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Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006, 12:27 am
sabonasi: Pirates of the Carribean II: Dead Man's Chest

So, who has seen Pirates of the Carribean II: Dead Man's Chest yet? I just saw it tonight. Loved Elizabeth. Loved Norrington. Did not love the racism.

I'm probably only skimming the surface here, but I wanted to deconstruct some things about the movie. Not just "It was racist." but "It was racist because of this and this and that." Because a lot of the shit in the movie isn't original in the least, but plays upon established trends. Feel free to add anything you like. Since this is already under a spoiler cut, spoil away in the comments.

When Jack's crew is captured by the Kalinago people - and I'll get to them in a minute - the crew is divided into two groups. One group had a hella lot more white faces than the other. And it was that group that didn't fall to a grisley death early in the movie. Throughout the movie, POC characters were treated as more expendable than white characters.

Tia Dalma is definitely in "Magical Negro" territory. She's overly willing to help the white characters, often for a smaller price than one might expect and even after Jack steals from her. She is exploited by the white characters, and the film offers no criticism for this. Rather, it's intended to be funny. White people ripping off a black woman who is helping them? Totally hilarious! [/sarcasm]

Furthermore, there was the treatment of Dalma's sexuality. Hey, I'm all for sexuality. If it was just Dalma lusting after Will and Jack, I'd call her an honorary fan and be done with it. My problem is that her sexuality was also treated as a joke. The film made it perfectly clear that there was no way that Jack nor Will would actually be romantically interested in her. A Black woman thinking she is sexually/romantically desirable? Hahahaha! [/more sarcasm]

And then there's the Kalinago people. I think everyone will agree that showing people of color as savage cannibals is racist. But there's another level.

I do not speak Kalhíphona. I do not know if what was being spoken in the film was Kalhíphona or not. But the fact that the Kalinago people were not speaking English? Was also meant to be humorous. A bit of an aside: Jack appears to have mastered the language almost instantaneously, which implicitely states the language isn't that complex. Or Jack is just that much of a Mighty Whitey. Maybe both.

The lack of subtitles meant that the audience never got to really understand what the Kalinago people were saying. Actually, that's kind of the core problem with the representation: we see them exclusively from an outsider's perspective. Did anyone else notice that the Kalinago didn't seem to talk to each other a whole lot? I didn't pick up on any side conversations or anything.

And then look at the plotline in itself. The Kalinago people find Jack and promptly mistake the white man for a god. So initially, you have the Kalinago people as willfully servile. But wait! The Kalinago want to kill and eat Jack. The Kalinago people aren't just willfully servile, they're violent and cannibalistic! And then in the end, the Kalinago people are distracted by a dog. A dog, people! So to top it off, they're portrayed as pretty damn stupid.

The Kalinago people appear in the story and disappear in the story with little consequence. They serve no purpose but to provide a source of racist humor and menance the heroes. The idea that they want to free a god from his human form is never fully explored, and I'm surprised they got even that much motivation.

x-posted to feminist, ap_racism, debunkingwhite, feministfilm, and feminist_fandom.

Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 04:33 am (UTC)

Thank you. I was really upset by all these things in the movie, but had a lot of trouble explaining it in a way that wasn't just pissed off to the point of almost being incomprehensible. Word.
(Deleted comment)

Mon, Jul. 10th, 2006 01:01 pm (UTC)


Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 04:38 am (UTC)

I'm with ya on most of this, except for:

And then in the end, the Kalinago people are distracted by a dog. A dog, people! So to top it off, they're portrayed as pretty damn stupid.

The way I saw it, they only went after the dog when they realized they couldn't get to Jack and the dog was left behind. To me, it was more of a matter of opportunity than playing on their intelligence.

Mon, Jul. 10th, 2006 01:05 pm (UTC)

I thought the fact that they went after the dog as an alternative to Jack reinforced the idea of their "savagery," because that seemed to imply that they did not see a difference between eating humans and eating any other animal, and that they ate human flesh only as a means of survival because they were too stupid to use the other food resources on the island.

Not to mention that it doesn't take an entire angry mob to kill a dog any more than it does to kill a human. They were just being used for comedic effect.

Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 04:41 am (UTC)

Well, if you stay till the end of the credits, you'll see that the Kalinago people actually make the dog their god/meal, replacing Jack with a dog. Great. I had hoped there would be a preview of the third film at the end of the interminably long credits, but instead, insult to injury for "natives". Nice.

