SeaWorld has had a really, really bad few months. This summer saw the release of the documentary Blackfish, which explored the death of whale trainer Dawn Brancheau at their San Diego park. Brancheau was crushed by a 12,000 pound bull orca named Tilikum, who’s also been implicated in the deaths of two other people; filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite used Brancheau’s death as the starting point for a for an extremely harsh look at the cruelty and exploitation backing the park’s “family fun.” (In a response, Michael Scarpuzzi, the Vice President of Zoological Operations at the San Diego park, called the film “inaccurate and shamefully misleading.”)
And just when the controversy was starting to die down, the news that SeaWorld will have a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade fired it all back up again.
In a press release back in September, SeaWorld promised that said float would be extremely hardcore:
From sea turtles, penguins and angel fish to sharks and breaching whales, amazing sea sculptures abound on the new float. Featuring rolling ocean waves, the gentle movement of swaying kelp and a vibrant school of tropical fish, the scene will take spectators on an extraordinary undersea journey. Taking center stage on the “A Sea of Surprises” float is the iconic Shamu, breaching 27-feet above the millions of Parade spectators lining the streets of Manhattan.
In response, PETA has been circulating a petition, calling for Macy’s to pull the plug on the float, on the grounds that it would “offend many viewers.” And now Alec Baldwin’s mad too. (And making that guy mad is never a good idea.)
Baldwin’s been involved with PETA causes before, including a video that urged people to boycott circuses that use animals . Last Friday, he and his wife Hilaria Thomas sent a letter to Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren, calling SeaWorld “a cruel prison for whales.”
“At least 35 orcas and dozens of dolphins have died prematurely at SeaWorld parks,” they added, “which should not be celebrated with a giant Shamu float parading down 34th Street. Please don’t be a part of SeaWorld’s crisis-management plan.”
Baldwin and Thomas issued that letter the same day that he was forced to apologize on MSNBC’s website for allegedly calling a paparazzo a “cocksucking fag” and suspended from his brand-new talk show. (Baldwin denies using the word “fag”; he says he was using the linguistically unlikely combo of “cocksucking fathead.”) Perhaps SeaWorld aren’t the only ones here with a “crisis-management plan.”
Either way, it makes no difference; the Macy’s parade has no plans to pull the parade float. In response to a query from the Voice, their flotilla of PR people sent over the following press release, which we’ll reprint in full. Basically: the Macy’s parade wants no part of your political stuff, is sorry if you find some of their floats “disagreeable.” Here’s the whole thing:
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade stands as a unique American event solely devoted to entertainment. The Parade has never taken on, promoted or otherwise engaged in social commentary, political debate, or other forms of advocacy, no matter how worthy. Its mission has always been about entertaining millions of families and spectators. While it is understandable that such a widely embraced event can sometimes feature elements or performances that some people may find disagreeable, Macy’s intention is to provide a range of entertaining elements without judgement, endorsement or agenda. We cannot control external forces that wish to impose their own perceptions on the Parade and so we will remain steadfast in following the guiding core of a decades old mission, celebration and entertainment for all.
The parade people added, very firmly, that they will not be saying anything else about any of that.