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Author Topic: Pirates - why are they so popular?  (Read 1536 times)

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Offline BeorningTopic starter

Pirates - why are they so popular?
« on: January 11, 2015, 04:09:05 PM »
A question inspired by my recent watching of the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie...  :-)

I was wondering: why are pirates so popular as heroes in movies, RPGs etc.? I mean, I know it'd be kind of cool to swing a cutlass and wear a big hat (although I don't quite see the appeal of living on the sea - sea is scary)... but aside from that, pirates weren't really pleasant people. Why are they being romanticized so much?

It's not that I have something against pirate stories - I liked the original PotC movie, as well as Geena Davis' Cutthroat Island. But I could never play a pirate in an RPG... it'd mean RPing a character whose occupation is looting and killing of innocent people...

So... do you like pirates? If so, why? And, if you RP pirates, then how do you deal with the fact that they are robbers and killers?

Offline Inkidu

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Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2015, 04:21:21 PM »
Two words: Chaotic good. If you're more classically minded it's the Rogue Archetype. People like the ability to do good with the freedom to also sort of do whatever they want. That's why pirates are popular, as romanticized as it might be.

Offline Mathim

Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2015, 04:29:16 PM »
Well a lot of the U.S. culture is based around idolizing criminals so I'm sure that has a lot to do with it. Then there's the fact that nobody really cares to make much distinction between the heroic swashbucklers who aren't 'bad' but just operate outside the law to suit themselves without really trying to hurt anybody (obviously a belief that's out of touch with reality) and the romanticization of such, and you've got a recipe for antiheroes that most find hard to resist.

For me personally, I was more into the fantasy and magic aspects of PotC, but my main pirate fandom is the manga One Piece. I guess I'm more cognizant of the fact that the more out of touch with reality the story is, the more I like it.

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2015, 04:38:11 PM »
Two words: Chaotic good. If you're more classically minded it's the Rogue Archetype. People like the ability to do good with the freedom to also sort of do whatever they want. That's why pirates are popular, as romanticized as it might be.

Possibly, but that works only when one completely disregards what the pirates did for a living... People see them as chaotic good, but no convincing pirate character could be that. I mean, Jack Sparrow is only charming as long as we don't see him doing any actual acts of piracy...

And I kind of hate the Rogue archetype. Every fantasy novel involving a "charming rogue" makes me run screaming...

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Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2015, 04:40:36 PM »
I was thinking of two other words:  Wenches and Rum.

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2015, 04:43:29 PM »
I was thinking of two other words:  Wenches and Rum.

Wenches don't really explain the tons of women that are fans of pirates...  ;)

And isn't rum kind of awful?

Offline consortium11

Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2015, 04:57:25 PM »
And isn't rum kind of awful?

Heresy!




Why are pirates so popular?

Because they arrrrr!

Sorry  :-[

On a more serious note the "pirate life" is easy to romantacise; it's about freedom, going on adventures, breaking free from societies' rules etc etc. You get to swashbuckle, sail the seven seas, discover uncharted islands, discover treasure etc etc. It's essentially the ultimate bad boy life.

Because it's so easy to romantacise media creators have long tapped into it... which also adds to the popularity. From novels to Errol Flynn movies to the more recent PotC you already mentioned there's been a lot of media about Pirates and a lot of that good media. That good media generally doesn't cover the horrible conditions many pirates lived in, the brutality of their life or frequently even them robbing innocent people (which is at the end of the day the basics of being a pirate). Thus it becomes even more romantacised and even more popular.

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2015, 05:04:16 PM »
On a more serious note the "pirate life" is easy to romantacise; it's about freedom, going on adventures, breaking free from societies' rules etc etc. You get to swashbuckle, sail the seven seas, discover uncharted islands, discover treasure etc etc. It's essentially the ultimate bad boy life.

Because it's so easy to romantacise media creators have long tapped into it... which also adds to the popularity. From novels to Errol Flynn movies to the more recent PotC you already mentioned there's been a lot of media about Pirates and a lot of that good media. That good media generally doesn't cover the horrible conditions many pirates lived in, the brutality of their life or frequently even them robbing innocent people (which is at the end of the day the basics of being a pirate). Thus it becomes even more romantacised and even more popular.

I wonder how people who RP pirates in games / stories approach it, though? Movies overlooking the "basics" of being a pirate is one thing - but if you create an RPG character, you need to visualize how his / her daily life is. And when doing so, it's hard to overlook the fact that pirates robbed and killed innocent people... unless a given player really thinks that a pirate's life is about sailing around for fun?

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Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2015, 05:15:13 PM »
Or robbing the people that 'deserve' to be robbed - that was the whole idea behind the 'privateer'.  Essentially, the leader of one country would 'authorize' a ship to prey upon ships from another country.  Sir Francis Drake is a famous example

Offline consortium11

Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2015, 05:46:56 PM »
I wonder how people who RP pirates in games / stories approach it, though? Movies overlooking the "basics" of being a pirate is one thing - but if you create an RPG character, you need to visualize how his / her daily life is. And when doing so, it's hard to overlook the fact that pirates robbed and killed innocent people... unless a given player really thinks that a pirate's life is about sailing around for fun?

