|Wait a second... aren't those two actual scientists white guys?|
Showing no fear, they allowed me to pet them before playfully swimming away. I tried to swim after them, but upon passing the second sandbar I stopped. Trying to stay above water (as the tide bobbed me up and down) to fully capture their majestic departure, I finally relented and swam back to the shore.
That memory came flooding back to me as I watched the trailer for Dolphin Tale. Debuting in theaters on September 23, Dolphin Tale is the extraordinary "true" story of the dolphin, Winter, the star attraction of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Tragically, Winter lost her tail in a crab trap back in 2005. Heroically, two employees of Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics, Kevin Carroll and Dan Strzempka, were moved by Winter's story and motivated to develop an artificial tale for the dolphin. It should be noted here that both Carroll and Strzempka are white; in the film Dolphins Tale, the roles of the two white guys who actually invented the artificial dolphin tale have been lumped into a character named "Dr. McCarthy", played naturally by the numinous negro himself, Morgan Freeman:
Morgan Freeman … From Easy Reader on PBS' The Electric Company to the voice of VISA in television commericals to the Academy Award-winning actor he is today, Morgan Freeman brings a wealth of experience to his role as Dr. McCarthy in Dolphin Tale. But when he first read the script, he wondered who or what would play Winter.Now you might be asking yourself: why does it matter that Hollywood has decided to put a Blackface on the actually inventors of the artificial dolphin tale, designed by two white guys, that save Winter's life? It's just a movie, which happens to be produced by the same people who brought us 2009's surprise hit The Blind Side.
“I wondered how they were going to do the dolphin. Where are you going to find a dolphin without a tail? I didn’t know about Winter at all.”
Once on set, Morgan got to know more about Winter’s tale while portraying an eccentric doctor who creates prosthetics for war veterans at a VA hospital.
It's important because a lot of people are going to see this film, and because most people believe what they see on television and in films, they'll come away thinking that a Black guy actually invented this prosthetic tail that helped saved Winter's life. I wrote a whole book on what I call "Black Fictional Images", entitled Hollywood in Blackface. Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, and Will Smith are the go-to Black actors for creating positive images of Black people via portraying fictional Black scientists, inventors, doctors, and people who routinely save the world.
If you haven't picked a copy of it up yet, I highly recommend it.
That the casting director and script writer for Dolphin Tale would find it necessary to amalgamate the two white scientists who actually invented the artificial tail for Winter into a "Black Fictional Image" that could only be played by Freeman is one of the more egregious examples of Hollywood's policy of Blackfacing true events for the purposes of inculcation.
There was no "Dr. McCarthy"; this is a Black Fictional Image created with the expressed desire of convincing moviegoers that a Black person was involved in the tale of saving Winter the Dolphin. In this case, the artificial tail was invented and developed by a Black guy. People believe what they are told, what they see.
But the truth is always just below the surface. So who are the real inventors of the artificial dolphin tail that saved Winter's life and inspired the film?:
In December 2005, a three-month-old bottlenose dolphin found herself tangled in the ropes of a crab trap near Cape Canaveral, Florida. Fortunately, fisherman Jim Savage heard her cry and was able to free the little dolphin from the rope that was wrapped tightly around her tail and mouth. After making some calls, a rescue team came to help and she was taken to the Florida Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA). The team at CMA worked night and day to help Winter recover from the injuries and she began to make steady improvement. However, her tail was badly damaged and as the team feared, she lost her tail.But what about Dr. McCarthy? What about the character that Morgan Freeman will portray in Dolphin Tale? Didn't a septuagenarian Black male invent the prosthetic that save Winter's life? No. It was two white guys, members of that unappreciated race who invented (and sustain) practically everything that keeps modern society moving forward.
In 2006, Kevin Carroll, an expert prosthetist and vice president of prosthetics at Hanger heard her story and offered to fit her with an artificial tail. “My heart went out to her, and I thought I could probably put a tail on her.”
It took about a year and a half for Carroll and Hanger’s Sarasota, Florida Practice Manager, Dan Strzempka to develop the new tail for Winter. It was a more difficult task than Carroll originally anticipated. "When we fit a socket on a person, we have one long, solid bone and the socket isn’t moving in every direction. With a dolphin, it needs to move along with her full spine." One of the biggest challenges they faced was figuring out how to keep the tail from sliding off and how to propel a 400-pound dolphin 10 feet into the air. Carroll and Strzempka have since volunteered their nights and weekends to the CMA fabricating a series of tails, creating special liners, and developing new materials for her very delicate skin.
