The most iconic scene in Pirates of the Caribbean will change next year and fans aren’t happy (Please see the MiceChat news from Thursday HERE). Since 1967, the famed Auctioneer has given the pirates’ an opportunity to “Take a wench for a bride.” For five decades, pirates demeaned an overweight maiden in hopes that one day the Auctioneer would finally give them a crack at the voluptuous Redhead waiting in the wings. As someone that wound up taking a voluptuous redhead as his bride, I certainly understand the appeal. I also understand that if I ever refer to her as a wench, I will no longer be allowed in the house.
The scene in question is being “re-imagined” in Paris, Disneyland and Disney World with the Redhead becoming a pirate and the other maidens surrendering their loot for auction. Any fan of nostalgia generally despises change, but the reality of the situation is that if the ride was built today the original scene never gets made. The scene is still there because Disney created it when people were willing to put things in context. As a society, we understood that despite the mood of the attraction, pirates were bad people, the ride did not endorse this behavior, and there were ultimately consequences.
Since the attraction debuted, our society has shifted. Any discussion on political correctness becomes instantly tense, and the loudest members of our society operate on either side of the extreme with reality somewhere in the middle.
I understand that this is a controversial time and very few people want to hear a 34 year old straight white male talk about political correctness on a site dedicated to Disney. If that doesn’t interest you, I encourage you to stop reading. If you’re still with me, I trust that the conversation will continue in the comments below, and hope that it can be thoughtful and engaging, regardless of individual opinions.
There is a common belief that the Disney Parks are a safe family space. To many people, the parks should be free from any real controversy and every message should be G rated. Others believe the parks should have an edge that can’t be accomplished with G rated attractions.
You’re dead if you only aim for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway. – Walt Disney
Opinions on what is appropriate and where something is appropriate are very fluid and highly subjective. Over the years, Disney has made references to criminal activity in their “family” attractions but the measure of what is acceptable seems largely arbitrary. A murderous bride in The Haunted Mansion is playful, but pirates objectifying women is not.
Disney recognizes that the family friendly image is something that they have to own, but it also carries with it the stigma that Disney has no edge. I don’t believe Disney is making this change because they feel the scene is inappropriate. I believe Disney is making this change because others feel the scene is inappropriate. By continuing to fold at the slightest dissenting opinion, Disney will continue to be dumbed down.
While Disney does not typically publicize guest complaints, TouringPlans.com (as well The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World) regularly uses guest quotes in their guides. The below is taken from a mother from Rockville, Maryland on Pirates of the Caribbean:
“I had no idea that it would be as visually violent and historically accurate as it was. I really didn’t look forward to explaining to my son why those women had ropes around their necks and such.”
So often, The Simpsons articulates something better than anyone else and before anyone else. In the January 4, 2015 episode, The Man Who Came to be Dinner, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie visit Dizzneeland. The family visits a ride called “Politically Correct” that is a not so subtle reference to Pirates of the Caribbean. Signs in the ride read, “Do not objectify your conquest” and the pirates sing, “No means no, we know now”. Lisa explains the ride was “Revamped after massive complaints by two people.”
Personally, I think the parks can and should operate with an edge to them. A park full of G rated, family friendly attractions would only further cement the misconception that Disney is nothing more than princesses and magic.
My biggest opposition to political correctness is an unwillingness to put things in context. An alternative to political correctness would be adding the equivalent of a Parental Advisory notice on certain attractions deemed too violent or frightening. These warnings would remove any context and simply state that violence is depicted on the attraction. This would allow guests to better judge if an attraction is suitable for them.
Pirates of the Caribbean does not condone rape or prostitution. At the end of the attraction, the Pirates end up in jail in a rather clear message that has been part of the attraction since the beginning. Without understanding this context, the vocal minority is allowed to dictate policy. The mother quoted above offered a warning on what is depicted and presumably wrote Touring Plans as a caution to others. The Parental Advisory warning message should be Disney’s takeaway here, not another symbolic change to satisfy guest complaints.
If Disney truly wanted to pursue a real social crusade, I’d like to challenge them to put their money where their mouth is. They currently sell t-shirts depicting The Redhead. I’d like to suggest that all proceeds for this and other select Pirates merchandise be donated to the Joyful Heart Foundation (a nonprofit built to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse) or another equivalent charity. Without something like that, the scene change is nothing more than a meaningless gesture.
That’s my opinion on the matter folks. What’s yours? I have just one request, please be respectful of each other in the comments. Let us know what your thoughts are and why you feel the way you do, but don’t attack others for their opinion. Thank you for reading!