SeaWorld of San Diego recently announced that they would be closing their famous orca show after backlash from the 2013 documentary “Blackfish.” After the release of the documentary on Netflix, SeaWorld’s net income fell by 20% and attendance has suffered according to usatoday.com. 

The first official SeaWorld park opened on March 15, 1959 in Florida. This park, featuring orcas, dolphins and many other wild sea creatures, has been mistreating animals by forcing them into captivity for 56 years.  Why now, in 2015, is the first park finally making a change?  

Criticism of SeaWorld operations did not originate from the “Blackfish” documentary and yet, it took this movie for SeaWorld and its loyal fans to respond. The documentary exposed harsh truths about SeaWorld’s history and the dangers of keeping orcas in captivity that the company tried so desperately to hide. While the documentary provided a convenient way for people to discover that rumors about SeaWorld were true, it did not release information that was not previously exposed online and in the media. But unlike the years worth of bad press around SeaWorld, “Blackfish” actually made people take action.

Netflix documentaries have become a powerful tool in American media in the past decade. “Blackfish” is not the only release sparking controversy across the nation. The release of “Food, Inc.” in 2009 and “Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” in 2013 both received publicity and influenced change in the lives of many people. The notion that the American meat industry needs reform was not a new idea in 2009, nor was the fact that Americans brutally abuse plastic as a resource in 2013. 

People need to see to believe. It should be enough to hear for years that whales at SeaWorld are dying and suffering in captivity to summon a reaction. It should be enough to hear that the meat industries were planning on putting cloned meat in grocery stores without labeling the packaging to outrage consumers.  But it seems that, unfortunately, people will not accept these facts until they physically see for themselves.

Because of this need to see, documentaries have become a more powerful news source in the past decade than any other form of media. It’s not enough to tell people that their piece of chicken was produced in unsanitary conditions by mistreated workers. It’s not enough to ask people to stop going to SeaWorld because whales are emotional creatures that need open space. In 2015, people need the proof right in their faces to be inspired to make a change. 

With this in mind, documentaries could provide the necessary push Americans need to make changes in big industry. If one Netflix documentary could induce change in one of the largest amusement parks in the world, future documentaries could likely inspire change in any powerful corporation.