It's hard. Movies bank on these tired old stereotypes as shorthand. The savage natives. The mystical negroes who are both helpful and horriffic. The disposable and comic people of color. These things disgust me. And yet, this film was a nonstop excitement ride, and I was bouncing up and down in my seat during some of the dueling towards the end of the film. Holy shit!

It's very difficult. Take Peter Jackson's King Kong. There's a little nod here and there to racism, but there's a lot more OTHERING and painting of indegenous people as animalistic, primitive, horrible, inhuman, etc. And then there's a big black money falling for a white beauty, and being destroyed for this relationship. And then, there's a gorilla fighting three dinosaurs. Now, I'll be honest, I LOVE TO WATCH GORILLAS FIGHT DINOSAURS because it's fucking spectacle in the highest degree. But how do I enjoy a movie that offends me so much, just because there's awesome stuff in it?

And living in a country where white supremacy is the status quo, can I ever really enjoy a movie? Do I have to say, "yeah, there are problematic portrayals and reinforcments of racist stereotypes and cliches, BUT..." all the time?

Sigh. I'm just tired. I wanted to hit you back and let you know I was feeling the same thing about Pirates 2.

Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 04:52 am (UTC)

Yeah, I heard about the scene after the credits when looking over at Wiki, but I left the theatre before the credits finish.
(Deleted comment)

Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 04:48 am (UTC)

exactly! my friend and i went to the midnight showing and we had a problem with each of these things, and i meant to make a post so thank you for doing so!

Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 04:57 am (UTC)

When Jack's crew is captured by the Kalinago people - and I'll get to them in a minute - the crew is divided into two groups. One group had a hella lot more white faces than the other. And it was that group that didn't fall to a grisley death early in the movie. Throughout the movie, POC characters were treated as more expendable than white characters.

I definitely noticed that, and it kind of freaked me out. I had a -lot- of problems iwth the movie, both race-related and crappily-written-movie related, but that was pretty high on the list.

As for Tia Dalma (thanks for saying her name; I couldn't remember it) I actually liked her. I also felt that when Jack says the line, "I thought I knew you," he was alluding to a sexual relationship between he and Tia Dalma, because when she says "Would you like to get to know me?" or something along those lines, it's very heavy innuendo and/or a straight come-on.

Of course, honestly, Tia Dalma's actress and voice were the ONLY things I really honestly liked the whole movie through. Except for the people-turning-into-sea-creatures. Just those two things.

And then there's the Kalinago people. I think everyone will agree that showing people of color as savage cannibals is racist.

Also, turning the idea of a foreign language into a joke struck me as pretty weird. There's no way what Jack spoke to them was any kind of even HINT at a real language; perhaps a couple of words were real words for the Kalinago, but for the most part he said things like "licky-licky" and "uuka-uuka" and pretended it was a language, which was supposed to be funny I think, but... I didn't really see it that way.

The Kalinago people appear in the story and disappear in the story with little consequence.

Just like in King Kong-they're plot-points with limbs.

Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 05:41 am (UTC)

Oh, I definitely think that Jack and Dalma had a sexual relation in the past. But I got the sense that a romantic relationship with her was being portrayed as humorous. There seemed to be a distinction in the movie makers mind, even if the division is probmatic from a feminist standpoint.

I'm actually hearing that the language spoke was pidgin language. But since that was never clarified, the audience is led to presume that the language they were speaking was their usual language.

Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 05:18 am (UTC)

it's not what they're selling it's what you're buying.

Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 05:55 am (UTC)

Fair point.

Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 06:03 am (UTC)

Thanks for posting this. I read a review panning it this morning (which, strangely enough, didn't mention any of these obvious issues), and I thought to myself, "Okay, I'm still curious enough to see it, but I won't pay full price." But if they made an entire movie out of white people demonstrating their superiority over those wacky savage unwhite people, I think I'll probably end up skipping it completely. Why pay good money to annoy myself and watch blatant racism in action?

Sometimes I wonder why I keep giving Hollywood a chance to redeem itself.

Mon, Jul. 10th, 2006 01:18 pm (UTC)
we_are_pliable: a little spoilery

There are about 40 minutes on the island/with this subplot, and it's generally sort of annoying.

I would have LOVED to be in that production meeting:
"Ok, they're in cages. Hamster ball-type cages."
"Great, what else?"
"They're hanging from a bridge over a bottomless pit."
"And the cages are made of human bones."
"And they're RACING THE CAGES. POC cage vs. lovable characters from the last movie cage."
"And they're racing UP THE SIDE OF THE CLIFF."
"...maybe you should lie down."

Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 09:33 am (UTC)

Well, score one for the mass-media perpetuated stereotypes. But I guess we've scored it for them, haven't we, since we still buy the tickets to see their racist movies?

Mon, Jul. 10th, 2006 03:11 pm (UTC)

You can't make an opinion about something you've never seen. That's just unintelligent.

Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 11:00 am (UTC)

Thanks I was upset from the moment Jack's be-dreadlocked head popped up on the screen but I was too busy trying to stay awake to synthesize things.

Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 01:32 pm (UTC)

My only difference with the OP here is that I really think the Kalinago people were not native, but feral, and that their "language" was a mishmash of the languages of the original pirates that settled the army. An entire island with no (or at least very few) women? The "natives" as people of all colors and races (including white -- I looked for and noticed several obviously white actors in the group), not uniformly Caribbean? Pirate culture was notably superstitious, and Cap'n Jack Sparrow was an almost godlike legend among pirates. It wouldn't be much of a stretch that an island full of shipwrecked/abandoned/stranded feral pirates who had reverted to cannibalism to supplement their diet would treat Cap'n Jack as a god, and that he would understand the language they had created.

Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 01:58 pm (UTC)

err...early morning weirdness...correct "army" to "island". Really don't know what I was thinking>

Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 07:54 pm (UTC)
delux_vivens: omgwtfbbq.

carib indians in dominica have BEEN pissed as hell about this lunacy. And please, dont get me started about the super dooper magical voodoo negro lady and that TIRED ASSED jafaikan accent!!! OMG. OMG now i'm getting my pressure up!

Sun, Jul. 9th, 2006 08:41 pm (UTC)
sabonasi: Re: omgwtfbbq.

Thank you for the link.

Mon, Jul. 10th, 2006 02:42 am (UTC)

Yeah, that movie was pretty bad. Awful even, left me right bitter it did!
Whatever the motivation of the tribesmen, cimematically speaking or politically speaking...they were portrayed as "savages" and nothing more.

I thought it was a bit odd that all the black folk surrounding the sooth sayer lady were all broken up about Jack's death. But I reckon that's more of a plot hole than a racial issue.

Is it just me or was the whole thing a LOT like the Monkey Island series?
Tia Dalma was drop dead gorgeous. My heart was all a flutter.

I didn't really care that the arch villian had a scottish accent...but it wasn't consistent! It wavered! Either make him Scottish or don't!

Sorry...I didn't say anything at all relevant...there's not much more to be said about this crumby movie.

Tue, Jul. 11th, 2006 02:21 am (UTC)

I saw this post prior to seeing this movie yesterday.

I didn't read the contents until after viewing the movie. I must write that I disappointed the writer's left the plot as it was and I find myself agreeing with most of your post.

I am concerned as to why the actors, director's, someone didn't see an issue with the way the characters were portrayed in the film - obviously, the writers were clueless. Perhaps, I am giving the powers that be too much credit.


Tue, Jul. 11th, 2006 05:08 am (UTC)


No one can claim that they were "clueless". Disney has been getting complaints about the movie for more than a year now. They just plain don't care.

Tue, Jul. 11th, 2006 04:55 am (UTC)
sirenslily: Question

Would you mind if I referenced your post in my personal LJ? I agree with your opinions and would like to reference it. Please let me know. Thanks.

Tue, Jul. 11th, 2006 05:05 am (UTC)
sabonasi: Re: Question

Reference away!

Tue, Jul. 11th, 2006 08:43 pm (UTC)

Question: What's a "magical negro?" I get the gist, I think, but just a point of clarification if you would. :)

Tue, Jul. 11th, 2006 11:08 pm (UTC)

A "magical negro" is a black person that is put in a film, book, poem, etc. as a plot device, devoid of all personal attributes and character except one:
willingness to guide a white person through a tough time in their life.

Magical negroes will do anything and everything, even give up their own family, to sacrifice and show the white man how he can better himself. The magical negro usually walks on a cane, has a physical ailment, or has been helped by the white protagonist in the past. He is the buddy and friend, the constant companion who usually has no other purpose but to offer mysterious caveats to the main character. And, while the main white character achieves his dreams and goes off with a wife, family and happiness, the magical negro usually dies or trails behind, smiling happily and chuckling to himself.

More info: