Revisting Pirates

I recently re-watched the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. (I didn’t misspeak, I watched the first three movies that form a trilogy. I’ve seen the fourth, but didn’t include it in this viewing.)

I truly love this series.

I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but will — likely with spoilers — mention a few things I appreciate.

1. Almost all the lead characters, with the exception of the trickster, grow and change. The events cause Elizabeth, Norrington, Will, and even Davey Jones to reach outside of their normal limitations and become more than they think they can be.

2. Jack Sparrow does not grow and change. He dies, but he does not change. This is entirely appropriate for a trickster. My kids and I love how reliable he is, once you understand that. Jack Sparrow will always be trying to be captain of the Black Pearl — it’s merely that his methods can be circuitous.

3. The world-building hangs together very well. Some kinds of magic are real, and others used to be real, and the world is in transition from one kind of reality to another. The conflicts in the Pirates movies are conflicts over what the future will become. These are good stakes, urgent and desperate.

4. Elizabeth’s speech to the pirates in At World’s End makes me cry. By the time we get to that moment, the pirates have been positioned on the side of freedom, autonomy, magic, and self-governance. The East India Company has been established as imprisonment and monopoly. I am the product of my culture, and a desperate fight by the outnumbered little-guy for her freedom gets me right here.

Though I do wonder why they named it the East India Company. The West India Company worked in the West Indies, i.e., the Caribbean, and the East India Company worked in India. But none of the FOUR West India Companies were British. Because, frankly, Britain didn’t do very much in the West Indies.

Aaaaannd, here ends my historical quibble. Which, really, zombies, Davey Jones’ Locker, Kraken. I should let it go.

5. I love “Hoist the Colors”.

Yo, ho, haul together,
hoist the colors high.
Heave ho,
thieves and beggars,
never shall we die.

The king and his men
stole the queen from her bed
and bound her in her Bones.
The seas be ours
and by the powers
where we will we’ll roam.

Yo, ho, haul together,
hoist the colors high.
Heave ho, thieves and beggars,
never shall we die.

Some men have died
and some are alive
and others sail on the sea
– with the keys to the cage…
and the Devil to pay
we lay to Fiddler’s Green!

The bell has been raised
from it’s watery grave…
Do you hear it’s sepulchral tone?
We are a call to all,
pay head the squall
and turn your sail toward home!

Yo, ho, haul together,
hoist the colors high.
Heave ho, thieves and beggars,
never shall we die.

6. I think that what I get from the franchise as a whole is a strong sense of empowerment. The message, the idea, that everyone can come back from horrible setbacks and make another go at life. That while you may not get what you planned for, you can make a new plan — often in the middle of a swordfight or while drowning. That a change in circumstance is not irreversible. Or, if it is, then another option is opened. These are fundamentally hopeful stories, not in a rosy way but in a dirty and stubborn way. Life is rough and hard and painful and filthy, they say, but as long as you are alive you have a chance at something better.

I showed these movies to my kids a few years back. They love them. I approve of this. I approve of them incorporating the indomitable spirit these movies into their view of the world.

Krakens optional.


3 Responses

  1. The soundtrack of these movies occupy space in my musical collection. I too love these movies and the lovable Captain Jack Sparrow. The speech is inspiring to say the least! The underdog may not win the battle but are victorious in the long run if the cause is just. Funny to look back at history and find that many of us would have fought with the pirates not the government backed business. Oops…did I say that out loud! I am a Georgia Peach and we had lots of Pirates and Indians here in the early days of our establishment.
    Thanks for the post!
    Peach State

  2. I love the trilogy for all these reasons. But really most of all because of Elizabeth Swann; in so many ways, hers is the central story, whereas in most other franchises, she’d have been merely the decorative love interest. Also? For all the hilarity and campness, Disney plays the tragic moments (the executions at the start of AWE, for example, including that of a child, or Elizabeth seeing her dead father) absolutely straight.

  3. I own all the soundtracks, too! 😀

    And, yes, the tragic is remarkably *heavy*. I appreciate that.

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