Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is He a Pirate?

Have you ever noticed how few pirate movies actually feature acts of piracy? Here's an example of what I mean.

Pirates of the Caribbean I - Barbossa and the crew of the Black Pearl are proper pirates. We get our first glimpse of the Pearl as having just sunk a merchant ship. Later the crew of the Pearl sack Port Royal. But what of Jack Sparrow? We first see him in a leaky boat. He admires the Interceptor then rescues Elizabeth and is arrested for past charges. While a list of charges is read at his hanging, we never see him doing anything that deserves a death sentence except possibly the commandeering of the Interceptor (which Will was pardoned for). In fact, this is a sore point for the crew in the second movie. They are hoping for "something shiny". It appears that Jack hasn't been much of a pirate captain which would be why they abandon him at the end of the third movie.

Will and Elizabeth are arrested for helping pirates (specifically Jack). Will commands various ships and Elizabeth becomes the pirate king but neither actually practices any piracy (except for the Interceptor).

What about the prototype pirate, Long John Silver? He certainly had some disreputable deeds in his past but, like Jack, we don't see much of them. When he first appears he is a tavern owner who signs on as ship's cook. He does lead a mutiny but that is different from piracy.

Captain Morgan on Cutthroat Island is another pirate who is wanted for past, mainly unexplained deeds, but is currently engaged in treasure hunting rather than piracy.

If you want a real pirate then look to Captain Blood. Even here he has to have justification so we see him torn from his medical practice for helping a rebel and sold as a slave. From there his only alternative is escape and piracy. Even here he is a moral pirate, mainly attacking the evil Spanish and eventually being pardoned.

There is a simple reason for all of this. We are meant to sympathize with the pirates so their harsher nature is hidden. It's hard to root for someone while he's robbing and torturing the innocent. Of course, this hides a lot of the real nature of pirates. We end up with guys in tricorns who say "arr" a lot and spend their time looking for buried treasure.

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