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Pirates of the Caribbean: Glory of Piracy

From the first film, Pirates of the Caribbean has basically focused on the inherent code of piracy. But there’s a moral dilemma here. Does it defend piracy? Does it deplore it? What message does it send to kids who watch the movie? In the end, are the British Royal Navy really the bad guys?

  • Swashbuckling and looting on the high seas have always captivated readers. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island told tales of seafaring outlaws that filled their days by having endless adventures. Their missions included visiting islands seeking riches, battling vicious savages and fighting the oppressive British Navy. The lifestyle of piracy was not entirely anarchistic because loyalty was carefully measured using laws; these supported by an honorable self-governed system. The pirate code of conduct was a way to punished captured enemies as well as providing a necessary social contract between the captain and his crew, an accord that if broken, resulted a stroll off the plank regardless of their rank. More importantly, why was this society revered or even respected by audiences? Is it the little guy taking on the big bad government? These were killers, rapists, etc. It seems odd that we vilify modern day Ethiopian pirates with machine guns yet Europeans are romanticized? Is only white piracy glorious? – Jason052714 6 years ago
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  • I believe in one sense the film also shows people's perception of what piracy was during the colonial era. For those who approach to write this particular topic, it would be essential to understand what were some of the circumstances that gave rise to piracy in this time period, and why people misunderstood pirates. – aferozan 6 years ago
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  • I don't think the film, in any way, actually condones the act of piracy. Because at no point do we ever see the "hero" pirates, actually steal anything of value (in large quantities anyway) from any innocent bystanders, towns, villages, or rich people. Barbosa's crew ransacks Port Royal because he's desparate to get back all of the gold pieces that belonged to the chest of Cortez, which had cursed them all. But after that point, not a single pirate is seen actually doing what Mr. Gibbs referred to as "a spec of honest piratin'. We DO, however, see them go on adventures, duke it out with a few ships through cannon fire, find ancient treasures and maps to yet more treasures, and involve themselves with curses and magic. All of which are perfectly acceptable things within a fictional story and universe. Yes, they are pirates. Yes, pirating is entirely and morally wrong. Yes, the British Navy and Lord Beckett are actually in the right (for the most part) but are portrayed as the antagonists, simply because we are meant to side with the pirates because our protagonists are with them, and we do not wish to see them die at the hands of this manipulative, egocentric, and pompous businessman. – Jonathan Leiter 6 years ago
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  • Also, I completely disagree with Jason052714's suggestion that only white piracy is glorious, or can be glorified in media. Clearly there were numerous ethnicities involved in the Pirates films, and who were part of many different crews. I took to liking each and every pirate in those films because of how entertaining they were. Their race never changed my perception of them. In fact, the films never once gave the impression that race mattered at all when it came to Pirate comradery or the Pirate laws. Everybody on each crew seemed pretty swell with each other. So in this way, I don't think race is the reason we don't glorify modern piracy: it's the fact that older piracy has been heavily romanticized by 19th century literature, and 20th century media. The pirate is an explorer: an anti-heroic figure with no rules and no life obligations. They simply go where the wind takes them. And much like Jason and the Argonauts or Sinbad the Sailor, Pirates have been known to encounter legendary mythical beasts and hazards which made their search for "burried treasure" all the more magnificent to read or learn about. Modern pirates have no such romanticising of their exploits, except perhaps among themselves, and maybe certain people who appreciate what they do for whatever reason. But this would have likely been the same back when Pirates really existed. You would have had a majority of people completely against their actions and existence, but a select few who thought they were a magnificent bunch: mostly likely because the pirates themselves were spinning tales about their travels just like any sailor worth his salt might have done once they reached port after each trip. In modern time, and modern society, however, we have much less room for appreciating people like them, ironically or romantically, and no reason to even romanticize the waters of our world, because we know so much more about them now. Ultimately, there is simply too big of a difference between the image of Captain Hook, Black Beard, or Jack Sparrow, and some angry guy on a rusty metal barge holding an automatic weapon in 2016. The time periods aren't the same, the circumstances and worldly awareness of society isn't the same, the costumes and vessels aren't as imaginative or majestic, and their choices of weapon don't leave the same visual or fanciful impression. – Jonathan Leiter 6 years ago
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  • I don't think the films so much defend piracy as much as it romanticizes it. It creates this opposition between Barbosa's crew and Sparrow's, and adds in the British Royal Navy as additional pressure for the protagonists, but if they weren't defending themselves from these two groups of people, they certainly would not be volunteering at homeless shelters and reading to the blind. Because the films romanticize Sparrow's group, it keeps the film from actually having to deal with the moral dilemma, especially since Barbosa's group is dehumanized when they are exposed as being living-dead. As for the message it sends to kids, the films were rated pg-13, or at least the first one was. The fact that it is a sort of period piece displaces it from modern times to the point that the kids in the audience of the series might not recognize any content in the film that could be applied to current-day life. The only thing, that occurs to me at the moment, that might affect kids watching these films is gender roles. Although the main male characters do not seem as violent as the enemy, Will is often driven by this need to keep Elizabeth safe, which is stereotypical for male roles. But Elizabeth does not play the role of the typical damsel in distress, and throughout the film, and the entire series, she finds clever, sometimes cunning ways to save herself. I'm not sure how that ties into the theme of piracy, but it does sort of perpetuate the stereotypes of males as the protectors, or seeking revenge, or being violent and courageous by nature, when, obviously, men vary a little more beyond that. – Jenn 6 years ago
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