The only invention that can be created to a Black person is the Super Soaker, and even that is just an improved device for delivering concentrated blasts of water in a playful, weaponized stream of fun.
Two white guys and their contributions to the Winter story have been lumped together into the creation of palatable Black Fictional Image in Dr. McCarthy, played by the ubiquitous Morgan Freeman. The rest of the cast is hideously white, like Super 8 or I am Number Four. Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr. also star in Dolphin Tale, rounding out a cast full of other white people. The insertion of a Black Fictional Image of Dr. McCarthy, played by Morgan Freeman, was perhaps necessary for this film to get green-lighted.
Having too many white faces would have potentially made the movie un-filmable. USA Today ran a story on the actual white guys who invented the artificial tail for Winter, and how techniques used in the invention of the prosthetic device for the dolphin have been used to help humans:
When an animal is hurt in the wild, humans will come to its rescue if possible. With TLC, the animal is able to return to the wild, its lasting effect on humans limited to some warm memories.The case of Winter, the bottlenose dolphin, is decidedly different. Winter lost her tail after being caught in a crab trap near Cape Canaveral in 2005. She was just 3 months old and 75 pounds, a rope was tied around her mouth, and she was losing circulation to her tail when a fisherman found her and called Florida's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution.
Now, Winter is getting an artificial tail that will let her swim much like she used to. The high-tech work also has made life better for an Iraq war veteran who lost his legs to an explosion.The link between dolphin and war veteran is Kevin Carroll, vice president of Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics in Bethesda, Md., a dolphin lover who first heard about Winter's desperate situation on the radio. Winter had stunned her handlers when she used her flippers, typically reserved for navigation, to swim.
Again, the "Dr. McCarthy" you will see in Dolphin Tale doesn't exist; a Black guy - even one played by the charming Morgan Freeman - had nothing whatsoever to do with the creation of Winter's artificial tail. It was two white scientists who invented Winter's artificial tail, but including this inconvenient truth in Dolphin Tale would make the movie too white.Carroll knew that if the dolphin continued to swim in this unnatural way without her tail, she probably would develop further problems in her spinal cord.
Carroll, who usually works with human patients, offered his services to Florida's Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where Winter has been receiving treatment.
Carroll's company began creating a flexible, silicon-based prosthetic tail. He planned to place the tail over a gel-like substance to hold it in place while protecting the dolphin's sensitive skin. Carroll says he tried several substances until he found a commercially available one that suited Winter.
About a year later, he again experimented, this time on a human.
Brian Kolfage lost both legs and his right hand in a mortar attack Sept. 11, 2004, while serving with the Air Force in Balad, Iraq.
Kolfage, 22 at the time, received two leg prosthetics but continued to have a severe skin reaction. Carroll decided to experiment with the gel-like substance he had developed for Winter, using it to pad the irritated area between Kolfage's new left leg and pelvic area.
In what Carroll calls a "big breakthrough," the substance relieved Kolfage's discomfort.
Kolfage, now 25 and working a desk job for Air Force security in Tucson, began walking again. "I really didn't think it would work … but it was like the difference between night and day," Kolfage says. "It was perfect."
Carroll always expected to be able to apply some technology discovered with Winter to a human case, but he says the success of such applications is rare.
As for Winter, the 20-month-old dolphin has boosted aquarium attendance 15% to 25% and inspired corporate sponsorships and donations to the aquarium.
Winter's progress is slow and steady. Carroll released a prototype of a prosthetic tail in April but has not permanently attached it to Winter, who cannot swim normally without it.
Trainers, most of them volunteers, work with Winter up to six hours a day to acclimate her to the gel material. Carroll hopes to attach the socket-tail device in about a month and the full prosthetic in six months.
Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics is paying for the entire project. Carroll and practitioner Dan Strzempka have been donating their free evenings and weekends to complete research and visit the dolphin at the non-profit aquarium where she will remain for the rest of her life.
"I didn't realize it would take so long," Carroll says. "But I've committed for the long haul."
So before some Black Web site like Thegrio.com, Theroot.com, or Newsone.com tries to claim yet another fictional Black invention, let's remember that "Dr. McCarthy" is not real; it's just two white scientists rolled into one numinous negro to elicit the necessary cinematic Black Fictional Image effect upon moviegoers.
Hollywood in Blackface, in action.