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 Jolly Japer or Murderous Thug? 
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Post Jolly Japer or Murderous Thug?
Strong words, I know...but when did the act of piracy become such a jolly jape as illustrated in the current trend of films, etc....e.g. The Pirates of the Caribbean films?

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Wed Jul 12, 2006 2:13 pm
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Most of us here know what pirates truly were, men who were desperate enough to resort to piracy, and used terror a tool of their trades. Many pirates carried this terror to the extreme, and in the end most pirates were truly murderers, thugs, or even evil. The modern views evolved out of a need for heroes that were free of any system, which the pirates were. But the pirates were warped into something that could be favorable and romantic. Pirates soon became something for children, and things like "Burried Treasure" (which the only maincase, Captain Kidd, is still in that border area between myth and fact) covered the true reality of pirates, that they spent their riches in the hell holes of the world like Port Royal, Tortuga, Nassau, and Madagascar. In these hell holes they would spend their money in Taverns and Brothels. To get away from this, burried treasure was usually good enough to satisify a child's question "what did the pirates do with what they stole?"
Personally, I don't care about the modern views of pirates, they can be fun. But I think people should know the reality before they have fun with the myth. Would you support the modern pirates out in Somolia? They are probably closer to the old pirates than our modern versions. Those Somolian pirates are also desperate men, who use terror in their opperations to steal from vessels.


Wed Jul 12, 2006 2:41 pm
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Mil,

My wife and I watched POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl on TV last night, and my wife marvelled at the violence of the pirates during their attack on Port Royal. She had the romantic ideal that pirates weren't so evil.

She didn't understand why they would attack so ruthlessly, or so wantonly, and I had to explain that their sole desire was plunder. Money, purchased with blood (usually the previous owner's), was a pirates objective and little or nothing would stand between them and that goal.

I don't know if the message went home or not. I didn't mention the present day river pirates in South America or those operating in Indonesia, figuring she'd been exposed to enough "truth in film" for one night and ought to be able to enjoy the rest of the movie.

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Mon Jul 17, 2006 6:41 am
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HMS Charity wrote:
I didn't mention the present day river pirates in South America or those operating in Indonesia, figuring she'd been exposed to enough "truth in film" for one night and ought to be able to enjoy the rest of the movie.

I happened by chance upon a show this weekend called "Modern Pirates" of which I watched only a few minutes. It talked about the fact that piracy has never faded from the world scene and is a growing crime today. The one incident I happened to catch was an attempted high-jacking in the Strait of Malacca (1998 ?) that caused a collision with an oil tanker that killed over 50 people and created a huge oil spill.

I have been aware of the piracy currently going on off the coast of Somalia (Horn of Africa) because the US Navy (as well as others) is attempting to patrol the area and remove the pirates. It doesn't take much digging to unearth a number of other places with this affliction.

Piracy has now become linked to terrorism -- and we all know what "jolly" folks they can be. CLICK HERE for a frightening webpage.

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Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:14 am
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Post Re: Jolly Japer or Murderous Thug?
Mil Goose wrote:
Strong words, I know...but when did the act of piracy become such a jolly jape as illustrated in the current trend of films, etc....e.g. The Pirates of the Caribbean films?

Mary, I think that part of the opinions of adults today is a reflection that it has been rare for realistic movies concerning pirates to be made -- or books to be written. I, like most kids of my era, grew up with pirates in cartoons (with no true violence) or books and movies like "Treasure Island."

My concept of pirates even as a young adult was what was formed when I was a child. My favorite version of the often filmed "Treasure Island" is the 1950 version starring Robert Newton as Long John Silver and Bobby Driscol as Jim Hawkings. A peg-legged man with a parrot on his shoulder singing Yo, Ho, Ho, who wasn't truly evil was my stereotypical pirate. Such movies and books (mainly for kids) might have shown deaths (typically bloodless) from firearms but no deaths from torture or other gruesome methods. Even as of today, I have never seen the complete slaughter of a crew and passengers (including women and children) in a movie.

Once a "jolly" version of a pirate is planted in a child's mind, when does this get corrected? Only a tiny fraction of adults ever read or watch anything about realistic pirates. Such books or movies are usually advertised as horror which only appeals to some (not me!). In addition, movies always appear to be fantasy even if they are not.

Even nowadays, real piracy is so very far from the shores of the UK and US that it makes make it difficult for some of us to grasp the horror of modern (or earlier) pirates. I think I have read only one or two accounts in the last year (on-line) of the piracy off the coast of Somalia. My local paper does not carry such news normally.

In addition, the people who went to see the 1950 version of "Treasure Island" were growing up in the shadow of "the bomb" which had much more of a horror factor than long ago pirates.

If, as has been stated, piracy has never really disappeared from the world, I do not remember reading about it as a teen and young adult.

I also partially blame the realistic TV reporting to the West of the War in Vietnam in helping to desensitize large sections of western society toward violence in general. Not that people were not offended at the time, they certainly were. But the visual media has continued to report violence since then to the extent that it is now almost commonplace. The number of deaths attributed to piracy each year (92 in 2003, see previous post for link) pales in comparison to such accounts as 40,000 automobile deaths in the US each year.

Of course, this is just my opinion.

Don


Tue Jul 18, 2006 5:35 am
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I grew up watching "romantic" pirate films like Captain Blood and The Black Swan, where the leads (Errol Flynn & Tyrone Power) were playing good looking, loveable rogues.

In terms of more recent productions...although I'm not a big Charlton Heston fan, I do like his version of Treasure Island, especially Christopher Lee as Blind Pew. A very young Christian Bale also did a good job playing Jim Hawkins.

The "charm" factor plays a big part in making movie pirates palatable. You know they're doing bad/illegal things but you can't help but like them because of their personality.

The reality is not charming at all.

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Tue Jul 18, 2006 6:33 am
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But here is a ultimate question, if some movie company ever did fork out the money to make a movie that portrayed pirates the way they should be, would people watch it and accept it? If done just right, I could see such a film help show at least some people that pirates are not the romantic figures we portray them as. It would plant the seed that a few generations later would grow into public recognition of pirates of what they really are. But note that it would take a few generations to change this view of pirates.


Tue Jul 18, 2006 2:59 pm
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Brit.Privateer wrote:
But here is a ultimate question, if some movie company ever did fork out the money to make a movie that portrayed pirates the way they should be, would people watch it and accept it? If done just right, I could see such a film help show at least some people that pirates are not the romantic figures we portray them as. It would plant the seed that a few generations later would grow into public recognition of pirates of what they really are. But note that it would take a few generations to change this view of pirates.


To offer up one topic that would function in this regard, a movie about Francis Drake's circumnavigation from 1577-1580 would tell the tale with some accuracy and not too much bloodshed, though how do you tell the truth about the desperate political climate of the time and the nature of the world where "anything goes past the line?"

The recent rendition of Blackbeard was interesting, predictable and inaccurate, though it claimed only to be "based" on real events :wink:

I will agree that, done correctly, an accurate portrayal of Calico Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, etc., could make for interesting viewing by the masses, as could the tale of Bartholomew Roberts. It just takes a talented and devoted screen writer to bring those topics to life and a director and producer with vision. Oh, and a studio willing to spend the money. Finding that combination is the challenge.

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Wed Jul 19, 2006 1:03 am
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Brit.Privateer wrote:
But here is a ultimate question, if some movie company ever did fork out the money to make a movie that portrayed pirates the way they should be, would people watch it and accept it? If done just right, I could see such a film help show at least some people that pirates are not the romantic figures we portray them as. It would plant the seed that a few generations later would grow into public recognition of pirates of what they really are. But note that it would take a few generations to change this view of pirates.


That's a good point that you raise.

I feel reasonably sure that many people know the score with real pirates, and I think a film along the lines you suggest would be both refreshing and well-worth watching, and also, I believe, the view of the serious side, accepted. Just look at how many hi-jacking films are made, and piracy is no different. I even think it could be profitable at the box-office, should such a film be well presented, unlike some films I could mention.

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Wed Jul 19, 2006 10:46 am
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