Monday, July 3, 2017

Are they Pirates or Boy Scouts? A Critical Decision

"A scene where women are being auctioned is NOT acceptable in a ride about pirates! We must change this!" Said only the Disney company and people who think pirates of all things should be more politically correct (Tom Simpson on Flickr)
Note: This post originally had the link to a petition attempting to save the original auction scene. For obvious reasons the link has been removed. This post will continue to be a historical record of my opinions about Pirates of the Caribbean and my explanation of my dislike of certain changes to the attraction.

Are they the Pirates or Boy Scouts of the Caribbean? I'm confused.

In the original versions of the attraction at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, they were most definitely pirates. They pillaged, plundered, looted, kidnapped, auctioned and chased after wenches, and burned a city to the ground, all without giving a hoot.

"Just look at that poor man! We need to change him to a pirate and have his pirate friends playfully dunk him in the well!" Said no one ever

In the 60s and 70s, and for quite some time afterwards, there was virtually no complaints about pirates being pirates. Everyone understood that pirates were not nice people, and that they did some terrible things. It didn't (and still doesn't) make sense to try to censor their bad deeds any further then necessary for a family audience. They sought treasure without rules of conduct; they took what they could and gave nothing back. They were having a jolly good time, but like their cursed skeletal counterparts in the caverns, they too would eventually pay the price. Both versions of the ride ended with the pirates either threatening to blow themselves away or die surrounded by their treasure in a blazing fire they started, a terrible fate for equally terrible men. But before that, they got to enjoy the fun of such exploits as kidnapping the town's women and selling them at auction as wenches. Through a romantic lens and Marc Davis's classic gags, guests got to see pirates as the rascals, scoundrels, and villains they really were, with just the right amount of softening (very little) of their exploits.

"Looting and burning is wrong! These Pirates should be doing community service!" Said no one ever

Starting in the 1990s, the Disney Company began to move towards a much warmer, sweeter, pleasant child-friendly image. This was especially apparent in the theme parks, where particularly at Disney World, many weird and scary parts of the Magic Kingdom were either subdued or removed entirely. This was the era where at Disney World, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with its graveyard of lost ships and giant squid was closed and abandoned, Snow White's Adventures was made much less frightening, and a trip to Hell in Mr. Toad's Wild Ride was replaced by the saccharine adventures of Winnie the Pooh. This was also the era in which the company began to change elements of certain attractions to make them more "politically correct", and one of the biggest changes was a major alteration to a scene in Pirates of the Caribbean in which lusty pirates chased after women. Goods such as food or treasure were placed into the women's' arms to change the pirates' object of desire, and later it became the women who were chasing the pirates out of their homes. The gluttonous pirate who was too tired to chase a lively lass had his lines changed so that he either sought food or treasure, depending on the park (this pirate now holds the key and map to the treasure that Jack Sparrow is searching for).



When this highly controversial change was first made to Pirates of the Caribbean, one of its scriptwriters, X. Atencio, called the "improved" attraction "The Boy Scouts of the Caribbean". The rest of the reaction to the change was split; some thought it was necessary to avoid sexism and misogyny, while many believed that political correctness was redundant for an attraction called the Pirates of the Caribbean. Strangely (and fortunately), the iconic auction scene was spared from the PC cannonfire, and still ran a brisk trade. For 20 years after they were no longer allowed to chase after wenches outright, the pirates were still allowed to purchase them at a legitimate enough auction. They could still admire the best item in the auction, who teased them mercilessly with her hypnotizing body and flowing hair. Almost none of the pirates cared for the stout wench who the Auctioneer was trying to sell, and instead yelled "We Wants The Redhead!" only silenced by the shot of a gun. Meanwhile, outside the eternal darkness of the Mercado, part of the world continued to get more politically correct and sensitive.

Not a week ago, the inevitable yet unthinkable happened. The Disney Company announced perhaps their most extreme change in the name of political correctness yet. When both Disneyland and Disney World's Pirates of the Caribbean close for refurbishment in 2018, the Pirates may finally become Boy Scouts for good. The banner of the Auction will read "Surrender Yer Loot" instead of "Take a Wench for a Bride". Illogically and confusingly, the Boy Scouts will take the loot they just stole from the townspeople and auction it to themselves, forcing the citizens of the village to stand in line to give away their treasures. One concession is made to fans of the original scene by making the Redhead a Girl Scout armed with a rifle and swords, assisting the auction instead of being part of it. But the Pirates Boy Scouts of the Caribbean will never be the same again; too many iconic scenes have been altered and compromised, whether it be from movie-tie ins or politically charged changes that create controversy out of thin air. What was once a genuine movement for awareness and respect has become a poison that results in those afflicted like Disney either censoring others or censoring themselves. I wish there was a gentler way to put this, but the auction scene is a classic scene, perhaps the most iconic part of the entire ride, and altering it to purportedly avoid sexism and misogyny risks removing the ride farther away from what made it great (the most bewildering thing about this is how selling women at auction is not okay, but waterboarding the guy who's the mayor of the village is acceptable). Enough damage has already been done with the previous PC changes and the nonsensical movie tie-ins. Both parks have so much to lose from this poorly-advised alteration; the already compromised ride at WDW would be muddled almost beyond comprehension, and Disneyland is about to drastically alter one of the last ride scenes Walt Disney ever stepped foot in and saw to completion, all to make PIRATES of all people more politically correct.

Will this be the future of the Auction? It's up to Disney to decide. (Copyright Disney)

Are they Pirates or Boy Scouts? The time has come for the Disney company to decide. I hope to Davy Jones they're not Boy Scouts.

Unfortunately, in March 2018 at Walt Disney World and June 2018 at Disneyland, the Pirates of the Caribbean came a lot closer to being Boy Scouts, and far worse, have become involved in one of the worst controversies of our modern era, something that should have never reared its ugly head inside the berm of a Disney theme park.

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