‘Pirates’ movie shows kids sexist jokes from start to finish

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.

15 thoughts on “‘Pirates’ movie shows kids sexist jokes from start to finish

  1. i think you’ve missed the point of the film. its poking fun at the way things actually were back in those days, and is not to be taken as seriously as you are taking it. also, females do not get relegated to the sidelines in movies as much as your making out. theres tons of films with women as the leads. your comments about how women are portrayed in this film are just as bad and pointless this article about the objectification of strippers http://www.towardsfreedom.com/253.html . i just think your taking things to seriously, and to be honest the kids that watch this dont even know what sexism is, and probably wouldnt care to even if you tried to point it out, they’ll probably see this film for what it is, a highly entertaining film about ‘pirates in an adventure with scientists’ (the films original title btw) full of good old british humour. If you were to ask a kid what they remembered about the film, it wont be sexist jokes, it’ll be either the monkey or the dodo probably. in short, its not the film that should be changed, its the way your viewing it. your ”review” just goes to show 2 things, 1: you took this film waaaay to seriously, and 2: u have no sense of humour that i can see.

    • Hi Elepico,

      We all sexual fantasies and that is good and healthy. The issue is when men’s perspective dominates the narratives and thus, females, are continually relegated to one role. This pattern is especially damaging when it shows up in movies for kids. It teaches kids all kinds of stereotypes and limits their perspective on gender roles.


      • Ah, right, sorry, didn’t get it. So that’s been the problem all along- not the fantasies themselves, but the effects try have. Having said that, I saw it with a couple of friends and their little brothers/sisters, and, having asked them about it afterwards, they didn’t seem to really pick up on it. So if it may be, in theory, quite harmful, in practice, it doesn’t appear to have done much. As for the failed attempts to impress women, etc. that, IMO, wasn’t encouraging that stuff, so much as documenting it. Coz, offensive as it may seem to you, there ARE lonely men who wish they could get to second base. It’s just our nature. Sorry if I’ve been a bit of a angry, stupid, sexist arsehole. It’s just that the movie is actually one of my favourites. And I think that many of the viewers misjudged its intended audience. They saw, in the ad- pirates, animation, rated G/PG (not sure), silly, childish jokes and no obvious sexy stuff. However, I expect that it was actually intended to be an adult movie.

        • Hi Elepico,

          So many of the movies I write about are great movies that I love, it’s just again and again, females get relegated to the sidelines. I believe we just need more voices and more narratives out there. Women, like everyone, need to be able to tell their own stories. As far as kids not noticing, that is part of the problem. Grown ups don’t even notice it. We are so used to males being the star of the show, it seems normal. Think about if the genders were reversed, if those were all females with just one male. Would you notice?


          • Ok, while I admit that, yes, it is sort of a problem, I think that it’s not just the not noticing, it’s the fact that it appears to have no negative effects. Also, please, and I don’t mean to complain, but a lot of people can actually get really annoyed if you shout stuff out in a movie theatre. While I understand that this is an important issue, it is a much better solution to discuss it after the actual film, as simply yelling out “Not funny! Sexist!” when people are actually watching will either A) just go through one ear and out the other B) cause them to feel frustrated at the feminist movement, or even, if it happens all the way through, C) just buy another ticket, boosting the profits of the film. You see, it’s not that it’s not important- it’s just not helpful.
            El Epico 😉

  2. Pingback: The Pirates Movie is Sexist « Drimnagh is Good

  3. I saw it. Loved it. I’m seeing it again tomorrow and I will see it several more times and probably buy it on DVD.

    I will support this movie because it’s funny, original, witty, charming, and chock full of incredible animation.

    I had to keep reminding myself that the character who moved in such a believable and fluid way, were all PUPPETS made of wire, cloth, and plasticine being manipulated, by hand, one frame at a time by an animator. Holy crap that’s awesome.

    I say, take your family to see it and support it because it’s currently not doing well at the box office (what a surprise… the most original and entertaining animated movie of the year that blows all the live action movies out of the water comes out and it’s barely seen by anybody. Happened with Rango and Fantastic Mr. Fox too).

    And it wasn’t sexist. At least intentionally.

    I highly doubt they were sitting around in their bowler hats twirling their mustaches thinking about what they can do to piss off feminist bloggers and corrupt little girls minds. I think they were just thinking about how to make an entertaining film that everyone can enjoy regardless of age.

    It’s not a kid’s movie by the way. Like the “Wallace and Gromit” films, it’s a movie that anyone can enjoy, kids and adults, that isn’t geared toward any particular age group at all.

    There’s a big difference between that and a “kid’s movie”. “Curious George” is a “kid’s movie”. “Pirates” is not.

    And for a so called “kids movie” there sure as hell were a lot of adults rolling in the aisles when I went to see it. I don’t think there was one kid in that theater.

    Support this movie, support stop-motion animation, and support animation as an ART FORM and not a GENRE catered towards a specific audience.

    • Sexism doesn’t have to be intentional. If you step on somebody’s toes, do you tell them not to complain because it wasn’t intentional? And if it happens to be somebody whose toes get stepped on, several times, every damn day, by a few who do it deliberately and many who just can’t be bothered to look before they take a step, do you still tell them that if it’s not intentional it shouldn’t matter?

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