“Hide The Rum!”

[Contains bone-cages and SPOILERS!!!]

Naomie Harris as ‘Tia Dalma’ in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest”It’s been a looong time since I last watched Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), and I’d foolishly forgotten that (despite its bum-numbing length) it was only the first part of a two-part story, which ends on some pretty nail-biting cliff-hangers. I’d also suppressed all of the old-school racism that soils the movie from start to finish, such as the duplicitous/disposable crew-members-of-colour, the highly controversial (and totally unnecessary) “Cannibal Island” detour, and the inclusion of a thickly-accented “Sinister Other”/“Magical Negro” character, ‘Tia Dalma’.* In the latter case, the “behind the scenes” featurette on the second disc reveals that when director Gore Verbinski first started casting the role, the script-writers (Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio) had only provided sketchy “placeholder” scenes for her, which depicted the character as little more than a “two-dimensional fortune-teller” (in Verbinski’s own words). In fact, the writers were still polishing the script for this movie (and it’s shot-back-to-back sequel) long after principal photography had commenced… which may explain why they never had the opportunity to step back from what they’d written, and see the bigger picture. That’s not an excuse, of course, but you do get the sense that the bread-head studio brass were pushing the movies into production purely as a money-making venture, and that once the juggernaut was set in motion (and burning through its budget), everyone was determined to keep it rolling forward at full-speed, regardless of whether they had a script that was actually worth shooting or not! Unfortunately, the thoughtless and outdated depiction of ethnic minorities seems to be an unfortunate side-effect of this blinkered, arse-about-face approach to blockbuster movie-making…

According to a wiki fan-site for the PotC franchise, Walt Disney Pictures was “questioned by the National Garifuna Council, a representative body of the Garifuna people, for what they feel is a racist portrayal of the Calinago, or Caribs, as cannibals”, but nothing ever came of it, or the other objections that were raised in numerous negative reviews. In fact, the movie managed to break several box office records and bring in well over a BILLION dollars world-wide, against a budget of $225 million… and that’s not even counting the subsequent DVD and merchandise sales! At least I can take some comfort in the fact that my money went to a local charity shop, rather than the careless corporation that profited from this casual recycling of largely discredited colonial propaganda. Feh!

Keira Knightley as ‘Elizabeth Swann’ in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest”Meanwhile, back on a feminist-y tip, ‘Elizabeth Swann’ (Keira Knightley) did get to take part in several epic sword-fight sequences this time around, and all of the actors seemed to agree that Knightley was equally fearless and kick-ass off-screen… with the stunt co-ordinator (George Marshall Ruge) suggesting that she could easily carve out a second career as a stunt-woman, if the fancy took her! The making-of featurette also revealed that Knightley’s hair was cropped short at the time (for her role in Domino), so she was required to wear a long blonde wig for all of her scenes here… despite the fact that Elizabeth spent a significant amount of time disguised as a boy so that she could stowaway aboard a trading ship, meaning it would have made much more sense for her to have short hair in (and after) that sequence! Apparently, in this case, prettiness was a higher priority than plausibility and the actress’s personal comfort. Gah!


* I can’t remember exactly how things play out in the next movie, but I’m dimly aware that she may be “selflessly” aiding the main (white) characters as part of an evil masterplan… so there’s no point hammering that point too hard until I get around to watching the sequel…


About Dee CrowSeer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action.
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