Blackfish vs. Bowling for Columbine

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In both Blackfish (Gabriel Cowperthwaite, 2013) and Bowling For Columbine (Michael Moore, 2002) the audience is encouraged to agree to the ideas advocated by the documentary. This is done by using various designed techniques such as filming codes (technical, symbolic, written and audio) and documentary conventions (statistics, interviews, footage, detail, facts and structure) to appeal to the viewer’s emotions.

In Blackfish the audience is convinced that SeaWorld does not sufficiently train their staff. The director began by interviewing former SeaWorld trainers. They were interviewed sitting comfortably and proudly in clean, light environments. This visual code gave the confirmation to the audience that they were genuine and trustworthy people. In the interviews personal experiences with SeaWorld were explored and many flaws with their coaching and training approach were found. The 5 trainers confess that they were surprised with how quickly and easily they could become trainers and how soon they were put into the water with the animals. In between these interviews were snippets of SeaWorld advertisements, claiming the path to become a trainer is “rigorous” and ”lengthy”. Since the audience has already become familiar with the trainers they tend to think SeaWorld is lying. Many trainers told stories indicating their inexperience. One trainer admitted he did not know how to put on a wetsuit. This positions the reader to think SeaWorld takes advantage of young naive people.

Throughout the documentary the audience is also positioned to feel that killer whales should not be kept in captivity. The standard of their living was emphasized in interviews with trainers and fishermen saying who admit to feeling guilty and embarrassed of past treatment of the whales. This provokes a strong emotional response from the audience. Archival footage is then shown from when the whales are first captured. There are many close up shots on man-made objects such as knives and...
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