Sea-World's Sentimental Secret

seaworld1.jpgWhen my wife and I went to Sea World, I was pretty sure I would be around a lot of animal lovers. I expected employees and patrons who were just crazy about marine animals and wanted to conserve them simply because it seems mean to just let them die. I was right, but I got much more than that.

Most of Sea World is just as you would expect: Sea otters do tricks for an audience of tourists, arctic bears sit around and “chill” (haha!), dolphins jump through hoops and act as substitutes for water skis. These things sound corny, but mostly they are surprisingly fascinating to watch.

The Sea World experience is clearly meant to reach its’ climax with “Shamu: Believe,” a lengthy exhibition show that actually ends up being a bit more religious than one would expect. No, it’s not a Christianized “look-at-God’s-wonderful-creation” awe-fest. In fact, I should have seen it coming. “Believe,” was instead little more than worship service for the god of ourselves. In between whale tricks – which sought to make it seem as if the trainers and the whales were getting along swimmingly – there was a thread in which a trainer tells a story of how he dreamed of one day working with whales or something. Guess what? It happened!

This was when the trainers celebrated with cheesy dancing. If the whales had souls and human feeling they would have rolled their eyes. And then ate them.

But alas, the show ended up with much of the same problem most sentimental pop-culture artifacts suffer from: complete and utter denial. “Look! These whales totally love hanging out with us and are totally having fun! It has nothing to do with the gallons of fish we’re feeding them in between fish.”

More denial followed in the form of implying that no matter what you’d like to do, if you “Believe” you can do that thing. Never mind the fact that half the kids there are totally wanting to meet Shamu and “Believe” that they can and should. Instead, only one young girl had her misguided faith reinforced when she came face to face with a giant whale. Hundreds of other kids came face to face with a 100 pound elephant in the room: “I can do anything if I believe? Well, uh, no I obviously can’t.”

The popularity of such humanist messages as equality with the animal kingdom and the power of the human will are common in our American Dream society, and I really shouldn’t have been surprised that it would be espoused at an amusement park, of all places. Kids and adults are entertained everyday with films, television shows, and even trained animal shows that tell them everything will not only be alright but exactly as you want it to be. Don’t think about it, just want it. It’s the Sentimental Secret that destroys the lives of millions, especially if their dreams come true.

About Richard Clark

Richard H. Clark is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture. He has a Master of Arts in Theology and the Arts from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, Ky. He is also the managing editor of Gamechurch and a freelance writer for Unwinnable, Paste, and other outlets.
E-mail: clarkrichardh [at] gmail [dot] com.
Twitter: @deadyetliving

  • http://scottedwardschultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    I attended this show with my parents a while ago and commented on how I felt like I was attending a worship service.

    They were just like, “Um… no,” so I’m glad to see someone else noticed it.

  • Rich Clark

    Yeah, you were totally right. In fact, once I posted this blog, my wife said I should have spent a few more words describing just how similar to a worship service it was. I totally regret not doing that. It was actually kind of a creepy experience.

    What’s even more creepy is just how much we tend to let our guard down when we go to these amusement parks, just so we can have a fun time with no worries.

    Walt-Disney’s brand of humanism isn’t limited to Walt-Disney World.

  • Alan Noble

    One of my favorite CAPC posts yet. Very enlightening. My wife and I went to an observatory this summer and a similar thread of humanism showed itself in a talk/show they gave about the universe. While the seemed to be saying that the universe was vast, they really were saying, “look how great humans are! We discovered all this sweet universey vastness!”

    Favorite line from this post:
    “This was when the trainers celebrated with cheesy dancing. If the whales had souls and human feeling they would have rolled their eyes. And then ate them.”

    I literally laughed out loud. llol.

  • Robert Brummett

    I really enjoyed the post. I was there at Sea World and as usual I missed all that. I thought it was about Shamu doing tricks and the trainers were just really bad at their jobs. And as for the believe part well I could not believe I actually paid money for the experience. And now I am finding out that I was supporting some humanistic secret plan. Man I am mad. Oh and I laughed at the Whales eat them comment. God bless Y’all.

  • Rich Clark

    If I had a nickel for every time I unknowingly supported some humanistic secret plan…

    Seriously though, this subtle humanism is everywhere, it’s getting hard not to “support” it. That seems to be what it’s like to live in the world these days.

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