Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Avast, Me Hearties!

Walt Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” was the hottest movie of the summer and, I hope all the ten-year-olds out there will forgive me for saying this: it’s a mess. Based, and not loosely, on the Disneyland theme park ride of the same name, “Pirates” shows how close the American movie industry is to scraping the bottom of the barrel. With no intelligible plot, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on costumery, sets and special effects. Only a wild performance by Johnny Depp merits the investment of $7.50. But, like most American women, I’d pay plenty just to watch Depp read the phone book.

“Pirates” is Disney’s first PG-13 movie, but no one can figure out why. There’s no sex, no serious bad language and the violence is jokey. Disney seems to have wangled the rating to bring a crossover, date-night audience into an extravaganza aimed at preadolescent boys. It’s not as silly as it sounds. Half my undergraduate students say animated PG films are their choice for a romantic evening. But the nuclear scale explosion in “Aladdin” was scarier, “Pocahontas” showed more skin, and the studio put more convincing love scenes in “Holes,” including a full-screen interracial kiss.

If there’s a story, it’s about a lad who is a pirate but doesn’t know it and a girl who is supposed to marry a commodore but is too dutiful to refuse until a crew of pirates rips her corset off. Depp is a marooned buccaneer who does his best work when he’s been hit over the head with something heavy. He is duly bashed with a spar, a mast, a pike, and a demi-john of rum. A death ship crew of audio-animatronic skeletons takes up 45 minutes too many and gives back only some glass eyeball jokes. I kept asking myself when there was going to be a wooden leg joke, but one never arrived. No, it doesn’t make any sense.

“Pirates” could be, should be about the return of the repressed, as all pirate, ghost, gangster and horror stories really are. Like terrorists, pirates are marginals and out-casts who rage at the power of the state that has screwed them over. A really good pirate story should give us the eerie feeling that the people we are supposed to be afraid of are trying to tell us something. Something important. Think about the creeps you got reading “Treasure Island,” for instance. But real uneasiness is too risky for Disney, and there’s no evidence the screenwriters have sat down for an hour with Freud’s essay on the uncanny or Eric Hobsbawm’s “Bandits.”

Lest we identify in the wrong direction, the pirates are divided into good and bad, and the bad ones are con-tained on the floating charnel house. This way, the movie can settle down to dwell on surface and style. It’s about how good Keira Knightley looks tight-laced in French brocade, how fabulous Orlando Bloom looks brandishing a sword, and how everybody in the 18th century had rotten teeth, except for the couple who are destined to kiss. If you were planning to kiss, you had orthodontia and whitening. It’s especially about how great Depp looks in heavy kohl eyeliner and beaded locks.

Given a script this weak, Johnny Depp must have decided that his only choice was to have some fun. So he plays an androgynous, staggering drunk and insane cap-tain Jack Sparrow. Well, his androgyny is limited to gestures. Still, the kids enjoy his costume changes as much as he does, and his goofy postures are being copied all over town. Come October, every ten-year-old boy in the nation will be demanding a beaded beard and a leather tricorn hat. Expect a run on eye shadow.

Depp’s performance is a reminder that it’s worth rent-ing everything he’s ever been in, starting with “Don Juan de Marco.” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” though, is just another Disney extrusion, the latest in a long stream. The next chunk up on the assembly line is “Haunted House,” also based on a theme park ride, starring Eddie Murphy. Which goes to show, there’s a difference between “synergy” and being out of ideas.

SUSAN DAVIS teaches at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

 

More articles by:
October 17, 2018
John Steppling
Before the Law
James McEnteer
Larry Summers Trips Out
Frank Stricker
Wages Rising? 
Muhammad Othman
What You Can Do About the Saudi Atrocities in Yemen
Binoy Kampmark
Agents of Chaos: Trump, the Federal Reserve and Andrew Jackson
Karen J. Greenberg
Justice Derailed: From Gitmo to Kavanaugh
John Feffer
Why is the Radical Right Still Winning?
Dan Corjescu
Green Tsunami in Bavaria?
Rohullah Naderi
Why Afghan Girls Are Out of School?
George Ochenski
You Have to Give Respect to Get Any, Mr. Trump
Cesar Chelala
Is China Winning the War for Africa?
Mel Gurtov
Getting Away with Murder
W. T. Whitney
Colombian Lawyer Diego Martinez Needs Solidarity Now
Dean Baker
Nothing to Brag About: Scott Walker’s Economic Record in Wisconsin:
October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail