Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
It seems that the season is once again upon us to watch an unclean and be-dreaded Johnny Depp talk pirate. I mean, of course, that the long-anticipated release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is this Thursday, May 24. And in anticipation, we at Heroine Content thought it only fitting to run reviews this week of the previous two Pirates films. Starting with the first one, The Curse of the Black Pearl.
The heroine just didn't provide much content. Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann, "fighting spirit" or not, spends much of the movie being a rich, pampered aristocrat's daughter being rescued. First, Captain Jack rescues her from drowning. Next, Jack and Will rescue her from Barbarosa. And so on and so forth. And though Elizabeth tries to take things into her own hands, she's just not all that successful. Plus she relies heavily on typically "feminine" tricks (pretending to faint, pouting and cajoling, etc.).
And nobody ever takes her very seriously. Take for example the crew of the ship Captain Jack and Will take to rescue her. First, she and Will collectively take over control of the ship (when it takes on the Pearl in the gun battle). The crew listens, albeit haltingly, to their strange plan. Later, when Elizabeth alone tries to get the crew to assist her in fetching Will and Jack from the cave, they completely ignore her and she has to go at it alone.
And then there's the rape thing. Early on in the film, when Captain Jack introduces himself as a pirate, he says something typical about raping, pillaging and plundering. While I realize this is run-of-the-mill pirate-speak, it's still just not OK. And later, when Barbarosa's crew tell Elizabeth she'll either dine with him in the dress he provides or dine with the crew naked (a not-very veiled gang-rape threat), that's not OK either. Finally, when a pre-plank walking Elizabeth is being groped by a gang of Barbarosa's men, that's not OK either. We take these things as part and parcel of a pirate film. "We're not misogynist! We're pirates! Rape is what we DO." And that, more than anything, is not OK.
Why, then, do I give this film even two stars? Well, there are two reasons, one star for each:
1. The bit where Elizabeth Swann bonks a pirate on the head with something while saying, "You like pain? Try wearing a corset." In fact, the whole anti-corset premise of the film was nice.
2. Anamaria. The only other female character besides Elizabeth worth mentioning, Anamaria is the female pirate that becomes part of Jack and Will's crew. In fact, she seems to be a pirate captain herself, given her comment about Jack having stolen her boat. When the old standard about it being bad luck to have a woman aboard is trotted out in reference to Anamaria, Jack replies that it would be far worse luck not to have her. This seems to be a comment on her competence as a crewmember, rather than a relationship between them. I dig that. And I dig her in general. I was hoping to see more of her later in this film or subsequent films, but have been disappointed so far.
The film is nothing to write home about on race issues, either. There are very few non-white characters, and they are all minor (members of either Jack's or Barbarosa's crews). Anamaria is the most visible one, and I'd consider her a very positive, if small, character.
All in all, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl just doesn't do much in the way of furthering roles for women or minorities. It's a pretty typical comedy action movie and doesn't really push any boundaries. Which isn't to say it's not fun, but it's probably not helping.