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The Worst Thing About SeaWorld? How Boring It Is

There's a lot more terrible stuff to SeaWorld than what you saw in Blackfish.

by Jamie Lee Curtis Taete
10 September 2014, 5:00am

By now, you've already seen (or at least know about) Blackfish. And you know that public opinion has turned pretty significantly against SeaWorld. 

Over a year after the film's release, people are still mad about it. In the last few weeks, a Huffington Post article titled "The End of SeaWorld" has shown up on my Twitter and Facebook multiple times. If the article is to be believed, SeaWorld, as a company, is "finished."

As a person who has never been to SeaWorld, I was unsure if its closing would be any real loss, so I decided to spend a day there to find out.

I was worried that the park might end up being really fun and I'd have to write something about how awesome it is and give them a bunch of free positive PR, but—spoiler alert—the park turned out to be a steaming pile of dog shit. Phew!

The highlight of the park, without question, is the moments spent walking from your car to the entrance, before you find out that a ticket costs an insane $84 (£52). It's all downhill from there.

Upon entering, the first thing that greets you as you is a series of aquatic-petting-zoo-type things where you're able to touch sea creatures.

Or, more accurately, lift sea creatures out of the water and prod them while your parents take photos rather than telling you to put them back in the fucking water. Like this starfish. 

Every once in a while, the teenage girl supervising the pool would remind everyone not to take the creatures out of the water because "they need water to breathe!" But her requests, for the most part, fell on deaf ears.

Beyond the petting pools, there are enclosures featuring animals that are just to look at. Like this turtle, which had some kind of raw, bloody wound. 

When someone in the crowd asked what was wrong with it, the girl manning the enclosure said something about antibiotics, before pushing the turtle back into the water and out of sight. 

Now, I know that the only reason people care so much about the orcas is because a very popular documentary was released telling them they should feel bad for them. And, really, there's no difference between these animals and the pandas down the street at the San Diego Zoo, or the chickens being sold as nuggets in the onsite restaurants. Any animal being exploited is a giant bummer. 

That said, it would be impossible to watch Blackfish and not feel extra sad when seeing these animals swimming in an endless loop, existing as little more than backgrounds for selfies. 

The main draw of SeaWorld is, of course, the shows.

I suppose I'd never really thought about what happens in a SeaWorld show before actually attending one. My entire exposure to them previously had been in five-second montages in travel documentaries and commercials. Which, honestly, made them seem quite exciting. 

However, the amount of things a killer whale is able to do to entertain people who are sitting above the surface is limited to exactly one thing, which is to jump out of the water before quickly falling back in. 

And as impressive as it is that their trainers are able to teach these animals to do that on command, there are only so many times that it's entertaining to see an orca jump out of the water for a second. And if you're anything like me, that number of times is exactly once. 

This is something SeaWorld seems to be aware of, as they've done a lot to try to dress up the shows. After tossing a bunch of bells and whistles on to the act of jumping-out-of-the-water-for-one-second, they manage to polish this turd into a performance that lasts more than 20 minutes. 

The show starts with a SeaWorld trainer coming out and asking for "members of the US Military past and present and its allies from around the world" to stand up. We, as an audience, were then asked to applaud, as patriotic music blasted out and a trainer explained that "SeaWorld is not only committed to men and women in uniform... but the world we all share."

Which, up until that point in my life, was the corniest thing I had ever seen.

It would be hard to overstate how horrifically, offensively trite the music that began playing next was. The best way I can think to describe it is to imagine that there were a Christian remake of the TV show Glee, and they were doing a Lion King on Broadway tribute episode featuring vocals by Donny Osmond (and Donny had been castrated prior to recording).

You can listen to the full soundtrack here. Here's a sampling of the lyrics: 

Many times it happens, just by surprise,
Out in the world, in front of your eyes—
You see a little kindness, someone who lends a hand,
The caring, sharing spreads like a vine,
When they return the kindness, passing it on down the line.

Even the guy who's in charge of rewriting stuff for Kidz Bop to make it more kid-friendly ("Out in the club / And I'm eatin' that grub / And you're not gonna reach my telephone") would describe it as "a bit much."

The rest of the show was filled in with SeaWorld trainers dancing and delivering messages about the importance of conserving the environment. Throughout the show, the trainers fake-grinned so hard they were almost incapable of speaking. 

It's the kind of children's entertainment thought up by people who never speak to children. The kind of people who burst into tears over someone's commitment to Sparkle Motion

The second show I went to see was the dolphin show, which was more of the same. More animals jumped out of the water, and more dickheads danced around on the sidelines to saccharine, patronizing music. 

This time around, there was a plot of some sort. I'm not totally sure what it was. Something about a girl jumping out of her bedroom window and then befriending someone who was dressed as a parrot in order to protect the environment? IDK.

I can imagine that, in the 60s, when the park had just opened, this would've been like that scene in Jurassic Park where they see the brachiosaurus for the first time. But, in 2014, it definitely isn't cutting it. The kids watching this show are kids who grew up with the internet, kids who have 3-D TVs in their homes, and a device in their pocket that allows them to watch any movie ever made. You're gonna have to come at them with something a bit more impressive than animals repeatedly jumping to a soundtrack that sounds like it was written by Trey Parker to make fun of Christians. 

I assume they're probably making a lot of money out of this venture, but you have to really wonder if it's really worth ruining the lives of some animals and having the entire world hate you for it.

Beyond the shows, there are a few rides—a rollercoaster, a gondola, a couple of water rides. Nothing massively exciting.

Despite the fact that SeaWorld is in Southern California, the people who designed the park never thought to make any kind of shade to stand in while lining up for the attractions. I visited the park on a quiet day when I never waited more than 20 minutes for a ride. But still, by the time it came to actually boarding, I looked and felt like I'd just run a marathon. I can't imagine how un-fun it would be on a busier or hotter day. 

And that's pretty much my entire day at SeaWorld: two shows, two rides, and a bunch of hours spent staring at sad-looking animals. I'm not sure what the antonym is for the word "recommendation," but whatever it is, that's what I would apply to a trip to SeaWorld.

I feel that, if you're gonna abuse animals for the entertainment of others, it should least be entertaining to others. I'm not saying that would make SeaWorld acceptable or justified, but at least maybe the $84 entrance fee might sting a little less. 

Follow Jamie Lee Curtis Taete on Twitter.

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