Comments Of The Day: Ethics Dispatches From The Sick Ward, 5/26/2020: Arg! Yechh! [#1]

It took a while, but my complaint about the advertising world’s bizarre decision to make pirates the sole politically correct genre for innocent childsplay finally generated the intriguing commentary I hoped it would.

Here are two Comments of the Day on the topic, breached in Item #1 of the post, Ethics Dispatches From The Sick Ward, 5/26/2020: Arg! Yechh!”

First up, Isaac:

Permit me a midnight rant about pirates.

Kids did not play pirates at any time before this Gen-Xer was born. Kids played sailors or soldiers, and the PIRATES WERE THE BAD GUYS. That is because pirates were (and are) indeed very bad guys.

Treasure Island is a realistic story about stuffy British Christian men (and a boy) defeating a gang of vile, godless pirates. Once the story gets going there are exactly zero female characters. I can see why the destroyers of culture who lord it over modern schools would find this “problematic.” But it just might be my all-time favorite book. Pirates are interesting, fascinating, and make for good stories. BUT THEY AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THE HEROES.

Even the least-murderous of real-life pirates still tricked innocent merchant vessels and robbed them by force. They still were known for spending their free time raping, drinking themselves to death, and spreading venereal disease. Within just the last few years, pirates off the coast of Somalia have been murdering entire ships’ crews, so it’s not as if there’s no modern frame of reference for understanding why they generally shouldn’t be cast as heroes, as you mentioned.

There was a funny but sad incident not too long ago told by a mom who had been to Disneyland. She took her son into a boutique in the park that styles up girls into princesses. They offered to do their equivalent service for the young man by making him into a pirate. The small child, who had more common sense and moral awareness than the entire Disney corporation, pointed out that pirates are bad guys, and insisted that he wanted to be a prince instead. There were no prince costumes.

There are now SEVERAL kids’ cartoons in which kids “play pirate,” mostly thanks to the Disney movie. One of them is “Jake and the Neverland pirates” which doesn’t even make any sense in the context of Peter Pan. A character on this show said to his tiny audience, at one point, and I quote, verbatim, “A good pirate never takes anyone else’s property.” And they were serious.

The elephant is there in the room from that very first film. Jack Sparrow proves himself to be “a good man” and the moral (such as it is) is that even a pirate can be good. And so, at the end of the film, “good man” Jack gets his ship and crew back and sails off into the sunset too…do what, exactly? Sail the world looking for beached whales to rescue? Hunt for lost treasure to return it to its rightful owner? The next several movies twist themselves into knots to avoid having to give the obvious answer to this question: the only way to be a pirate is to, you know, commit piracy. It’s right there in the name.

I wonder if 50 years or so would be sufficient time for Disney to train kids to “play terrorist.” Just make a wacky movie about an eccentric jihadist who turns out to have a heart of gold.

Now here’s Pirate Comment of the Day #2, from Jeff: Continue reading

Ethics Dispatches From The Sick Ward, 5/26/2020: Arg! Yechh!

Ugh.

I was supposed to be all better yesterday, and instead I took  a step back.

Sorry.

That photo above is from the last scene in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” after all of the comedians and Spencer Tracy have ended up in the hospital with horrible injuries following  their self-created disaster on an out-of-control fire truck ladder at the supposedly hilarious climax of the Sixties epic chase comedy. The film-makers were very creative in their uses of bandages, casts and traction, but even as a kid, I was struck by how it just isn’t possible to make injuries seem very funny.

1. Since everyone is watching as much TV now as I usually watch routinely, I’ll mention this: have you noticed that several commercials show parents playing pirates with their kids? Did you ever play pirates with your parents? Have you ever seen anyone play at being pirates?

The reason this is being forced on the culture as a thing is that political correctness has robbed kids of almost all fantasy outlets, so someone decided that pirates were safe and inoffensive–especially since Disney had to remove the rapey stuff from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” rides. (Pirates are actually murderous thieves, today as always; what a weird safe haven to choose!)

In “Parasite,” Oscar’s Best Picture last year, the little South Korean son of the wealthy family was obsessed with playing “Indians,” complete with feathered headdress and arrows. I wonder if this feature would have disqualified an American film for cultural insensitivity. American kids can’t be cowboys anymore, since they were genocidal; soldiers are taboo, as are cops and robbers; even space invaders are verboten, since they involve guns. As my friends and I discovered long ago, you can try to play superheroes but they don’t leave you much to work with. Sword and sorcery games, like acting out fairy tales, trip on too many anti-feminist stereotypes.

I wonder what the next generation will turn out to be like, absent any symbolic fantasy villains and conflict to instruct their play. Pirates are not the answer, and again, I doubt any kids are playing pirates like the imaginary families in Bounty commercials. The iconic pirate novel “Treasure Island,” once a standard assignment in grade school, has been purged from the canon—too male, or something.  (It’s still a terrific book.) The other classic with pirates is “Peter Pan,” and that one is in the process of being scrubbed and gender-twisted beyond recognition. There still are Johnny Depp’s weird pirate movies, I guess, though his drunken, bumbling pirate slob anti-hero seems unlikely to inspire normal kids into flights of fantasy.

Our culture just is not in competent hands, and what the end result will be, nobody knows.

2. I’m not sure if this is unethical, exactly, but something’s definitely wrong… Continue reading