“Hello, Aquaman. I’ve Got a Mission For You…”

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Hey, Aquaman.  It’s time to pull yourself out of your retirement clamshell and pull off another rescue mission.  I need you to bust a few dolphins out of the Georgia Aquarium who are being subjected to repeated episodes of unspeakable cruelty by an evil, tone-deaf dude known as “The Star Spinner.”

Let me ‘splain…

Atlanta, Georgia is home to the world’s largest aquarium – ten million gallons worth.  On the face of it, it is a spectacular facility thanks to big corporate dollars – The Home Depot and AT &T among others.

On their website, there are a lot of references about devotion to conservation and research for marine life.  The website also provides information for school curriculums going all the way up to Grade 12 as well as summer camps.  So far so good.

The biggest “wow factor” is the huge (there are not words descriptive enough to convey its enormity) ocean tank filled with gigantic whale sharks, rays, and other astounding creatures.  You will not soon forget having a whale shark glide over your head as if you were swimming with it.   The other exhibits were…ok.  I’d seen better, frankly.

The whole place is slick, shiny and visually stunning.  Like a Maserati at a car show.

Until the dolphins.  The poor, poor dolphins.

We were very excited when told that the dolphin show (AT & T’s “Dolphin Tales”) was included in our ticket price.  We raced to the auditorium, found good seats, and were gobsmacked by the sheer size of the place.  We couldn’t believe how many people the place held.

I’ve been to a few dolphin shows in my day.  The best I can recall was at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago – educational and entertaining in a venue where everyone got splashed with some dolphin water.  Another good one was in a water park near Puerta Vallarta, Mexico that seamlessly meshed education and entertainment – afterwards, my kids swam with some dolphins in a special pool.

On the one hand, I hate that we exploit these magnificent animals for our entertainment; on the other hand, they are a thrill hard to resist.  Who doesn’t love a dolphin’s playfulness and acrobatic prowess?

Soon, the lights went down and an expectant hush fell over the 50 million or so people crammed into the auditorium. Spotlights shone on the water, loud music blared out of surround-sound speakers (surely heralding the arrival of the dolphins?), and then…a man in a cape appeared above the tank.  His cape appeared to have gotten tangled in someone’s Christmas tree lights.  I couldn’t help but wonder about the wisdom of electrically lit attire near so much water.  The man shouted that he was known as “The Star Spinner” and evil sea monsters ate his ship or his piano or something.  I became confused. Where were the dolphins?

The man in the sparkly cape stopped shouting and began to sing.  Badly.  After a few notes, I knew at least one thing instantly:  the Georgia Aquarium Dolphin show was the only place that would hire this man.  People winced; seniors could be seen switching off their hearing aids.  Babies cried.

Was this for real?  And, for the love of God, where were the dolphins? And if this man was causing us auditory pain, what kind of effect was it having on the dolphins?

In short, the show was not only embarrassingly bad in terms of entertainment but embarrassingly short on…dolphins.  Maybe this was for their own protection.  When they did show up, they were like a cheesy sideshow act.  They did flips, waves, and jumps.  They carried glassy-eyed, frozen-smiled trainers on their tails.  The star attractions were then quickly herded out so the sparkly dude could continue warbling about evil sea monsters.

There was no educational information passed on about dolphins, their special skills, their habitats.

Reminiscent of a very, very bad Six Flags show, I began to be concerned for the well-being of the dolphins (not an emotion I expected to have at a state-of-the-art facility). Special effects with explosions, strobe lights, loud (bad) music as well as insultingly bad singing –  is that a good environment for these marine mammals?

If the Georgia Aquarium is at all invested in the health and well-being of marine life, they should halt this travesty immediately.  It’s insulting to the humans and more importantly, to the dolphins.  Is this place truly a groundbreaking simulated marine habitat dedicated to conservation and research or is the Georgia Aquarium all about the corporate dollar?

So, Aquaman, what do you say?  Let’s go spring those dolphins, get them away from the bad Vegas actthey’re trapped in now.  Sorry, Georgia Aquarium, you get a big, fat Fail from us.  You could do so much better with all those millions…

 

 

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