Remember the early days of the Twittersphere and the anguish shared amongst the Twitterati with each and every appearance of their infamous 'Fail Whale?' Yes, when Twitter experienced outages, users would be presented with this error message which signaled their ecosystem was inundated with tweets and needed to take a breather. Well, analogous to that mythical whale, a real-life 'Fail Whale' is alive and unfortunately unwell at Sea World to the ongoing protests of millions of people, animal organizations and advertising sponsors.
On October 24, 2013, CNN not necessarily known for exceptional programming, actually earned its most retweeted program of the year - the broadcast of Gabriela Cowperthwaite's Sea World exposé "Blackfish."
This documentary takes an unflinching look at the killer whale entertainment industry and the damage inflicted on and inflicted by its "performance stars," including the horrific case of Tilikum, a killer whale responsible for three deaths while in captivity.
The mistreatment of orcas is highlighted in this exceptional documentary film which also premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013.
When CNN aired it, Twitter's media blog reporter Simon Rogers announced the news as such: "Not since the story of Moby Dick has a whale been so famous: The plight of Tilikum the SeaWorld orca told in the @CNNfilms documentary Blackfish (@Blackfishmovie) has created a social media tale uniting campaigners and celebrities alike."
As a result, more people tweeted about Blackfish the night it aired than any other non-sports program on TV except for Scandal, according to Nielsen Social. There were 67,673 tweets seen by 7.3 million people about the show, which makes it the most talked about show on CNN ever. In tandem, the show topped the cable news ratings on October 24, driving more than 472,00 viewers in the demographic age range of 25-54, leading any other cable news channel.
Tilikum, post deaths
Tilikum, the largest orca whale in captivity now weighs over 12,500 pounds and measures 22 feet in length. SeaWorld, after the last of the three deaths has not retired him, and are appealing its citation for violating a federal workplace safety law meant to protect workers from recognized life-threatening hazards. Instead they are asking the government to allow their trainers to return to swimming with him.
Tilikum is literally a 'cash cow' for SeaWorld as in addition to his performances, he's worth millions when used for breeding purposes. To date he has sired 21 calves - even though biologists have indicated that his 'aggressive' tendencies can be passed down to future generations.
Biggs, the Fail Whale
Reinforcing the analogy of the 'Fail Whale,' Jason Biggs, the actor from the American Pie franchise recently partnered with PETA for an anti-SeaWorld commercial. Appearing at first blush as a comedic treatment to promote the merits of Sea World: “When I have kids, I can’t wait to take them to SeaWorld," he quickly digressed to reveal his real motive: "Maybe they’ll get lucky, see one of the trainers get their legs ripped off.” Sounds like some harmless family fun to us."
Biggs is just one of many celebrities who’ve spoken out against SeaWorld. At the Blackfish website, it features celebrities the likes of Matt Damon and Josh Groban and a multitude of others, all of whom encourage mankind to stop supporting the theme park. Earlier this year, a number of musicians — including the Beach Boys and Willie Nelson – backed out of commitments to perform at the park’s annual Bands, Brew, and BBQ weekends-long festival, citing the information the movie Blackfish revealed as the reason for their cancellations.
So, the next time you see Twitter's 'Fail Whale.'- may it remind you of the much more pressing issue of orca whales in captivity. It's an unnatural cruelty that needs to stop and SeaWorld needs to realize their culpability! By comparison, many of us would gladly endure more Twitter outages, if we knew that was the only 'Fail Whale' we'd ever have to witness again on the planet!