Monday, July 24, 2006

of pollyannas and pirates

It was a virtual requirement of my weekend that I take my 15 year old daughter to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, starring a very tanned and striking Johnny Depp in the traditional pirate garb. From Sinbad to Errol Flynn, the sailor/ pirate is the archetype of the anti-hero bad boy that women simply cannot get enough of. What female can resist tall boots, long hair, beards, eye patches, earrings, lots of belts and that devil may care attitude in a man? (Shoot, if I can't have the man at least I want his clothes-Keira Knightley never looked better as a stowaway!). In the movie the moral center appeared to revolve around the lovers Elizabeth and William, and the wild card character who could not be trusted but had to be, Capt. Jack Sparrow, played with absolute comic relish by Depp. It would have been very straightforward fun if not for an unexpected element in the mix-a growing regard and respect between Elizabeth and the Captain. And because Johnny Depp is a consummate actor, suddenly this ridiculous piece of fluff that had me roaring with laughter became a life lesson that had me thinking all afternoon. Add one broken compass to set up the lesson.

Our Captain had in his possession a compass that did not point true North, but to the greatest heart's desire of the person holding it. Jack needed a heading to find William and what he wanted, but in order to do that only Elizabeth could enable the compass to point in the right direction. So he tricks Elizabeth into doing just that. She accompanies him on the voyage, and in the course of it is determined to convince Jack that he truly, under all those dreadlocks, is a good man, and he, in turn, is determined to convince Elizabeth that she has the heart of a pirate. They go back and forth-he apparently disappoints her, and she uses cunning to draw out his true intent, until finally the climatic scene comes when, in order to save her life, William's life and the life of the crew, Captain Jack has to sacrifice himself and go down with his ship. Elizabeth alone seems to know that the danger they are in is due to Jack himself. So, while everyone is bailing out, she pins him to the mast with a kiss and shackles him to the doomed ship. He whispers to her, "You're a pirate", and does not resist being chained.

What crossed my mind and heart in all of this is that the relationship between Jack and Elizabeth is what happens to two people when they stop wearing masks and begin to be honest with each other. Why do we insist on believing in titles, first glances or hearsay and cling to false expectation about people we don't even really know? As though our expectations make another person what they are. I believe this to be the basis for prejudice. And what happens when our costumes are replaced with regard, compassion, and finally a love for the true person, it is really hard to tell who are pirates and pollyannas-love itself transforms the wayward into the true, and kills self-righteous judgement. We're just people in this boat of life needing other people to believe in us and love us.

Also, if Jack had been a total bum, there would not be a third movie coming! I can't wait.


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