Orcarotica: SeaWorld Bites Back

25 Feb 2010

I was at SeaWorld with my kids a week before Dawn Brancheau was killed. We had done a lot of research to figure out which Orlando park we wanted to spend our small budget on, and I distinctly remember the language at SeaWorld’s web sites:

From Explorer’s Aviary©Feel your heart soar as a feathered friend glides in to meet you and nibble fruit from your hand…”

From the Dolphin Swim Experience©—”Make a friend that will live in your heart forever…”

And from the Main Page—”SeaWorld. Where Worlds Connect.”

Sounded good. Plus, I had been to SeaWorld before, and at least it wasn’t Disney, so we went. And, of course, we saw the Shamu show.  The theme was “Believe,” and it was a doozey, far more multi-media than the one I had seen ten years earlier. From a series of video screens came a kind of pseudo-Gaelic, mystical melody, and the voice of the ocean itself, in rich, warm, feminine tones (whatever happened to Poseidon?) beckoned everyone to “come and play beside me.” The audience clapped. The whales did what whales do, I suppose. The entertrainers danced.

And we saw her, along with the rest of the performers, skipping and clapping inside her life, a life that would be over in 9 days, and kissing a hulking mass of instincts that even then must have felt compelled to wrap her in the only embrace it knew. Now she is dead,  and will dance no more. May the God of All Things enfold her into the communion which knows no isolation, so that the love she felt for nature is repaid unto infinity.

What on earth are we doing? Did we learn nothing from the Haitian earthquake? Or from Katrina? Or Steve Irwin’s final stab to the heart? Are we now to follow little Bindi, the Jungle Girl? Are the atom and the bull elephant to be added onto our Friends List? Or should we never forget that, even though we may play beside, or in, or around, the ocean, it might still crush us in a moment of inhuman exuberance? However much we love nature, it does not, can not, love us back. It is not ourselves. Despite all the friends requests that SeaWorld urges us to send to the creatures of the deep, sometimes, when “Worlds Connect,” we are denied.

It’s funny, but during the Shamu show, a pesky white egret kept fluttering around, pigeon-like, determined to pick up whatever bits of fish the dancing whales did not manage to catch. It looked like a buffoonish part of the spectacle, but it was real, just being itself. And finally, despite all the music and videos and orcarotic love, the animal stole the show.

*****

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