It’s obvious that the recent film Jurassic World, the sequel to the beloved Jurassic Park (1993), was designed to look and feel like modern theme parks. Especially the shot where a “Mosasaurus” leaps out of a concrete pool and chomps down on a tasty bit of great white shark, much to the excited screams of the crowd. That’s a direct parallel to the famous Orca show at real-life Sea World, where killer sea beasts are trained to hop on cue for the entertainment of thousands. My first reaction at Jurassic World’s preview? “Wow! This movie is pretty realistic! Especially with all the people that die!”
My first reaction at Jurassic World’s preview? “Wow! This movie is pretty realistic! Especially with all the people that die!”
I got a few weird looks for that. “No,” I said, “For reals, though.” A few eye rolls later prompted me to try and explain.
Jurassic Park, the best one (a.k.a. the first) came out in 1993 and was based off the Michael Crichton novel by the same name. In it, a research facility on Isla Nublar, a fictional island off the coast of Costa Rica, becomes a hunting ground for genetically cloned dinosaurs when a few stupid humans mess with the world order and become lunch meat. The sequel, Jurassic World (2015), takes place twenty years in the future. After the rouge dinos were corralled and the grizzly human limbs cleaned up, some genius kept the dino project going. Then somebody said, “You know what we should do with these murdering lizards that we have repeatedly failed to control? Show them to tourists!”
(Photo from IndieWire: Quick! Just throw out your hands! They’ll become your raptor-babies!)
And so Jurassic World was born! The tagline should read: Yeah, people died here, but that was, like, forever ago! That stuff doesn’t happen anymore.
Sea World and aquatic parks internationally have given similar assurances over the decades. You may have heard of Dawn Brancheau. The Sea World trainer was the most recent event, her death occurring in 2010 when a male orca named Tilikum grabbed the woman off a ledge on the side of the show pool and, to the horror of the full crowd, dragged her screaming into the water. The official report by Sea World was that she “accidently” drowned, but makes little mention of the fact that the orca ripped her scalp off and snapped her spine and was the one to physically drown her. So what did Sea World do? Surely such a dangerous creature like a Killer Whale who has, you know, killed would be either tossed back into the wild or put down. NOPE! Good Ol’Tilikum still does shows, still interacts with trainers (though now from behind barriers), and is the stud whale for most of Sea Worlds baby orcas.
(Tilikum during 2009 performance. Photo from Wikipedia.)
I wish I was kidding. All this is public information and was masterfully put together in several articles and documentaries, like BlackFish, which came out soon after the 2010 incident.
There have been “accidents” and deaths relating to captive orcas since the capture of these creatures first began. A comprehensive list of incidents can be found here, the Orca Home website. Now do you see why my brain made the connection? An amusement park featuring dangerous creatures pretends everything is cool, except the higher ups know things aren’t kosher, but they still invite the masses to “have fun” because “it’s totally safe!”
To be honest, I don’t blame the orcas or the dinos for eating their captors. If I were a majestic, deadly predator and a bunch of smelly, hairless apes were torturing me for their own amusement, I’d try to eat them, too. Maybe Jurassic World is a good way to get people around to the idea that captivity is NOT where dangerous animals belong.