The Pirates of the Caribbean ride won’t sell women anymore


The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is removing its women-selling scene. And Disney fans are having some major feelings about it.

I’m a huge Disney fan. My annual trip to Disney World is my favorite time of the year. But that doesn’t mean that some of my favorite things aren’t super problematic (Splash Mountain has some racist roots, the Hall of Presidents is facing a ton of controversy, etc.). Now, the Los Angeles Times and others are reporting that Disney is taking steps to fix one problem in its Pirates of the Caribbean ride: It’s removing the scene of women being sold on the auction block. And, boy, are these changes causing some major controversy. The question is: Is this a good, feminist change, or are people too sensitive about pirates’ behavior?

The scene in the ride shows women tied with rope and lined up for the auction block to be sold as “wives.” But that will be removed at Disneyland Paris next month and when the ride closes for maintenance at Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom Park in California next year. Instead of women being sold under an “Auction, Take a wench for a bride” sign, people will line up to give their booty to the pirates under a sign saying, “Auction, Surrender yer loot.”

Not only is Disney getting rid of the women-selling scene, but it will also give the women more agency. Instead of getting rid of those characters altogether, the famous redheaded woman will transform from a woman being catcalled by a bunch of pirates into a pirate taking the loot herself. I love it.

As theTimes notes, this comes after Disney changed a scene of pirates chasing women with trays of food. Now it looks like they want to grab the food, not the women.

While some love the changes, other Disney fans are not into it. “Also the pirates at the end of the ride will no longer burn the town; instead they’ll plant trees & participate in a recycling program,” How Bowers sarcastically tweeted. Fans pointed out that the pirates are supposed to be bad and that they do other horrible things including stealing, burning the town to the ground and more. That’s the point of being a pirate.

There’s a common theme where people think the way to show debauchery, or danger is to grab women, speak down to them, or assault them. Pirates need their wenches, right?

But here’s the thing: Women aren’t props. They don’t exist to set the scenery or push things along. And they don’t need to be used to prove a point or show what a seedy, dangerous setting they’re in. There are plenty of other ways to do that that aren’t at the expense of women (see theft or burning a town to the ground).

Of course, there will be the inevitable Disney fans who get upset that they’re changing a classic ride. This has been an iconic scene on a famous ride and the redhead is a fan-favorite. People will be sad to see it go. I get it. Don’t mess with the classics. And some fans will call these changes too “politically correct” and say that people are too sensitive and too easily offended. What do you expect? This is a ride about pirates, after all.

But this isn’t really changing the ride and you’re not losing anything, it’s just fixing a problem and making the ride a lot less sexist. Forcing people to give up their valuables rather than selling women doesn’t sacrifice the story or feel of the ride.

And the way scenes like these treat women has become a common theme and common criticism. Similarly, this has been a big issue on shows like Game of Thrones. Women are mistreated to show what a dark time they’re living in. George R.R. Martin previously defended the rape scenes in the show by saying he wanted to stick with the way history treated women.

But this is especially weird on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride because the movies do a pretty good job of portraying strong women with their own motivations like Elizabeth and Carina.

I love that Disney is choosing to address something that has offended people for a long time. And as former head of Walt Disney Imagineering Marty Sklar told the LA Times, Disney rides are meant to be changed and modernized. It’s what Walt Disney wanted. “That’s what the Imagineers have done with this new auction scene – it’s like a theatre show with a new act,” he said.

Next: Two seafaring films at the box office: Pirates of the Caribbean 5 sails on, Baywatch takes on water

As a side note, this reminded me of an amazing Key and Peele skit “Pirate Chantey.” They previously did a hilarious song parodying how pirates treat women. The pirates were all dirty, convincing, swash-buckling pirates. The only difference? They sang about treating women with respect.