Monday, April 13, 2009

Modern Day Pirates


I don't know what it is about human nature that makes us romanticize outlaws. A look at film lists suggests it's not a purely American quality. But for whatever reason people are drawn to the violent among us, even if we have to weave a fantasy about the people, their lives and motives. Perhaps because we're looking through the rose colored glasses of distance, time, or both. But Americans did it with Capone, the James gang, Bonnie and Clyde. . . the list is endless. Films and historical romances certainly have done their part when it comes to romanticizing the pirate.

Admittedly, I find the this version of the pirate to
be. . .well. . .wildly romantic. Maybe because the characters are invariably depicted by hot virile men who any woman in her right mind knows she could be *the one* to make him see the error of his ways. Consider Clark Gable in Mutiny on the Bounty in the picture on the left.


Or the incredible Errol Flynn in Captain Blood:

And of course, everyone's favorite pirate (what IS it about Johnny Depp??? Sigh.) Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribbean:





Somehow, of course our fantasies tend to gloss over the real habits of pirates, which was the business of robbing, raping, pillaging and plundering. Our films and books weave stories of dark heroes with noble causes, or at least deeply flawed men who can be led to do the right thing, if only for their own reasons. They end the story being better men, if not completely changed, for having done something for the greater good.

Recent news shows us something far different. One wonders what Hollywood filmmakers would make of the Somali pirates who have been preying on ships in the Indian Ocean. Somehow they even managed to hold off the US Navy Destroyer sent to assist in the situation.

The reality of modern day pirates comes with sticky issues like terrorists at sea, armed with automatic weapons who will kill the hostages they hold because they lack the moral parameters the rescuers operate within. And if you're like me you watch the news, fascinated in spite of yourself at the complete disconnect as fantasy collides with reality. It's like being transported into history, two hundred fifty years past, when cargo ships and pleasure crafts sailed the seas at their own risk. And there's no way to romanticize the motives and actions of these modern day pirates.

FBI hostage negotiators rush to the scene to bargain for the release of captives. And gangs of pirates come to the assistance of a fellow ship under seige, while the host country offers them asylum and funding in return for a portion of the riches they bring back. Part of me sits here shaking my head, thinking, "You can't make this stuff up."

But in the end, of course, my mind turns to stories. And how we as writers romanticize many things for the enjoyment of readers. When we do it well, our readers close the book and sigh, completely satisfied. But have you ever read a book or seen a movie where reality intrudes on the fantasy? Ever watch a western and wonder what those cowboys really smelled like after a week on the range :) Or think you'd probably want to bitch slap that perky heroine if she lived next door to you? Or strangle the strong silent hero who has to have every word pried out of him? Are you able to completely set aside reality in a really good story?

22 comments:

lois greiman said...

Wow, what a story!! It is just like out of the movies. And now the captain is rescued with a 'thanks guys' to the Navy Seals who saved him. Amazing stuff.

Helen Brenna said...

Yay! Gotta love those navy seals! But now the Somali pirates claim to seek revenge against Americans. Revenge? For what? Kills me.

Yeah, Kim, I can completely set aside reality for a really good story. Forrest Gump, for example. You know the whole time you're watching that movie that it's completely implausible, but who cares?

I'm pretty easy. When I sit down to watch a movie or read a book, I want to be transported our of reality so I don't second guess everything. That's not to say that snarky comments don't come to mind here and there--for some reason the movie Kill Bill comes to mind--but I usually let things slide.

Kylie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kylie said...

Lois, yes the news today has the saga continuing. A daring special ops rescue under the cloak of darkness. Tell me there won't be a movie made about this!

Helen, when I read that promised retribution from the pirates, I was reminded of a line in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Someone is upset that Jack Sparrow lied. He touches his chest and says, "Hello? Pirate." But it flabbergasts me that the Somali pirates see themselves as operating within some sort of moral code that we somehow violated when they were killed in the rescue. Hello? You're pirates!

GunDiva said...

For the most part, I allow myself to suspend reality when I'm watching a movie or reading, but there is one error continually commited by James Patterson that drives me absolutely apesh*t. Glocks don't have external safeties and you can't "uncock the Glock" without pulling the trigger - no external hammer. His researchers need to do more than just look at the cool pictures of guns, they need to actually give him some factual information about the guns he writes about. UGH! It's a piddly thing that most people wouldn't notice, but I do, and it's not just with Glocks - most of his information on any weapon is fictional. Other than that, the man writes a good story.

As for the pirates vowing revenge - bring it. The rescue was but a training exercise for our military. Try again and see what happens when we're really pissed off.

Cindy Gerard said...

