated so poorly and made to perform daily for hundreds of people around the world. These animals are used to swimming hundreds of kilometres a day are confined to, in comparison, a tiny tank and left to swim around in circles all day long.

The trainers all throughout Blackfish talk about their anthropomorphic views of the whales, it is clear that the relationships formed between the whales and the trainers blind them to the cruelty towards them. Although hundreds of people might enjoy the entertainment of watching the shows at places like Sea World, the treatment of these animals is terrible. To lock these animals up in tiny tanks and enclosures is just cruel, to be taken away from your home or taking a child from its mother, or being isolated and left alone or being made to perform tricks all day, would you be angry? If you couldn’t verbally communicate wouldn’t you use any other way necessary to get your point across? Although the outcome of this communication is awful, things like this wouldn’t happen if animals were more fairly treated.

 

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Poverty Porn // Struggle Street

‘Poverty porn’ is defined as any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause. It can also be a term used to explain when media is created to generate anger or outrage rather than sympathy

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Filmed over 6 months, the SBS documentary ‘Struggle Street’ aired in 2015 as a three part documentary featuring the lives of 10 key people living in Mt Druitt, New South Wales. The three part series was taxpayer funded and said to be produced at $350,00 an episode which lead it to be called by many was “publicly funded poverty porn”. A second season is currently in the works to be filmed in Queensland and Victoria with a focus on Australians from a diverse mix of backgrounds battling against the odds.

The first season of the documentary caused widespread controversy and even resulted in a protest in Sydney but SBS Television representative Marshall Heald has said that “the second season is sought to continue the important national conversation started by series one and will seek to raise awareness and deepen our understanding of those of us in the community facing social and economic hardship and what its like to be doing it tough in Australia”. But rightly so SBS was slammed for their representation of Mt Druitt residents during the first series.

Peta Kennedy who was featured in the series with her husband and 10 children told The Daily Telegraph “When we signed up for it we thought it was supposed to be about people’s struggles and going through their problems and getting back on their feet, but this is awful. I don’t how I will manage when it goes to air” and this was only after seeing the promo. Not just Ms Kennedy but all the participants feel they were lied to about what the documentary was going to be about.

Often the media does objectify people for one reason or another to generate some kind of a profit or boost ratings. So was this objectification of Mt Druitt residents, portraying them in such a bad light and exploiting their misfortunes and suffering worth it? The first episode of the series attracted 985,000 viewers and was SBS’s best ratings of the year and the largest viewership since the World Cup the previous year.

Yes it is clear that poverty exists in this world, it is seen every day in many places. But I do not think that it needs to be shown and exploited turning it into poverty porn I believe that if told correctly the stories of the marginalised can bring awareness and contribute to the important national conversation started by series one of Struggle Street and deepen our understanding of those of us in the community facing social and economic hardship.

Narcissism or Empowerment?

We live in the era of the selfie, a fast self-portrait taken with a smartphone which then can be shared instantly on social media. The selfie has become a way to instantly communicate where we are, what we’re doing and as of 2013 ‘selfie’ is officially a word in the Oxford Dictionary and the dictionaries of the world. Some see the selfie as something only narcissistic teenagers take part in at a Justin Bieber concert, used to fill their Instagram profiles with the best parts of their life making them look like they live a luxurious life again considered narcissistic by some. Others see selfies as a form of empowerment. Men and women of the world have used selfies on numerous occasions to show support of social causes. From a social media tag to a mainstream term, the evolution of the selfie is a definitely a journey.

The Evolution of the Quality of Selfies – from The Brick to IPhone

According to Pew Research Centre (2013) 92% of American teens post selfies to their Facebook. Paul Malcore for rawhide.org wrote about ‘selfie obsession – the rise of the social media narcissist’ where he claims that “the popular teen obsession is time consuming and may lead to mental health issues”. According to the article psychologists have noticed a rise in narcissistic personality traits, insecurity, self-objectification, body dysmorphic disorder and depression that coincide with the rise of selfies. The article also associates selfies as an activity that only teenagers/young adults partake in and I don’t know about you but I’ve seen my fair share of selfies posted by my parents, aunts and uncles etc. on Facebook.

I see these and selfies of my friends and I don’t see narcissism, I see people documenting their lives might it be an a concert, an event or just a gathering with friends, showing their happiness and wanting to share it with the world. That leads me to the empowerment that the selfie brings. The most talked about kind of empowering selfie is the nude selfie. This kind of selfie is most common amongst women because men’s empowerment is not often connected to their physical appearance. Although thought by many to be controversial, many women including celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajkowski who posted their nude selfies on to social media with #liberated.

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Many social media campaigns now use selfies and encourage men and women to take and upload a selfie in support of a social cause such as depression and mental health issues, women objectification, inequality and even the right for women to publicly breastfeed. The Free the Nipple Campaign have become one of the fastest growing movements, the mission behind the campaign is to raise awareness and affect change in the area of the inequality of men and women that is experienced in the world today. After a feature film the movement was sparked and has quickly become and international movement seeking equality, empowerment and freedom for all human beings.

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The ‘Brelfie’ has also become another way to use selfies for empowerment. Women who choose to breastfeed their children in public are often looked down upon and mistreated, this form of selfie gives mothers the change to celebrate their bodies and what they can do with them as well as showing those who disapprove of public breastfeeding that it is a natural thing. This growing trend in selfies has seen one in five breastfeeding mothers already take their own brelfie, following the lead of celebrities such as Miranda Kerr and Gwen Stefani. One mother shared with the Daily Mail “while some may see it as oversharing, its actually very comforting to know others are going through the same situations”

The are many opinions about what the selfie really means and what its purpose is. Personally, I feel that the selfie can be used for both narcissism and empowerment. You can tell if someone has shared a selfie on social media for the intention of attention, to get that perfect life illusion but on the other hand the use of selfies in many of these social causes and campaigns for example the nude selfies or Free The Nipple bring attention to the cause and although some may find it controversial and inappropriate, its effective and if the individual feels liberated and empowered for posting then they should not be torn down by ‘trolls’ for making a stand for what the believe in.