After seeing the preview for Aardman’s “Pirates” I posted a pretty scathing commentary: Porno or pirate movie for kids?
Some commenters were upset that I judged the movie without seeing it. I wasn’t judging the movie, I was writing about the preview, about how movies are advertised and marketed.
But now, I’ve finally seen the movie and am sorry to report that it’s more sexist than I thought.
When I saw the preview, I was upset that Cutlass Liz, the female pirate, was ogled and hooted at by the male pirates. She wears tight clothing and a belly shirt. Basically, the female pirate is totally sexualized.
But here was my mistake: From the preview, I believed that Cutlass Liz had a major part in the movie. I thought that in spite of her appearance, she would be portrayed as a bad ass, that she’d have a major role in the narrative as a competitor with the Captain (the star of the movie) for the “Pirate of the Year” award.
Cutlass Liz is only in three scenes. She’s a minor character in the film with almost no lines or action sequences at all. One of the few scenes she’s in is a fantasy one: the Captain imagines that he gets awarded the coveted trophy and also the admiration, lust, and batted eyelashes of Cutlass Liz.
After I trashed the preview, I was told by commenters that Queen Victoria has a strong part. In some ways, she does. At one point she rips of her constricting clothing (how original!) and gets into a duel with the Captain. But she is also portrayed as Charles Darwin’s sexual fantasy. Gross. Why?
Another female is the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate. Ironically, she is not curvaceous like Liz, who constantly swishes her hips, or Victoria, who has a hugely exaggerated posterior. SCP has the fate of many heroic females in kidworld: she dresses as a male in order to have adventures and be powerful. She wears a beard and has hardly any lines. Her biggest scenes are when she is naked in a bathtub. More sexist jokes ensue here. Ha ha ha.
The best female character in “Pirates” is the dodo. Her role is central to the plot of the movie, but she can’t talk.
The sexist jokes start with the first lines of the movie where the Captain refers to “scantily clad mermaids” and don’t stop until the finish when Darwin laments about impressing women. Female characters exist mainly for that reason: to provide inspiration for the male characters to be strong, brave, and adventurous.
The only slightly redeeming thing as far as sexism in this movie for kids is the way that the compassionate captain and his crew fail to live up to standards of masculinity, choosing the dodo bird, their friend, over recognition and gold.
Reel Girl rates “Pirates: Band of Misfits” ***SS*** Don’t expose your kids to the sexist stereotypes that this film relentlessly promotes.
By the way, after the leper community complained about bias, Aardman did, in fact, change the line in the movie about the “leper” boat. Now it’s called a “plague” boat.