This past weekend, I had the pleasure of riding Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time since the redhead became the auctioneer. When I first heard about this change, I didn’t think much of it. It was steeped in controversy and any Disney blog I was reading seemed to think it was Disney caving to political correctness. Now, I’m the first to admit that I don’t mind a little political correctness, but I was a little sad to hear to such famous lines like “We wants the redhead” were suddenly gone.
But I gained a newfound respect for the new redhead upon seeing her as a formidable pirate rather than being an auction item. In fact, I loved it. When I saw her, I grabbed my mother and pointed her out. I felt like a kid all of a sudden. I’d never really noticed the fact that there wasn’t a single female pirate in Pirates of the Caribbean before. But now I noticed. Because now there is one and she’s a badass.
Women of the Caribbean
A lot of the arguments I’ve heard for why this change shouldn’t have occurred is that it’s not historically accurate. Yes, it’s true that there were auctions. And let’s not pretend that every encounter between a pirate and a woman was consensual.
But do you know what else there were? Female pirates!
The movie series did a decent job of showing this, with Elizabeth Swann becoming the pirate king and Mistress Ching being one of the most feared pirates on the sea. If the movies can manage this, why can’t the ride?
There wasn’t so much of a problem when Jack Sparrow was added to the ride way back in 2006, so why is adding a female pirate adding so much controversy?
The truth is that when Gibbs says that it’s bad luck to be bringing a woman aboard, he was actually stating a real superstition. But that didn’t stop many women from ruling the seas.
Rulers of the Sea
Take Cheng I Sao, who likely inspired Mistress Ching. She was originally a prostitute who married a powerful corsair and ran a crew of over 50,000 men with him. Upon his death, she took over the entire fleet. She is largely considered one of the most successful pirates in history. She ran her fleet with strict rules, including that all deserters would have their ears lopped off. The rape of female prisoners would result in beheading.
Or there’s Rachel Wall, who was somewhat of a siren of the sea. She and her husband would dress their boat up like it had been ravaged by a storm. And she stand on the deck and beg for help from other ships. But when they would approach Rachel’s vessel, she and her crew would board the ship and rob and murder those who were aboard.
Anne Bonny could have very well inspired the new redhead. She was known for her red locks and her strong temper. After divorcing her husband, she become first mate to a pirate called Calico Jack aboard his ship, the Revenge. Anne and her best friend Mary Read both sailed with Jack, with Mary masquerading as Mark. Mary eventually married one of the sailors aboard Jack’s vessel and became pregnant, revealing her secret.
Perhaps the new redhead was more inspired by Jacquotte Delahaye. She was better known, however, as Back From the Dead Red. Jacquotte was left with the care of her handicapped brother after her mother and father both passed. To do this, she took up piracy. She cemented her place in legend when she faked her own death. Government forces were closing in on her so she disappeared, faked her death, and reappeared several years later.
Happiness and History
There are plenty more pirates out there who were women. Some masqueraded as men because of the superstition that might have prevented them from joining crews. Others, like Anne Bonny, sneered at the superstition and dressed however they wanted to.
But let’s move away from the history of it all for a moment. Let’s get back to political correctness. Political correctness is defined as term used to refer to language that seems intended to give the least amount of offense, especially when describing groups identified by external markers such as race, gender, culture, or sexual orientation.
What we’re talking about here, of redhead going from being an object for auction to a pirate auctioneer, isn’t political correctness. It’s about representation. As I said earlier, I never gave much though to the fact that there were no female pirates on the ride. I grew up with the understanding that that’s just how it was. I grew up on a ride that only included women as objects for auction. But I’d love it if my kids got to grow up seeing a strong woman (or maybe even women someday) on their favorite ride.
Really think about it. What is this scene taking away from the ride? The auction is still happening. It’s just auctioning things instead of people being treated as things.
The Auction Scene Today
On a much darker note, yes, there were auctions for women back then. Also, there’s auctions for women today. Human trafficking is an epidemic that is still a fear for many women. Going to college in a big city, we were taught during orientation week to be on our guard. We were told only to ever travel in groups. At night, we were told never go out at night if we weren’t in a group, preferably with a man in it. We were told to hold our keys between our knuckles if we are walking in a new area or if you are walking alone.
We can try to pretend it doesn’t exist and there is certainly less of it in the US, but not every country is so lucky. Anyone traveling to Disneyland or Walt Disney World shouldn’t have to face an issue that they already have to face every day in the real world. It’s the happiest place on Earth, a place that is an escape from reality.
If the new redhead gives any person a little more solace or a little more happiness, why should we deny them that?
I know this is a controversial topic. There’s been plenty of debate on it in the last year so I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you wants the old redhead? Or do you want the new auctioneer? Feel free to leave a comment!