On September 19, 1964 American television audiences were introduced to the small screen adaptation of “Flipper” which ran for three full seasons. Flipper stars a Bottlenose dolphin named Flipper, the wild pet of Porter Ricks and his two young sons, Sandy and Bud. Ricks is the Chief Warden of the Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve in Florida where he lives with his sons. From the opening theme song Flipper is portrayed as a playful, empathetic, and incredibly intelligent animal that wanted nothing more than to become friends with humans. He can understand English and frequently communicates unseen dangers to the Ricks family. Flipper constantly saves human lives and helps round up criminals that find their way into the park. Soon enough Americans couldn’t think of dolphins without thinking of Flipper. The show created a completely false idea about the true nature of dolphins. Even Flipper’s signature “voice” was actually just the modified kookaburra bird’s song. Very little about Flipper’s personality is true to real life Bottlenose dolphin behavior, but people rarely understand this aspect.
This fictional portrayal of dolphins was the beginning of Americans’ special relationship with marine mammals. The general public grew to view these animals as having a unique connection to people; a sentiment that has only grown since 1964. This narrative about dolphins is so ingrained that people expect dolphins to act like Flipper in the wild and captivity, while stories that go against this narrative are generally ignored.