James Cameron called Avatar the Way of Water a “love letter to the ocean.” Just not our ocean.
Hey my friends and fishes, I come to you today with a video I had not anticipated having to make.
Before we get into it I wish to acknowledge the many other problematic aspects of this film and even the previous film that have been brought to my attention in regards to Indigenous peoples. I will leave additional resources in the description box down below so you may look into it further.
Welcome to Pandora...
In December of 2022 James Cameron, Jon Landau, Zoe Saldaña, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, and Stephen Lang attended a press conference for Avatar the Way of Water at Aqua Park Shinagawa in Japan in which captive dolphins preformed to loud music while clips of the movie played on a big screen in the background.
Incase you are unfamiliar with the basic plot of Avatar the Way of Water, let me fill you in...
The story is centered around the fictional planet of Pandora and it’s indigenous population of humanoids call the Na’vi and more specifically the Metkayina clan (an ocean-dwelling species with special adaptations to allow them to spend a significant amount of time in the water).
The Metkayina clan share a very profound and special bond with a whale-like species called the Tulkun.
In the film, they bring special attention to the fact that the Tulkun are sentient beings with self-awareness, complex emotions, and deep family connections - much like whales and dolphins on our planet.
Without giving anything substantial away, there is a sequence of events in the film involving hunting the Tulkun and it’s beyond tragic. I sat there in the theatre and looked around at people drying tears from their eyes. I cried too, but for what I feel like may have been a very different reason. I cried because this sort of thing happens every year on our planet and yet if it isn’t fantasy on the big screen people don’t seem to be able care.
If you are unaware, the event I am referring to is the annual dolphin hunt that takes place in Taiji, Japan. There are a lot of reasons why this hunt happens, one of them being capturing dolphins to transport to their various aquariums and aquatic attractions and/or selling them to other marine parks around the world. Believe it or not this is actually a huge industry.
“A dolphin that is not hungry will not do tricks.”
- Richard O’Barry
“I love these animals. I love their intelligence. I love their sociability, their ability to connect with us, and to interact with us, and learn from us. I'm sure everybody asked their permission to be in the show.”
You’re kidding me right? Oh but it gets better because he also adds:
“Can I come and be in the show. I wanna ride.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, Sigourney Weaver made a comment that broke my heart:
“Thank you for having us today. This was so exciting, by far the best and most amazing show with these amazing animals I've ever seen.”
The “most amazing show with these animals I’ve ever seen.” As if these aren’t complex, emotional, self-aware beings, who have been horrifically ripped from their families and the natural rhythms of the ocean to perform for their meals in concrete pools under loud speakers with no hope of freedom until they die.
Now it seems there are a few of you under the impression that James Cameron has publicly made a statement in regards to what happened, I’m referring to the article published December 19th, 2022 on yahoo!news. So let me clear a few things up for you.
This was not a actually public statement in the traditional sense. According to the article, Brian Skerry (who worked alongside James Cameron on the National Geographic series Secret of the Whales in 2021) and Louie Psihoyos (director of The Cove) received emails from James Cameron’s email address and apparently THEY were the ones who publicly shared the email (or parts of the email?) on Facebook. I personally didn’t see the post(s) on Facebook so I only know what I’ve heard from other people.
Here’s what was published in the article on yahoo!news:
“We were on a whirlwind publicity tour for Avatar: The Way of Water across multiple countries, and I was getting whisked along from one appearance or interview to another for a week straight, literally doing twenty or thirty interviews a day.”
“I got handed a schedule that showed, as my first of 6 stops of the day, a fan event at an aquarium. I was visualizing something like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, with its great science and conservation programs. There was zero mention of a dolphin show. I literally found out there was a dolphin show AS we were walking out on stage. We were already out in the lights and fans were cheering.”
"I said something snide on-mike like, 'I’m sure the dolphins were all asked for their consent to be part of the show' or something like that. I was seething. But I didn’t want to create a big public incident. Maybe I should have, in retrospect. But my instinct is always to meet people where they are. Which is the whole point of Avatar: The Way of Water. To shift consciousness.”
The argument that Avatar the Way of Water is supposed to help “shift consciousness,” as James Cameron put it, is complete garbage if the people who stared in the movie weren’t even able to comprehend the message of the film and apply it to our world.
According to the article, James Cameron blames Disney and you definitely cannot deny their involvement. Someone had to plan and schedule this event after all right?
He goes on to say:
"So, if people really want to save the dolphins, they should put down the damn tuna melt," the email continues. "In fact, stop eating fish altogether and stick to plant-based proteins, as I have for the last 10 years. I wanted you to know this was a faux pas outside my ability to foresee or prevent, and that I’m sorry about it.”
