essays kaddish in two-part harmony

a kaddish for captain jack sparrow

Okay. So. Another Pirates of the Caribbean came out today. And I had absolutely no plans to see it. But we happened to be in the neighborhood, and there wasn’t a line, and there were plenty of tickets, and the timing was right —

There were also plenty of good seats. Bad omen, right?

Good news: We sat through the whole thing, right down to after the credits for what we expected to be there. And because we sat through the whole bleeping thing, we never ever ever have to watch it ever again.

Bad news: So. Another Pirates of the Caribbean came out today.

Worst news of all: This could have been a very interesting movie. Daring, even. Having something to say, even. Would that be such a problem for Disney or the American mainstream audience? Hey Disney. Guess what? We can handle it. Trust us. We’re not fully and entirely morons.

I have to say this:

Don’t-get-me-wrong, I-love-Penelope-Cruz-how-could-you-not?

And yah, there’s plenty of chemistry to fill the screen. But she’s got to hold all the female energy for the entire movie. I mean, the only other women of note are lovely killer mermaids with nothing else to do but kill, mope or cry. But ‘chemistry’ is not enough to hold what feels like an outrageously long movie (or maybe it was just slow). Nor are pyrotechnics, nor the usual bunch of fighting and escape stuff, nor is Geoffery Rush enough this time round to save us from the wobbly Jack, no matter how pretty he might be. Surely by the fourth of these movies, a touch of character dimension might finally reach the screen?

But there is a story in this tale somewhere. And maybe someone was brave enough to write it. And maybe it ended up on the cutting room floor. And maybe it was just inked out of a script. And maybe it’s just all my imagination.

So. Yah. There are these pirates. And they’re after yet another kind of treasure. Usual greedy stuff. And fending off the Empires.

But they put a missionary in the movie. And while he’s a super good and noble character through and through — they made him fall in love. With a pagan, no less. And believe me: he does not convert her.

Now, doesn’t that sound promising?

And they put ‘the Spanish’ in the movie. Fighting for the righteousness of the church (and God) to overcome (read: destroy) the forces of evil (read: pagan). Well, okay now.

And they put ‘the British’ in the movie. Fighting for the glory of the Crown. And the Brits doing the usual attempt at expropriation of resources from as many corners of the world that they can garner. Hmmm.

But the rest is pretty much crap.

And when this hits home viewing (of whatever your denomination), I’d say just start somewhere in the latter middle, and just keep going from there. And speed-dial through all the yelling and the screaming. There’s just nothing to fuss over or savor here at all. And nothing worth seeing twice.

But that missionary is of interest. I wondered what ‘they’ would do with him. Had the time come at last to expect a Christian holy man savior in a Disney family/kiddie movie? Or would they show him to be as self-serving as everyone else? How could they keep him goody-goody and still have him be compelling? And what does he do with his faith? That part had potential.

The missionary’s end is worth the wait. The powers that be must have thought long and hard about what to do with him without inducing the vomit factor of being too pro-church for a pluralistic audience.

And what the Spanish do with pagan treasures. That too is worth the wait.

The Brits, of course, are just-being-Brits.

And the pirates are, of course, just-pirates.

Don’t sit around and wait for Pirates 5 to go into any depth or tell a worthwhile story. There were lots of great stories (lost opportunities) that could have been told about the pirates of the Caribbean. And about the Spanish and the Brits. Real stories that are stranger than fiction. Sephardi pirates, enraged at the Spanish for the reconquista, expulsion from Spain, and forced conversions to Catholicism, for example.

And yah, the rivalry between pagan rites and monotheism.

But you know, if you really want any of that, the place to find it (and a whole lot more) isn’t another Pirates of the Caribbean movie, but BSG. The reimagined Battlestar Galactica (and its prequel Caprica) do justice to all the larger issues — monotheism and paganism; colonialism and hedonism; strong women and men who can weep and moan; sex, violence, and pretty faces, and great music which morphs into a key plot device — BSG does justice to these and more without once blinking or turning away.

If you want an actual satisfying story, and one that delivers salvation beyond the grave, I’m still with BSG.

Oh. And spoiler alert, if anyone cares:

The missionary gets saved. It’s nicely done.

By mira

Mira Z. Amiras is Professor of Comparative Religious Studies and founder of the Middle East Studies Program at San Jose State University. She is past-president of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness, and has served on the Executive Council of the American Anthropological Association. She is co-founder, with Ovid Jacob, of Beit Malkhut, a study group in Jewish sacred text. She's most attached to the creatures of her body and her household — first and foremost, her kids, of course: Michael and Rayna — and then the other folks large and small of various species, including Roshi and Vlad, a whole lot of hummingbirds, the old parrot who lives next door, and a beautiful garden that does what it will.

2 replies on “a kaddish for captain jack sparrow”

Rh declared it a D- airplane movie. As for me — I’d send it back to the editing room. There’s a good movie in there somewhere. It’s just not about pirates.

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