Monday, July 03, 2017

Disney is right to change the Pirates of the Caribbean ride

I realize this is a controversial opinion. Still, for those who haven't already heard of it and started gnashing their teeth, here is a brief overview.

I had to search a little to find an article that didn't make a lot of disparaging references to Disney being politically correct. Now, some of you could very reasonably be thinking that of course Gina, with her bleeding heart liberal ways, is in support of this politically correct move. That would be an oversimplification anyway, but also this news dropped at an interesting time.

I have been reading a little about pirates. It was because of a book, Rejected Princesses: Tales of History's Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath. There were more women pirates than I suspected.

I always knew about Mary Reade and Ann Bonney - they are depicted on the walls for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride queue. They weren't even in this book. I knew about Ching Shih (who was in the book) from a Feminist Frequency video, but there were so many others I had never heard of: Alfhild, Grace O'Malley, and Sayyida al Hurra, (as well as some seafaring women who were not pirates) until I was wondering exactly how common it was to be a pirate and a woman.

That is hard to answer, because you really only get known if you were a captain, but there are estimates that it was as many as 1% during the Golden Age of Piracy (roughly 1650 - 1730). This at least makes the "redhead" being a pirate reasonable enough.

That led to me thinking about the question of historical accuracy in general. Even if wench auctions were common, there could be valid reasons for not depicting them in a ride that is taken for fun and does not delve into the issues of what is being represented. However, the more I read, the less likely a wench auction seems.

This is not a testament to the chastity of pirates; they used brothels all the time. Knowing how some people respond to fleet week even now, you know, I'm sure they could get company. However, it appears that they were much more likely to loot a ship than a town (completely logical), and at least during the Golden Age if the ship surrendered they just took the goods without killing anyone. If it didn't surrender and they fought they were likely to kill a lot of them, with captive most likely to be pressed into service on the ship or sold as slaves, and predominantly men. None of this is making pirates good people, but it's still not coming up with a lot of raping and treating women as chattel.

This means that if you are sold on historical accuracy the entire ride needs to be changed. If you are just sold on women being property, existing solely for the use of men, I would like to hear your cogent arguments for why Disney should continue that legacy.

Not long ago I wrote how the women of Hidden Figures should have been around in Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff, but there are people who would argue that the inclusion of women (especially Black women) there would have been political correctness gone wild. In actuality that would have only been honesty and giving of proper credit.

I know there are people who resent the imposition of modern values on something classic, but I'm not sure that's what this is. First of all, if something that was once widely accepted is clearly wrong, we not only can say it, we must say it. The rise of neo-Nazis and slavery apologists makes that more necessary, not less.

In addition, there are times when it seems like 1960s America was more sexist than the 18th-century New Orleans. Granted, that's not a full picture either, but it's at least worth thinking about.

Remember, the 1960s came not long after World War II. Magazines and products were trying to push women away from factories and military positions back into the home, to have no other aspirations than being good wives, mothers, and shoppers in a way that had not been the case before the war. In addition, Freudian psychologists had fled Europe and brought all of their stupid ideas about penis envy and icebox mothers here. Men from that time period were quite capable of getting it wrong. We can move past that and still have a good time, I promise.

Back to Feminist Frequency, one thing Anita Sarkeesian regularly points out is that you can appreciate something while still being critical of it. That is worth keeping in mind. I'm glad if you have had fun on the old ride, I have too.

That being said, if no longer having images of women in a coffle - some weeping, some scared - with no control over their fate unless they can escape... if that being gone ruins it for you, why is that? That's worth thinking about. If it's just a knee-jerk reaction to any change, even one for the better, that's worth thinking about too. Those thought patterns will come up again and again.

Related posts:

No comments: