Orientalism in Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean, a well known franchise adored by a large audience, is a fun, thrilling tale of the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow and his companions. I grew up watching the films as a child and immediately fell in love with the series as soon as jack stepped off his sinking ship onto the dock of Port Royal. The first film follows Captain Jack and Will Turner as they attempt to catch the infamous ship, The Black Pearl, captained by Jack’s mutinous first mate Barbossa. The second film, Dead Man’s Chest, picks up right where the first left off and the viewer can jump right back into the fun. Although an enjoyable movie as a whole, the Caribbean native people in the film are portrayed as beast like cannibals who, are meant to be viewed as merely animals.

When we arrive on the island we follow will turner as he is brought before Captain Jack, who the native people believe to be a god. Immediately, the orientalist tones of the film are clear. Within the first few minutes, the white “civilized” characters are placed on a pedestal above the native people who are portrayed as uncivilized and unintelligent. The film depicts them as static, undeveloped savages who are outsmarted by their white overlord. As the story progresses, the native people, who believe Jack to be a god, decide to eat him in order to “Do him the honor of releasing him from his fleshy prison” In the end, Jack and his crew manage to escape the island on The Black Pearl and continue on their journey.

The portrayal of the Caribbean native people in this film is highly problematic. To the western viewer, who may be being exposed to them for the first time through the film, will not see them as people, rather as animals who act off of their instincts and primitive beliefs. The viewers may then internalize the sense of superiority presented to them about themselves and their culture to those that they view as the other. This belief only works to increase the divide and misunderstanding of people who have different cultures than what is commonly known in the west, increasing the prejudice and hate that we commonly see today.

King Lear and Social Class

In Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of King Lear, multiple character’s realize the injustice baked into our society through social class. Both Lear and Gloucester realize, when at their lowest, that they are not alone in their struggles. The injustices that they faced in those moments was an experience shared widely across their kingdom, by many, many more people. They both come to the realization that they haven’t been doing enough to address the gap between the social classes, and realized that it is too late for them to make a difference because they had lost all of their power. They both remark on how the rich and those in power should experience what it is like to be poor and to suffer. If the rich knew how they were feeling, they would be more likely to do something about it. Lear adds that the rich will not act in the favor of the poor because they enjoy their current lives and refuse to see the struggles of those around them. This idea, although written hundreds of years ago, is still incredibly relevant today. There are millions op people in this country who are struggling to make ends meet and living paycheck to paycheck, off of wages that aren’t enough to survive. The working class has been routinely manipulated and abused in order to fund the extravagant lives of the wealthy. Those currently in power don’t want to do anything in order to aid the working class, partially because they enjoy their comfortable lives themselves, and partially because they are in league with the wealth, who want to use working class people for as much labor as possible and hoard all of the profits for themselves. The play argues that, if the wealthy were to experience what it is like to be poor, and that it is not a choice, they wouldn’t be so cruel and would make an effort to help them more. While I think this idea is a good one in theory, the wealthy would never be put in the situation of the poor, and if they were, there would be another wealthy person to take their place and continue to manipulate the working class. I think, in agreement with Lear, that the best way to aid the working class and make things right is to redistribute the wealth that those in power have accumulated and hoard for themselves. If their wealth was redistributed among the people, we would have a better, more efficient, and equitable society in which we don’t have people starving and dying ion the streets, or going bankrupt because they can’t afford healthcare.

Getting Better

Upon a first listen, the song “I Wanna Get Better” from Bleachers’ album Strange Desire can be seen merely as a catchy song to be blasted from car speakers while speeding down the highway. Upon further listening to the lyrics, however, you quickly realize that it is an emotional experience about someone battling depression merely moments away from killing themselves. The song, from the point of view of someone who is in a back and forth battle with themselves for their own life, details the extreme power depression can hold on a person and the devastating effects if that person can’t find an escape. The speaker’s deep sadness and longing are highlighted through the lines

While my friends were getting high and chasing girls down parkway lines

I was losing my mind ’cause the love, the love, the love, the love, the love

That I gave wasted on a nice face

In a blaze of fear I put a helmet on a helmet

Counting seconds through the night and got carried away

So now I’m standing on the overpass screaming at the cars,

Hey, I wanna get better!

The speaker is merely moments away from killing themselves in that instant, but they are stopped by a desire to get better. Bleachers use of rhythm illustrates the overwhelming panic and pain that the speaker was feeling and how quickly they were driven to the overpass. Although all else seems lost, they hold on to life because they have one person that inspires them to do so. The speaker then says, directly after the previous lines

I didn’t know I was lonely ’til I saw your face

I wanna get better, better, better, better,

I wanna get better

I didn’t know I was broken ’til i wanted to change

I wanna get better, better, better, better,

I wanna get better

This one person in the speakers life is the only one that gives them the motivation to keep going. Bleachers is able to demonstrate the importance of finding and keeping those people close to you for when it does seem impossible to keep going. Bleachers’ use of repetition serves multiple purposes in the song. Not only does it get stuck in your head, but it shows how the speaker is at their breaking point. Many people face depression and loss on a daily basis and sometimes it looks like there is no way out or reason to keep living. It is also often difficult to know, like the speaker, the extent to which you are feeling lost or that there is no way out until it is too late. It is only because of that one person in the speaker’s life that the speaker does actually want to get better and keep going.

Bleachers is able to detail the extent of the speaker’s sadness through use of specific words and phrases. the lines

Now I’m a stranger

And I miss the days of a life still permanent

Mourn the years before I got carried away

So now I’m staring at the interstate screaming at myself,

Bleachers use of the words ‘stranger’, ‘permanent’, and ‘mourn’ highlight the speaker’s desire to return to a consistent life that they once had. They feel alienated and alone and feel as though they have lost themselves, a feeling that many people share at some point in their lives. In addition, the shifts in time throughout the song serve not only to communicate the backstory of the speaker, but also to provide a link between what the speaker is thinking in the moment to the audience. The speaker and audience may share some of the same feelings and emotions and provide solace for the audience by showing them that they are not alone in their feelings.

Throughout the rest of the song the speaker goes through a back and forth on that overpass of whether or not they will keep living before, ultimately, the song resolves with the chorus of them deciding to keep living and get better. Through this song, Bleachers conveys an important and powerful message to the world. The song serves to remind people that there are people in the world who love you and care about you and even though sometimes it may look like there is no hope left they are there to support you in getting better.

Embracing the Change

Humans, as a general whole, do not like change. Change scares us, it threatens our sense of normalcy, and worst of all, its impending and inescapable nature causes the consistency in our lives to be forever fleeting. As a result, as humans, we cherish the stable, unchanging moments when we can find them. We avoid the uncomfortable and the unknown so when they come to our doorstep we run, hide, or fight. An example, highlighted within the novel Exit West, is the constant migration of people to other countries. When we see other people coming into the place we call our home we, as a general whole, run, hide, or fight. Those who choose the option to run will move themselves in an attempt to avoid the new flow of people. Many white people used this tactic in the form of white flight when people of color, who they saw as different and therefor a threat, were moving into their neighborhoods. Those who choose to hide ignore the reality of the situation in an attempt to preserve their sense of normalcy. People often use this tactic when they encounter those without a home. They would rather ignore them and pretend that they weren’t there than acknowledge them as fellow human beings. Lastly, we are left with the third response. Fight. Those who choose to do so fight the influx of new people, ideas, or situations in a futile attempt to resist change. Life, however, is in a constant state of evolution. Nothing remains unchanged and, as seen in Exit West, that change can be, and often is, positive. As a result of the doors, people from all over the world blended together and moved to new places, bringing their culture with them. Marin became a hub of different and new things all coming together to create “a great creative flowering in the region” (217). When we come together as humans and embrace the change and our new circumstances, instead of being destructive towards ourselves and one another, we can create beautiful new things and share our unique experiences with each other, as they did in Marin, creating a better, more accepting and united society.

The Proximity of Death

Meursault is a character that many readers initially deem as insane. As the story progresses, however, those readers grow to understand Meursault better as a character. Initially, Meursault is seen as a emotionless, disconnected, shell of a man who has no care in the world for even the death of his mother. He sheds no tears and when prompted, declines to see her body before it is buried.

Three deaths occur during the story, yet only one breaks Meursault. Throughout the first two deaths, Meursault remains steadfastly devoted to his beliefs. He is not tied up by relationships, religion, or monetary success. When faced with his own death, however, Meursault clings to hope until there is none left for him to reach for. It is then, when he realizes the proximity and inevitability of his death that he breaks. He abandons his principals and gives to panic and terror when he lashes out at the chaplain, but in the end he is left with nothing.

Alone in his cell, Meursault is forced to come to terms with his death. It is then, after his blind rage “had washed me clean, rid me of hope” that he finally accepts the “gentle indifference of the world.” Earlier in the story, Meursault would not have accepted his fate. Only when his execution looms mere hours away does he become “ready to live it all again” and accepts his life and the inevitability of his death. In different circumstances, had he died suddenly, he would have never come to the same conclusion.

The Simplicity of Life

Life, often seen as a complex web that many struggle to find the meaning to, can be explained in 3 rules.

  1. Life is random.
  2. Life is irrational.
  3. Life is senseless.

You may find that these three rules are difficult to believe, but upon further scrutiny, are accurate. If you take a moment to think all the way back to your birth, it becomes quite clear. Why were you born? Why were you born to your parents and not others? Why were you born in your country instead of a different one? Nobody can control their birth. Birth is the very first thing placed upon you and, ultimately, is random, senseless, and irrational.

Think back on your childhood for a moment. Why did you meet the people that you did? Why did you form connections with the people you did and not others? Where you grow up, your connections, your family’s wealth, everything that initially made up who you were was ultimately up to a random roll of the dice.

If we allow ourselves to accept these three rules, life becomes quite simple. If you recognize that life, society, and the circumstances we find ourselves in are all absurd, then you no longer need to feel bound to them or play by their rules. You can rid yourself of the stresses of something, that ultimately, was an accumulation of random events throughout history, each depending on other random events themselves.

If life can be narrowed down to three rules, it becomes easy to see the simplicity of it all. Upon choosing to do so, we are no longer bound by or forced to accept the rules that society has laid out for us, and can truly become our own unique individuals.