Depending on the nature of the story the "pirates do bad things" aspect can be pretty vital; I've seen the setup for more than one story here be "pirates capture innocent woman; either romance or NC ensues"

Offline Lord Mayerling

Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2015, 06:40:33 PM »
Pirates aren't popular.

What people generally think of as "pirates" is a romanticized, vastly inaccurate fiction. The fiction is what is popular. Why? People enjoy romanticized fiction. It universally spawned the art of literature in every human culture in history. 

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2015, 02:25:11 PM »
Or robbing the people that 'deserve' to be robbed - that was the whole idea behind the 'privateer'.  Essentially, the leader of one country would 'authorize' a ship to prey upon ships from another country.  Sir Francis Drake is a famous example

Oh, I know what a privateer was... Although I'd say that playing a privateer would be as challenging as playing a pirate. Privateers were basically pirates with just a stamp of legitimacy... they still killed helpless people.

Depending on the nature of the story the "pirates do bad things" aspect can be pretty vital; I've seen the setup for more than one story here be "pirates capture innocent woman; either romance or NC ensues"

True that. But I've also seen pirate games which seemed to be about high adventure etc. I really wonder what players in such games came up with regarding their characters' backgrounds...

Not saying that some pirates couldn't be seen as sympathetic - just take the late Middle Ages privateer Jeanne de Clisson:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeanne_de_Clisson

Her quest for revenge against the French king who killed her husband can be seen as something understandable... but then, if you remember that she killed all those innocent French sailors, even her looks less admirable...

Anyway, that brings me to another topic: female pirates!

Do you like them? Any interesting fictional examples out there? I was actually surprised to learn that there were female pirates in movies as old as 1952's Against All Flags:



Isn't she quite... domineering? I didn't know that women like this existed in the 1950s Hollywood movies...

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Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2015, 03:01:41 PM »
True that. But I've also seen pirate games which seemed to be about high adventure etc. I really wonder what players in such games came up with regarding their characters' backgrounds...

Why wonder?  Seems to me that such information should be included somewhere in the early posts.  I know I like to include at least a little background information to keep my characters interesting.

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Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2015, 03:10:51 PM »

Anyway, that brings me to another topic: female pirates!

Do you like them? Any interesting fictional examples out there? I was actually surprised to learn that there were female pirates in movies as old as 1952's Against All Flags:



Isn't she quite... domineering? I didn't know that women like this existed in the 1950s Hollywood movies...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Jack_(novel) As your post actually made me remember that this series existed, since I haven't read it in almost 10 years, I figured I should share.

Offline Deamonbane

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Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2015, 03:11:06 PM »
Vikings are romanticized in a similar fashion...

Offline mia h

Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #15 on: January 12, 2015, 03:59:59 PM »
Or robbing the people that 'deserve' to be robbed - that was the whole idea behind the 'privateer'.  Essentially, the leader of one country would 'authorize' a ship to prey upon ships from another country.  Sir Francis Drake is a famous example
... or the entre US Navy during the Revolutionary War

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Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #16 on: January 12, 2015, 04:03:20 PM »
Yeah, pretty much.  I didn't want to make the post an entire Wikipedia article about privateers, so I picked the example that would likely have the most name-recognition.

Offline bubby

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Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #17 on: January 12, 2015, 04:21:37 PM »
I dunno about anyone else, but...

This is why I like pirates...




... highly 'romanticized', but I don't care.

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #18 on: January 12, 2015, 04:51:04 PM »
Vikings are romanticized in a similar fashion...

Oh, I know. Although the Vikings TV series seems to be doing away with the romanticizing, doesn't it?

... or the entre US Navy during the Revolutionary War

Really? Tell me more.

I dunno about anyone else, but...

This is why I like pirates...




... highly 'romanticized', but I don't care.

Who are these?

Offline bubby

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Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #19 on: January 12, 2015, 04:53:46 PM »
« Last Edit: January 12, 2015, 04:57:06 PM by bubby »

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #20 on: January 12, 2015, 04:57:14 PM »
Oooh, a pirate TV show?

Offline bubby

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Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #21 on: January 12, 2015, 04:57:57 PM »
Oooh, a pirate TV show?

Oh yes. Second season starts on the 24th.

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Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #22 on: January 12, 2015, 05:56:57 PM »
Really? Tell me more.

We were pillaging British ships right, left and center.  Something like 1700 Letters of Marque were issued, and around 600 British ships were captured or destroyed.  We didn't really have a 'Navy', per se - these were ships ranging from 8-ton whalers with a few crewmen to 600 ton ships with cannons.

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Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #23 on: January 12, 2015, 06:00:55 PM »
... or the entre US Navy during the Revolutionary War
Well... yeah... it's all we had...

Then commissioned old Ironsides (The USS Constitution). That gave the British fits. ;3 


Offline Deamonbane

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Re: Pirates - why are they so popular?
« Reply #24 on: January 13, 2015, 10:37:51 AM »
Oh, I know. Although the Vikings TV series seems to be doing away with the romanticizing, doesn't it?
Not to a terribly great extent.