Over the past few years, the idea of becoming a pirate has become rather appealing.
Thanks to the immense joy one receives from shouting “Arrrrrrr!” and telling an attractive women that he is after her booty, many have daydreamed about becoming a pirate. Then Johnny Depp came along with eyeliner and a halfway decent Keith Richards impression and a whole new set of kids (and adults) began fantasizing about a life spent plundering on the high seas. Before long, the adult industry got in on the act, producing two big budget pirate-themed pornos, which only added fuel to the fire (and appealed to a whole new crowd who loved the idea of calling women wenches and getting permission to be dirty old men). Add in a troubled economy and a staggering unemployment rate and who among us wouldn’t be tempted to leave our lives behind for a life of adventure and pillaging in the open water. Pirate stock was at an all time high.
A few weeks ago, if you had offered me the choice between working a crappy temp job for shit pay and becoming a pirate, I would have given serious though to the latter. Unfortunately, after a slew of bad pirate PR over the past week or so, now I’m wondering if I wouldn’t choose to make copies and fetch coffee instead of taking the swashbuckling position.
In case you haven’t been following all of the recent pirate shenanigans cropping up in the news, allow me to catch you up to speed. On Sunday, the Navy SEALS saved Richard Phillips, an American captain of the container ship the Maersk Alabama, while also killing three Somali pirates who had held him hostage for five days. Yesterday, pirates attacked The Liberty Sun, a U.S.-flagged cargo ship carrying food to Mombasa, Kenya. The Somali pirates used rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, damaging The Liberty Sun, but were unsuccessful in their attempts to take control of the ship. The Liberty Sun was escorted by the USS Bainbridge, a guided missile destroyer, to its destination. The pirates continue to attack ships (with moderate success), but currently four NATO ships and a U.S.-led international naval task force are patrolling the region.
These Somali pirates are giving swashbucklers a bad name. Years of awesome PR and hard work by Johnny Depp and the porn industry are suddenly down the drain and pirates are now viewed as evil assholes, instead of fun-loving misfits. Pirate PR hasn’t been this bad since Captain Hook and his crew on the Jolly Roger tried to capture a bunch of little boys and their tiny flying companion.
Worried about the future of pirates, I began to look for ways to change the tide and fix this current PR problem. After hours of brainstorming, then several hours of procrastinating and playing NCAA football on Xbox, followed by a few hours of napping, I came up with a solution. I contacted the smartest and most charismatic pirate I know, Cap’n Slappy, co-creator of International Talk Like A Pirate Day and asked him for some perspective. Here’s his response:
“There ought to be a different word for pirates in their current incarnation; sea-thugs; boat-muggers; kelp-festooned kidnappers … some trick of the language that allows us to erect a wall of separation between the current crop of nautical ne’er-do-wells and their swashbuckling forefathers. This language issue also applies to the bespectacled bipeds who call themselves ‘pirates’ when they steal computer software and new-release Hollywood movies. They should be called, ‘Geek-trappers’ or ‘Flubber-busters’ or something in keeping with the rich stereotype of nerd-dom.
“Not that all of these present day nuisances won’t get better play in three or four hundred years … The Caribbean pirates of the ‘Golden Age’ were thought of no better in their day than these poor ruffians are now. Desperate souls on the bottom of life’s opportunity ladder casting their futures like a pair of dice into the game of life – most of them will come up snake-eyes. A few will tuck away a fortune only to lose it to some other, meaner scoundrel. But none of them will be – nor should be – romanticized in their life-time.
“I recently wrote a piece for Pirates Magazine; an open letter to the Pirates of Somalia. I explain to them that part of their problem is that there is no colorful character who has emerged as a face for piracy. No Blackbeard or Henry Morgan or Bartholomew Roberts – nobody to capture the public’s imagination. Also, their weaponry has no flash – a blunderbuss announces its presence with authority – while the AK-47 is a vulgar firearm.
“But even if they had Captain Dash McCharming leading a merry band of flintlock-wielding shanty-singing pirates who stole from the rich, gave to the poor and helped little old ladies get to Sunday School – it wouldn’t do them much good in this era. Perhaps eight or nine generations from now, they’d get better play.
“The centuries have a way of smearing Vaseline on the lens of piratical perception.”
I’m not sure how Cap’n Slappy found out that my pirate (and porn) pseudonym would be Captain Dash McCharming and for the record, it should be noted that smearing Vaseline on things tends to be Cap’n Slappy’s solution for just about everything, but the man is right – in a few decades, history’s perception of these Somali pirates will soften and perhaps 50 years from now children will be pretending to be Somali pirates shooting rockets at Navy ships (that is if sites like Twitter haven’t rendered us all too stupid to have imagination and/or cognitive thought).
So maybe 50 years from now, when you don your best pirate attire and tell a lady that you’re after her booty, she will respond by asking if that’s a rocket launcher in your pocket or are you happy to see her, but in the meantime, we just need to forget about these modern day pirates and continue to fantasize about being old-school pirates (the kind that don’t cross paths with Navy snipers). We need to focus on the positives and ride out this current PR nightmare. Otherwise, the ninjas win.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.