How could you NOT watch Jack Sparrow standing on the mast of a ship as it's going down then walking nonchalantly onto the pier and NOT love a good pirate movie? Everything about the Pirates of the Caribbean movies defy the power of disbelief factor and yet I got caught up in every one of them.
What I CAN'T believe with the Somali pirate problem is that it's still a problem. These are some of the most important shipping lanes in the world and yet there has been no united front presented by all the interested and injured countries to DO something about these barbarians who are carrying out their dastardly deeds basically without resistance. it's inconceivable to me.
And yes, yea for our navy and our SEALS who saved the day. That's one movie I actually would go to see.

Michele Hauf said...

Captain Jack is going to be an another 'bad boy' movie, Public Enemies, in which he plays John Dillinger. ANd Christian Bale is in it to! Talk about hot guy overload in that one. Be still, my heart.

Anyway, the one thing that bugs me in romances is that no one ever lets the heroine go potty! The poor woman (and hero too) is usually never seen going to the bathroom. I feel for her, really, I do. I don't need details, but I do like to know that at least once a book, she toodles off to the little girl's room.

Kylie said...

GunDiva--given your expertise I'm sure you pick up mistakes in weaponry. Makes me want to run back to look over my works and make sure I don't have external safeties on my Glocks!

Kylie said...

Cindy--my husband just doesn't get my love for the Jack Sparrow movies. I keep telling him, 'it's the fantasy--let go of what really would happen and just indulge in the story.' But he can't do it. Too grounded in reality, I guess.

I'm the same way when it comes to paranormal with other world building. I can't let go of the reality enough to enjoy the story.

Kylie said...

Lol, Michelle, in my July SRS my heroine demands a potty break while they're in the jungle. I mean, if she's anything like me, she can only go for an hour or two without stopping!

Playground Monitor said...

I'm a Bond girl myself. Matter of fact, on Saturday my best writing buds gave me the recently-released "Quantum of Solace" for my birthday. No one could survive all James Bond has survived. But at least now they let him come out of a fight with his shirt ripped, a cut on his face and his hair mussed. Previous Bonds emerged from a battle with nary a hair out of place.

And yeah, where's the rest of the damn world with regard to the Somali pirates?

Marilyn

Kathleen Eagle said...

I love the moment in the first POTC when Jack gets one over on whoever, whoever says something like "How could you?!", and with that wonderful twinkle in his eyes Jack says, "Pi-rate."

Kylie said...

Marilyn--I agree. For as long as this has been going on, where's the international outcry?

Kylie said...

Kathleen--I don't know what it is about the Pirates of the Caribbean movies that makes me completely disassociate myself from reality and just indulge in the fun of the movie. Quite possibly it has to do with the incredibly engaging Johnny Depp, LOL!

But I do notice the pirates' teeth, LOL, and wonder about their breath! Notice Jack Sparrow's teeth are white and a complete set!

Kathleen said...

I think most of us who read books or a see movies about Pirates of the High Seas, Navy Seals or James Bond, know reality from fiction. And who cares if a book or movie can take us away from the the "real" pirates on the High Seas or the Corporate Raider, who are raping and pilaging our retirement funds.

Give me Capt. Jack and his swager or James Bond and his to die for good looks any old day and I will show you a happpy girl!!!

Keri Ford said...

Hooray for the SEALs! And yeah, just where is a united front to do something about these pirates???

The only time reality creeps in is when h/h wake up the next morning and they kiss and make love. All that I can think is...EWW! Morning Breath! And Potty! Everyone I know is about to wet their pants when they wake up in the morning.

Kylie said...

Kathleen, somehow Johnny Depp aka Captain Jack Sparrow is a far more romantic and welcome diversion than the pirates of AIG raping and plundering our 401Ks and insurance funds!

GunDiva said...

Michelle - jeez, I get so wrapped up in the story that even I forget to go to the potty, why on earth would I think the herione needs to go?

Kylie - an occasional weapons error is easy to over-look. It's the repeated errors that get under my skin. And the errors happen to everyone, even my friend Glenna McReynolds (Tara Janzen) is also a GunDiva and made the same Glock/safety error that Patterson made. But she's only made it once, she was so embarrassed *grin*.

Kylie said...

Keri, LOL, Leslie Wainger always made me take out the good morning kiss because of morning breath! Apparently she was rooted in reality, too!

And count me as one who has to race to the bathroom at the end of a very long hallway first thing in the morning!

Debra Dixon said...

I could watch Jack watching cement dry.

Sparrow is that good.

Both Pirates and Gump are good examples of what will make me ignore the pesky realities of life-- a character who grabs me by the throat and doesn't let go.

Kylie said...

Yep, Deb, it's all about the characters!

And who would relegate Johnny to watching the cement dry all by his lonesome? That seems awfully unfriendly. I'd even bring him a chair.

Then sit on his lap, LOL.

Venus Vaughn said...

Yeah, plenty of times I've closed a book and thought, "That hero was hot, but in the real world, he's actually just a murderer."

There's so much killing of the bad guy or brutal assault that as readers we've become pretty desensitized.

I admit, I still fall for it - I love my alpha heroes. I gobble up the badder than bad guys. But reality does intrude, yes.