According to a recent report from the BBC News (Monday, 14 February, 2005 — see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4263227.stm), Disney is planning to shoot a sequel to “Pirates of the Caribbean” in Dominica, in which the Caribs of Dominica will be featured as cannibals.
The plan is being vigorously protested by the new Chief of the Carib Territory, Charles Williams, who came to office in July of 2004.
Five centuries after the beginning of European colonialism in the Caribbean, we are still witnessing very crude attempts at branding aboriginals for the sake of profit. Previously, branding someone a “cannibal” would be sufficient justification under various royal decrees for the enslavement of such “fierce” and “savage” people, that is, assuming they were even recognized as human beings. Continuing this tradition of imperialism, it is now hoped by Disney, apparently, that they can continue to reap revenues by trading in this dated imagery.
At a time when the leader of the world’s biggest and most arrogant military superpower feels free to proclaim that the U.S. is engaged in a struggle against “barbarism”, waged by those in the “civilized world”, this should not be too shocking. “Space” for this renewal of imperialist ideology has been opened up from the top down in American society, providing some of the strongest legitimation for these rehashed assaults on the “Non-Western Other”.
The same brush that would tar the peoples of Iraq, Iran and North Korea, would eventually tar all other representatives of some sort of primordial barbarism, including indigenous peoples. It is more ironic than ever, at a time when Ward Churchill is being persecuted with the willing complicity of some American Indian leaders, that some of these same leaders were openly supportive of Bush’s plans for invading Iraq, and heralded American Indian troops in Iraq as heroes to be celebrated. The glaring parallels between 1492 and the invasion of Iraq were completely lost on them. Instead, we are asked not to protest a war for fear of “hurting the feelings” of the parents of these troops…as these troops took part in the pummeling of a half-starved nation that had just clawed its way through more than a decade of genocide.
That Disney Corp., should dress up this history of unforgivable European cruelty in a manner that its audiences might see as funny and entertaining only adds more evidence to how far backwards we have let public discourse slide.
Pirates of the Caribbean, at the very least, should be protested and boycotted.