If you frequent the blog enough, you know that my girlfriend and I are fond of vacationing at Walt Disney World. The last time we went, she pointed out a child to me on the other side of the thoroughfare.
“He looks just like your boy,” she said.
“I didn’t see him.”
“He really looked like him. He could have been his kid.”
“Huh – well, the ladies do love it.”
“There goes another one!”
“Another kid that looks like him?”
She looked around, horrified at my buddy’s apparently high fertility powers and rate of casual encounters in the Orlando area. “They’re everywhere!”
It turns out, my girlfriend just associates my buddy with a five o’clock shadow, and all of these little boys had five o’clock shadows… or so it appeared. Upon closer examination, they also had scars, do-rags and a certain disregard for the rules. But why, do you ask? Simple: they had just been given a pirate make over.
I can easily understand how little girls show up at Disney World, see Cinderella’s Castle and start fidgeting for a princess make over – society has been pouring this princess nonsense down the throats of the innocents forever – but where did the pirate thing come from? Little boys are supposed to have fantasies about fighting pirates, not being one! And why might that be? You need seek your answer no farther than Pirates of the Caribbean. The ride – not the movies… well, maybe the movies, too, but let’s take a look at the ride first.
Aside from the somewhat recently added animatronic Johnny Depp, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride features pirates blowing each other up, chasing women, selling women, burning towns, killing civilians and of course, they remind us that dead men tell no tales. The “pirate’s life” doesn’t sound like much fun: brutal discipline, dangerous conditions (to put it mildly) and, at least as sea, no women. Not my idea of a good time, but there it is. I made it all the way through the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie without falling asleep, and I consider that a victory. Aside from Johnny Depp, the movie is boring as hell. I’ve tried to take a look at some of the other flicks, but I just can’t get into it… mostly because the films want me to sympathize with pirates, and that’s pretty hard to do. If you plan on making, “But there are good pirates,” argument, don’t bother – I’ve never heard of a good pirate before (Ann from House of Mystery excluded, of course – and she’s not really good, she’s just likable) or since this movie serial, and I never expect to… because they’re pirates. Doesn’t anybody know what a pirate is?!?
This is what a pirate is: a person who robs or commits illegal violence at sea or on the shores of the sea.
That doesn’t sound like a good person to me. But if that’s too vague for you, how about this, or this? Let’s just leave it at pirates do bad things and dressing kids up like them is beyond messed up. To further this argument, here comes the fourth movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, On Stranger Tides. I know so many folks must love this series, because if people didn’t keep watching them, Disney would stop making them, but there’s a much bigger problem, and it’s called Jake and the Never Land Pirates. The Pirates movies are live action, clearly containing pirates and full of action packed violence – so if parents let their young children watch the movies, that’s their choice. But when it comes to Jake, one might see the title and guess that Jake goes around outwitting pirates, but this is not the case – he is a pirate – not to be confused with the live action a-holes who are also pirates and speaking directly to your kids. To make matters worse, Jake is one of those shows where the characters break the fourth wall and speak to directly to the kids and ask them for their help – you know, when they’re standing in a field that is fifty percent grass and fifty percent sun flowers and then look (with a straight face) directly into the virtual camera and ask, “Can you help me find the sunflowers?”
ME: “I didn’t say I’d help you with shiz–”
“Great! Is the sunflower already in my hand?”
ME: “What the hell is wrong with you? It’s not going to be in your hand until you pick one up-”
“No? Then where is it?”
ME: “They’re everywhere, you swashbuckling stink pile! … On second thought, seeing as you’re a pirate, this is probably a trick, so I’m out of here.”
This goes on for another ten minutes. (Twenty if it’s Agent Oso)
Jake and the Never Land Pirates takes the inappropriateness to a whole new level because the show is directly marketed at children, specifically little children on Disney Junior and Jake is a pirate. It’s supposed to be OK because Jake is a good pirate as opposed to Captain Hook, who is a bad pirate – you’re heard of that, right? It’s kinda like saying it’s OK for Dominique Strauss-Kahn to be sex offender because he’s tried to do some good for France – as in, “he’s a good politician but a bad person,” or, “Arnold Schwarzenegger is a good Terminator but a bad husband for hiding a love child from his wife for a decade.” I can appreciate how those are separate issues, but it still makes both guys total scum bags rather than fifty percent scum bags. Maybe we can create a show for children that takes place 10 years ago in the Schwarzenegger’s mansion; he can look directly into the camera and ask, “Hey kids, there are two women in the house – which one should I have sex with? This one?” (Points to the maid.)
“This one?” (Points to Maria Shriver.)
Hmm… this is not setting a a good example for the kids, so that’s probably not going to work. I guess I could have come up with a show that was worse for kids… you know, one where they idealize pirates.
I can’t understand why Disney would spend all of this treasure and energy on pirates given the state of modern piracy. I also don’t understand why they offer these absurd pirate make overs, particularly since they’ve acquired Marvel and have a ton of movies out this year and more planned for years to come. Sure, you could argue that dressing the kids up like Iron Man – the alcoholic, womanizing alter ego of Tony Stark – is problematic, but at least Iron Man is a hero, a guy who realized he’d spent his life doing things the wrong way and is trying to turn his life around and protect the innocent instead of being a shizzing pirate! Or they could dress the kids up like Thor at EPCOT or Captain America at Hollywood Studios, or any of the dozens of other properties they own that don’t require dressing little boys up as a person who robs or commits illegal violence at sea or on the shores of the sea.