You literally asked for a ride. You didn’t NOT say it, it’s on film. I heard the words come out of YOUR MOUTH. You need to actually acknowledge this for what it is. You didn’t call some fat by accident. This was not your average “faux pas”.
You know, saying nothing was also an option right? If you really couldn’t stand up for your ideals in the moment then you could have at least SAID NOTHING.
I appreciate that Louie Psihoyos feels as though:
"People think: Oh, if I was in that position, I would do X,"
"It's a lot different in the heat of the moment when you find yourself in an uncomfortable position like that. You say stuff maybe you don't mean.”
I get that it’s possible he was simply trying to people please. He knew what would make his host feel appreciated and what would be a potential crowd pleaser to the public in attendance. After all, the people that were there were obviously in support of the event.
But this wasn’t like saying you didn’t like the soup, or someone’s shoes clash with their outfit, this was far more fundamental than that and AGAIN, YOU COULD HAVE SAID NOTHING and politely sat there, smiled, waved, and made a public statement after the fact.
From where I sit, this whole thing feels like such a missed opportunity.
If the good of our ocean and the cetaceans that live in it truly matter to you as much as you say, then you need to make this right. You can’t undo what you did, but you need to tell everyone that you were wrong in what you said and give everyone the opportunity to further educate themselves.
I would also urge you all to recognize the difference between a made-up world and the real one we all live in. Avatar is still just a movie and between all of the plastic toys, merchandise, and other collectables and paraphernalia, was it ever really about the environment?
It’s just so contradictory. One one hand you have a deep message of family connection, environmental appreciation and protection and on the other hand you have a dolphin show.
I have dedicated my life to my craft. I am an artist who creates hyper-realistic fabric mermaid tails and swims in them. It’s my greatest passion as well as my fulltime job.
I can only image if merfolk were real, in the physical sense, how absolutely enraged and disgusted they would be at what we do to our ocean and all the beings in it.
“You cannot undo the things you do; you can only make amends.”
- Richard O’Barry
It isn’t a pleasant thing to admit you are wrong or that you’ve done or said something hurtful. I know, I’ve been there many times in my life.
I believe at this point, the only way I could possibly let this go is for James Cameron and the others involved to make a public statement HIMSELF. He needs to acknowledge the mistake that was made and offer an alternative view.
Saying nothing though, or assuming that a leaked email was enough of a response, isn’t acceptable. Not when you have such a massive platform and audience who looks up to you.
⭐ Action Steps:
1. Visit Dolphin Project's website: https://www.dolphinproject.com/
2. Watch the Cove: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lv6cRk4jf8 (it is graphic, fair warning)
3. Share my video on your social media, or share a link directly to the Dolphin Project's website.
http://www.aqua-park.jp/en/aqua/index.html (the actual aquarium)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRR_59i_tFM (welcome to Pandora)
https://www.dolphinproject.com/blog/open-letter-to-james-cameron-and-avatar-crew/ (open letter)
https://ca.news.yahoo.com/james-cameron-breaks-silence-on-avatar-2-dolphin-stunt-i-was-seething-taiji-japan-052804948.html (breaks silence)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VGSvAlse5Y (Jake Sully speech)
https://www.dolphin-way.com/dolphins-the-facts/dolphin-intelligence/ (NatGeo research video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jH353v7SSLo (Meet Louie Psihoyos)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFV4pRlw5Lw (Brian Skerry)
https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/22/entertainment/avatar-2-way-of-water-indigenous-boycott-cec/index.html (Indigenous peoples)
Show me that you are the merfolk I believe you all to be and let’s start making some waves.
Thank you, and happy swimming.
Among the worst offenders of BAD IDEAS is 5 Minute Crafts and their DIY mermaid monofins. I made it 3 seconds into the video and had to stop. 🙄
⭐ MERMAID MONOFINS HERE: https://amzn.to/3FEVdiF
Hello my friends and fishes and welcome back to the first of a new series of videos where I call out mermaid community BS and squash it.
Today I’d like to discuss why “honest” mermaid tail reviews are completely unfair and actually RUDE AF...
So before we dive in, let me quickly set the stage.
An event that took place a few weeks back in regards to an independent mermaid tail maker friend of mine who was “called out” on more than one Facebook group for the quality of their tails and business practices.
As I am intentionally not a part of any Facebook groups that I myself do not run, all of the information came to my secondhand through a series of screengrabs sent to me by several of you who witness what happened and were deeply upset my the whole thing.
