Friday, January 14, 2011

Booty: Captain Teach Wonders Too

Fellow Pirate of the New World, founder of NOLA Pyrate Week (March 25 to April 4 this year) and dear friend Captain Swallow inspired today’s post with this tweet on Wednesday:

What the flaming hell is this misbegotten bit o' tat?!? That's not bloody Blackbeard’s flag! (link redacted for the sake of brevity) THIS IS! (again with the link)

The good and true Captain’s outrage is well founded and based on this:That is the “flag of the famous pirate Blackbeard” according to this article from The flag has no historical link to Edward Teach but is in fact the design that will be used in the upcoming movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Teach’s actual flag is displayed at the header.

Now, before you PoTC fans start huffing and fuming, allow me to point out a few crucial issues. First and foremost there has never been much in the way of accuracy in any of the PoTC films. I know that for a fact. I don’t know everything, in fact I’m ignorant on many scores, but the PoTC franchise is not and never will be history. It’s entertainment. So please stop brow-beating us about its historical relevance.

Second, I understand very well that this movie is based (very loosely it seems from the synopsis in the article) on Tim Powers’ novel On Stranger Tides. And that is a step in the right direction if you ask me; Powers obviously did his research. Also, as a writer, I salute Mr. Powers for his savvy attachment to Disney but allow me to point out that he knew what Blackbeard’s flag looked like according to his prose.

Third, I have no problem with fictionalization and the need to tell a good story but why mess with perfection? Captain Teach, like his contemporaries, chose the design of his flag with care in an effort to frighten and intimidate with symbols that would be readily understood by anyone of the era. An hour glass, a skeletal figure with a spear and a bleeding heart are hard to miss: your time is short, surrender your ship and your goods or meet bloody death. Frankly all the Disney flag imparts is step aside for sparkly vampire zombies. Which, I believe, brings us back to my first point.

I can hear the arguments already and still they fall on deaf ears. Captain Swallow, very much as usual, I’m with you on this one.


Capt. John Swallow said...

Many thanks m'dear for the rare honour of inspiring one of yer - well, INSPIRING posts!

What a man Captain Teach was to inspire so much discussion near 300 years after his death AND after a mere TWO YEARS as a Pyrate!

The current Disney Corp. unlike it's founder and namesake, seems determined to re-invent the wheel (or at least the flag). In the last PoTC flick, they used a bunch o' REAL Pyrate flags, but attributed to all the wrong ships. Yes - I agree to a certain "artistic license" (for example Barbossa vs. Barbarossa - easier to say, less "foreign sounding?), however when history presents ye with the PERFECT opportunity to teach folk (esp. kids) something interesting & exciting, ye set it atop the pyre and up it goes!

Like yerself and a few others we know, we teach Pyrate history to folk all the time and they are fascinated with the truth...they enjoy the myth debunking and revel in tales of real people & events - many which happened in places they are familiar with!

A bit like folk who make up Ghost stories to make an historical site more interesting - when the history of it and the personalities who frequented it are much more compelling!

Alas, "We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest; we must learn to sail in high winds" (Aristotle) - and so we keep an eye to the horizon and carry on!

As a side note, the QM is directly descended from 2 men who served with Teach (though apparently one started out with Stede Bonnet). At least on o' them languishes in the same bog they dumped Teach in!

As for meself, well, who knows least one relative who lived in Newfoundland appears to have gone off Pyrating...and I'm sure a few other relations in other parts of the world fell into the Trade!

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Captain and thankee for - as usual - adding so much of value to the conversation. My fondest hope is that, for the true seekers of pirate history, the PoTC series will be a gateway that they can walk through to find the really good stuff! It'll never be "Treasure Island" but it may inspire a few here and there.

And I've no doubt your ancestors followed the trade; that blood comes from somewhere, mate. Huzzah! for us, pirates all.

Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! Don't get me started on PoTC... I'll just make "Anonymous" mad and then s/he will have to come and straighten me out on how "historically accurate" the series is...

And good Cap'n... You da man! But wait, "folk who make up Ghost stories to make an historical site more interesting"? That would NEVER happen. Next you're going to tell me that "Ghost Adventures" on the Travel channel isn't real.

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Timmy! See, there ya go pissing people off again. Now I'll have the "Ghost Adventures" fans on my taffrail.

Capt. John Swallow said...

Cheers Timmy! Ye don't know the half of it...LOL
Let's just say, some personal experience with both pretend & real entities & energies and folk who claim to "know" but can be debunked in 10 minutes o' research.

Truth, as always, is both stranger AND more interesting than fiction. (I hold "Historical Fiction" an exception since that's most history written down & proper research makes it as accurate as possible). Sure, we all enjoy a tall tale or two, but at least recognize it as "It's all true...give or take a lie or two"!

Isis said...

People really think that Pirates of the Caribbean is historically correct? Facinating. I renjoyed the first movie immensely, but I sure didn't see it as an effort for accuracy. It's entertainment forst and foremost. I never go for movies if I want truth, but they can inspire me to go and look for it.

Hmm, I just remember when the first movie came and I got my head bitten of at a forum when I pointed out that the movie is set in the 18th century and not the 17th, "because all pirate movies are set in the 17th!"

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Isis; I know how you feel. I've had my head bitten off more than once right here about PoTC. To each their own but I agree; movies are not the place to go for historical accuracy. Oh, and thankee for clearing up the issue of time frames, too :)

Daggar said...

I believe Pirates of the Caribbean is a historically accurate portrayal of Keith Richards.

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Daggar! I think you're on to something.