Updating Traditions | Vol. 4 / No. 36.1

Photo: Ted Kerwin, CC BY 2.0

Seeing as I’m such a Disney fangirl, it may surprise you to know that I’ve never been to any of the Disney parks. My parents claimed (probably correctly) that as a child I would have had no patience with the lines. As an adult, I’m broke. And probably would still have no patience with lines. So I have no skin in the game when I hear about a park attraction being taken out or updated, except to think “well, there’s a ride I won’t get to see in the hypothetical future where I get to go to Disney World.” Other people take it more personally. Especially, it seems, when the changes involve reducing the sexism on what is supposed to be a family-friendly ride.

Apparently there is currently a scene on the Pirates of Caribbean ride that is a “wench sale,” in which animatronic women are sold to pirates who chant “we want the redhead.” God, you can just *feel* the family friendliness, can’t you? Honestly, if I’d known this was a thing, I would have complained about it way earlier.  Luckily for my blood pressure, I just found out about it now, when they are planning to change it. Disney is planning to update the scene, making the oft-requested redheaded woman a pirate in her own right, and doing away with all of that tricky “sexual slavery” business.

But cue the hue and cry over “tradition.” Because what is important is keeping things the way they always have been, and not being cowed by SJWs, amirite? Enter the really weird comments. Says commenter J,

I’m fine with adding the movie characters. Please don’t keep changing the theme of the ride to make it more politically correct. Some have said it’s not alright for children to think it’s ok for auctioning the women. These are important conversations to have, being a pirate is not ok! This is a way to have conversation with children. There are still pirates in the seas, do not romanticize so much that it is misleading. Mr. Disney seemed to always keep a fear and edge in his stories and rides. DO NOT loose this please! I personally enjoy revisiting and remembering the original stories.

So… the defense is that because pirates are also bad, we should keep the scene where a woman is being auctioned off, so that we can have difficult conversations with our children about both piracy and sexual slavery? “I know that Captain Jack Sparrow is your hero, honey, but let me talk to you about Somalia and human trafficking.”

Commenter Alissa writes,

Disappointed. The ride became our favorite before the movie and before the SJW obsession. It never needed to change and it would have still been loved by the majority. This will be remembered as a mistake that could have been avoided by only listening to the customers who are always rooting for you.

You know, all those SJW-led “mistakes” we lament, like desegregating schools and allowing women the right to vote?

Commenter Fred might take the cake, though.

I want to point out that the attraction was never meant to be historically accurate. The attraction has always been about the FUN, ROMANTICIZED side of piracy.

I don’t care what anyone says on social media. Most people on social media are ALWAYS crowing about something that they dislike. The fact of the matter is, most of the casual daily guests who visit the park in real life are not going to think that this is a big deal.

I know what I am talking about. This is not my first rodeo, I am speaking from experience.

Fred’s right, you guys! What about the fun, romantic side of piracy that involved auctioning women off like cattle? He knows what he’s talking about. This isn’t his first rodeo.

However, as Vivian Kane points out, it is actually totally historically accurate to have women pirates, because hey, there were actually totally women pirates!

Perplexingly, the main defense used by these commenters is that this change will be “rewriting history.” That these pirates and wenches “are all just amazing portrayals of a different time!” and that a female “sea-faring Annie Oakley-wannabe” is just us imposing our modern PC culture on history. Maybe if these people had grown up unconsciously absorbing the presence of animatronic women pirates, they wouldn’t be so surprised to learn that there were a ton of them in real life. Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Ching Shih, Cheng I Sao, Grace O’Malley … I could keep going because again, THERE WERE SO MANY.

The problem with using “tradition” as your metric of value in any given situation is that traditionally, everything has benefited straight, white, usually Christian and able-bodied men. The original Pirates ride was likely designed by and for such men, who also probably didn’t see anything wrong with including a “fun, romanticized” auction of women. Protecting this ride as-is in the name of tradition is protecting the tradition of thoughtless exploitation of women.  Sticking too strictly to the origins of any creative property made over fifty years ago (looking at you, Marvel) means sticking to outmoded ways of thought. I’m glad to see that on this particular issue, Disney is going in the way of change. Now, if they could just let go of their relationship with Johnny Depp…


Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. When she’s not compelled to explain that maybe “selling women: the ride” might not be the most family friendly-affair, she studies gender in popular culture.


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