Before we go any further I want to add that today’s commentary is not directed towards large scale companies (we’d be here forever). I will be talking about the small, independent mermaid tail maker who runs the show almost entirely on their own, works insane hours, bends over backwards to make magic for everyone, and does their absolute best to be fair and kind to all.
So a brief history on independent mermaid tail makers.
Though their are some mermaid tail makers who still use more traditional mediums, we will be discussing makers who print their mermaid tails through sublimation printing techniques using a white fabric base with digital print files.
I came out with my first printed mermaid tail designs back in 2017 and shortly thereafter released a PDF eBook (that has been updated several times since then) walking you through all the steps on how to make your own printed fabric mermaid tail.
Now I’m not saying that I am directly responsible for the rise in independent mermaid tail makers, but I can see exactly who has purchased my eBooks in the past and can definitely put two and two together.
Over the years many new makers have popped up (some lasting longer than others) and have, with their unique artistic interpretations, brought their own mermaid magic to our community.
Are there super problematic independent makers who copy people left, right, and center? YES. Are we going to talk about them today? No. Not yet. ;)
Now there are two camps of mermaid tail makers.
There are those who view mermaid tails purely as a product to be produced on a large scale for profit and then there is the maker working tirelessly to bring something new and innovative to the community through their art.
Why does this matter?
It matters because the community as a whole doesn’t seem to see the difference or be able to distinguish between the two.
I see a wildly talented artist who built a business for themselves from the ground up. They did all the work themselves for a long time before hiring an assistant. They have a history and a backstory and are generous and kind beyond measure. They have done so much to build a community out of thin air and have put up with so much abuse from a community that only seems to see what it can take but not what it can give.
I want to take this opportunity to say that I know that not everyone in our community is negative and entitled. There are a great many of you with big hearts and open minds and I want you to know that I see you too and acknowledge how lucky we as makers are to have you. So on behalf of all independent mermaid tail makers I want to say thank you.
Now let’s talk about tail maker privilege. Yes. This is a thing.
Tail making, though not super common in all corners of the world, does exist outside of the norther hemisphere. Shocking right? There are makers all over the world and believe it or not they don’t all have access to the same materials to create their magic.
Fabric that is available to a company in the US may not be available to someone in Europe for example. Then you need to factor in exchange rates AND the fact that many fabric suppliers require to you to purchase hundreds of yards at a time in order to get the fabric at a reasonable cost.
Not every small maker has the ability to make a 6 to 10 thousand AMERICAN DOLLAR purchase every time they wish to restock their fabric.
AND BEFORE YOU GET YOUR TAIL SKIN IN A BUNCH! If you are having the mindset of *oh well that’s an issue they should just have to deal with or they shouldn’t be making mermaid tails*, then you need to sort yourself into the camp who views mermaid tails as products and not art and stop putting your unreasonable expectations on independent makers.
This leads as into the meat and potatoes of this whole video.
So you made your purchase with your unreasonable expectations, privileged views, and your this-is-a-product mental image and you receive your tail. Lets, for arguments-sake, also say that you are unfamiliar with the process of sublimation printing and are blissfully unaware that it is a design printed on WHITE FABRIC and that any sort of rough surface has the POTENTIAL to pull up white fluff, cause scuffing, etc.
So you receive your tail and try it on. You are unaware that your floor is rough, the mat you are sitting on is sticky, or the band of your watch is Velcro. Already things are starting to go sideways.
You shrug it off and take it to the pool. YOU AREN’T CAREFUL. You forget to use a towel, you roughly tug on the fabric, you flop the fluke around. PS the floor is rough. You pop the tail into the water and get in. You stand on your fluke for a few moments balancing while you put on your goggles and whatever else. Then you kick off. The fluke of your tail scrapes along the pool floor and a bit up the wall as you zoom off into the deep.
You don’t notice any of these things because your tail isn’t actually a part of your body and you cannot feel the damage being done the way you would if it WAS your skin.
You have a good swim, still blissfully unaware of the misery to follow...
You get home, you hopefully wash out and hang your tail to dry right away like a responsible mermaid, but let’s be honest how many of us actually do that?
The tail dries and you start to notice little white bits of fluff, some pilling, some scuffing, and can’t imagine how on Earth this managed to happen?
It was only one swim after all… How dare the tail not even hold up after one swim!
You feel absolutely justified in sending an email to your tail maker and demanding an explanation. Your tail maker takes the time to explain to your what may have caused the damage, how to avoid it happening again and how to deal with any maintenance you will need to do.
