Cannibals of the Caribbean
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There are spoilers for the new Pirates movie in this post. I warned you.
There’s been some talk around the blogosphere about a section of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Specifically, the part where Jack Sparrow and the crew are captured by some brown savages who are cannibals and want to eat Jack because he’s a god whose spirit is trapped in a fleshy prison and the crew because people just taste good. When our heroes finally get away from said savages, they turn on a dog and make him their leader/god*. I suppose, someday, they will eat him.
This sequence of events upsets and angers some people — with good reason. It pissed people off before the movie was even filmed. Chief Charles Williams of the Dominica Carib Territory issued a statement where he outlined the interactions between himself and other Dominican leaders and the producers, director, etc. of the film.
They explained that the movie is fiction, there is strong element of cannibalism in it, there is an encounter with a pirate on the beach, there would be savages who wants him to lead their clan and to do so they have to kill him to get his spirit to do so, they spoke of the chase, the capture, hanging of people in a cave upside down saying we are all there to be eaten, roasting of someone like on a barbeque fire, and the scenes of mountains and gouges is needed so to fire their bow and arrows.
They said they cannot hide the fact there is cannibalism in the movie one will not see blood and actual flesh eating but cannibalism is strongly implied, they cannot show us the script because it is not Disney policy to do so, they cannot change the movie, they must film it…
I as chief explained that we have to understand that we through our ancestors were the ones whom the pirates encountered in the 15th 16th and 17th century when they came, and we were labeled savage cannibals because we stood and fought for our rights, and this is documented in every history book around the world that speaks of the Caribbean history, we are stigmatized up to this day as cannibals, every time that some conflict arises between blacks and Caribs right here in Dominica it is thrown into our faces “we ate the Arawaks but wont be able to eat us blacks”.
Today Disney wants to popularize that stigma once more, this time through film.
I have two reactions to this part of the film:
My writer brain feels that it was unnecessary because it was an extra 30 – 50 minutes spent not dealing with the plot, but driving around the plot in circles until an appropriate parking space could be found. There was no real reason for Jack and The Black Pearl to be on that island. It was padding, all of it. And I cannot abide unnecessary padding in narrative.
My Angry Black Woman-ness is pissed off that, in the course of adding unnecessary padding, they also managed to add racist portrayals of brown people.
That’s two points against you, Disney.
I am not Dominican and therefore must admit that the sting of this doesn’t go right to my heart. I’m only emotionally attached in a tangential way. And, honestly, I was an apologist for the sequence until I read Chief William’s statement. It’s true, folks; even the Angry Black Woman is capable of insensitivity. Chief Williams’ words reminded me that POTC2 wasn’t just showing a fictional depiction of fictional people, but a fictional depiction of a real stereotype.
It’s not okay. It’s not harmless.
What’s the proper course of action? I can’t boycott the film, I already saw it. I can’t tell you, dear readers, what to do. I will say that denying Disney your $12 won’t change anything, alas. What will change things is raising a stink about the issue and not allowing the assholes of the world to characterize the whole thing as ‘just a movie’ or anything like that. Get angry, get vocal, and don’t buy any POTC2 stuff (just in case).
ETA : An excellent post from Marc Singer who is even more erudite than myself on the suject.
*While watching the movie I was almost ready to give the ‘cannibals’ the benefit of the doubt. If they really thought Jack was a god, their actions could be chalked up to religious fervor. But when they just as readily elevated the dog to leader status, I felt the script writers were saying that these stupid brown people would worship anything that washed up on the beach. Not cool.