When we watch a piece of film that is professionally put together with high quality cinematography, is our first reaction to question the credibility of the content? Chances are, probably not. The film made it to the ‘big screen’; why wouldn’t it be truthful information? Documentaries, especially, seem to be credible sources of information as they often support their main idea with “expert’s” opinions and insight. But how often do we fact check those “experts” before taking what they say as the ultimate truth? Again, probably not very often. Documentaries are crafted in a way that your attention is grabbed from the get go by means of a tragic or shocking story and held throughout the film by means of astonishing ‘facts’ and a continued compelling narrative. Due to this layout, which is seemingly very effective, those who strongly wish to persuade people to think a certain way or support a particular cause are inclined to produce this type of media to express their point.
I recently saw the documentary entitled Blackfish by Gabriela Cowperthwaite and found myself walking away from the film infuriated with SeaWorld and heavily questioning why my parents ever took me there as a child. The extreme facts I heard throughout the film and experts I heard from such as a neurosurgeon had me completely convinced that SeaWorld was at ultimate fault and had me believing that morally what has been done to the animals was completely wrong. But as I did some research on the film, I came to realize that the neurosurgeon that led me to believe she understood the brain of a whale had only inspected one or two whales in her life and was actually a human brain specialist—needless to say, she was not a whale expert. As I dug deeper, also I came to the conclusion that animal activists created the film and they truly had played into my emotional appeal to the treatment of animals’ lives to hook me into believing SeaWorld was at fault.
Too often in our digital world we are fed lies or are deceived in order to gain our attention. As consumers of media, it is essential that we consider the validity of the work of filmmakers, journalists and other professionals. It is important that we consider all sides to the story in order to understand the whole truth. Amidist our busy lives, we must take the time to fact check the information we consume so we can be the best informed citizens as possible and be sure to have the true story.