It’s not enough for you. You want justice and you want to warn the whole community about your terrible experience so you take to your favourite Facebook group and write up a scathing review and before you know it a bunch of other people jump on the bandwagon because that’s what people do.
At no point did you consider that your tail maker has access to different fabric, or that pools are made of different materials in different countries, or the fact that you didn’t actually do everything that you could have to prevent “damage” as you like to call it.
This brings me to my next point.
“DAMAGE” is not pilling, nor is it scuffing, nor is it fuzzying (for lack of a better word).
Pilling, scuffing, and fuzzying are EXPECTED RESULTS OF INTENDED USE and purely adds to the story of your mermaid tail.
“Damage” as I would define it is a rip/tear, or something of that nature. Even if you do consider pilling/scuffing/fuzzying to be damage, it is (as I said) expected to occur.
Mermaid tails are meant to be worn and used, loved dearly, and then retired. Your tail isn’t meant to last you a lifetime. That said, if you are very careful, and take ultra good care of your tail, it WILL give you many magical mermaid adventures but you have to be willing to make the effort and put in the time.
Now the biggest argument I hear from people in defense of monstrous reviews filled with tail maker bashing is that mermaid tails are expensive and how dare a tail that cost over $500 not “last” more than one swim.
Now we already talked a bit about tail maker privilege but there is something that we all have to put up with and that is THE ACTUAL COST OF MAKING A MERMAID TAIL.
What you don’t realize is that there are so many factors beyond what you are seeing in the final price tag. The mental cost of finding a company that will actually print your tails, not to mention finding fabric that will hold up, the time that it takes you to create your designs (and many of us consider this an art form so please understand we aren’t just throwing down whatever grainy mess and calling it a day), then there’s the actual cost of all of these things (fabric, shipping, importing, taxes, printing) then there is all of the hidden costs that no one thinks about that you really should be factoring in because without a website, for example, how do you plan on reaching your clients.
ALL THAT AND THEN let’s factor in INFLATION. My fabric very nearly DOUBLED in price this year. I just about died when I went to make an order only to find out that OOP I can’t actually afford to buy more right now.
Mermaid tails cost a lot because it costs a lot to make them. There are skills involved that take many years to hone and don’t just happen overnight.
The problem is, when you make a raging review and you fail to take all of these factors into account, you are opening the flood gates for trolls and rotten people to jump on board and potentially ruin someone’s business.
I’m not saying that some bad reviews aren’t justified. They are. What I’m sayin though is that you had best have thought your response all the way through before you take an ax to someone’s livelihood.
There are only a small handful of us who are fortunate enough to be able to do this full time on our own and we have worked so hard to build up what we have. It takes years to get things rolling and only minutes to destroy all that we have worked for.
This is to say nothing of the impact that these types of reviews can have on someone’s mental health.
I would like to also take an opportunity to say that Facebook groups as exceptionally toxic when it comes to this sort of thing. I have seen it from both sides of the fence and I can tell you that this is why I keep my distance.
When I tell you how upset this whole thing made me as one of the, dare I say, pioneers of the custom fabric mermaid tail making industry I could scream.
So where does this leave us? *If Courtney doesn’t think we should be allowed to leave bad reviews, then how do we let people know what’s what?*
The reality is that you can discuss your mermaid tail/experience however you see fit. I’m certainly not the boss of you and if you had a bad experience then you should be allowed to talk about it.
This is a BIG BUT.
You should always reach out to your maker first. Give them the opportunity to discuss the situation with you. You should also ALWAYS make yourself aware of your maker’s terms of service and their policies BEFORE making your purchase. You should also have realistic expectations of fabric mermaid tails and what can be expected to occur even after “only one use.”
Even after all of that if you still feel the need to leave a negative review, please actually be honest. Let’s not be turning negative reviews into witch-hunts. You are hurting people and it isn’t necessary.
At the end of the day your tail maker may be a digital artist, but they are an artist nonetheless. You mermaid tail is something that exists between two worlds because it is not only a digital creation but it also exists in the physical world. It’s one of the things I love most about making mermaid tails. Getting to see someone become a mermaid in a tail that I got to bring to life through two mediums that I absolutely love is a gift I will always be grateful for.
All that said I do want to thank the members of our community who continue to support and lift up independent makers. You are helping make dreams come true and on behalf of all independent mermaid tail makers I would like to tell you how much we appreciate you.
I know this was a doozy but it had to be said. You can expect that I will be ripping into this topic again in the future as things continue to evolve.