The Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is one the most popular rides in the park. It first opened in 1967, and thanks in part to its interesting characters, cool special effects, and memorable music, it is seen as a classic. That’s not to say that this classic ride hasn’t seen its fair share of changes over the years. For example, Jack Sparrow was added as a character when the movies came out and proved to be massive hits. Also, a few years ago, Disney chose to change a scene where pirates chased after women to make it appear as though pirates were chasing after plates of food. Well, Disney has recently announced that yet another change is on the horizon, and this change seems to be more than a little controversial.
One of the most famous and iconic scenes in the ride revolves around a “Bride Auction.” Women are lined up, ostensibley waiting to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. At the front of the line is a voluptuous redheaded woman, and the men particpating the auction are all shouting “We wants the redhead!” Wholesome family fun, huh? In my mind, it’s frankly shocking it took Disney this long to change the scene!
So sometime in 2018, along with routine maintenance, the redhead will be made into a pirate selling “loot” in an auction. So what’s the problem, you might ask? Well, I’m not entirely sure, but based on reactions that I’ve seen all over my Facebook wall, people are upset. Something about tradition, and PC snowflakes ruining everything.
Here’s the thing: I for one am fine with this change. I’m thrilled, in fact. I have a daughter now, and I recognize that there is no way to explain the bride auction scene to her without (at worst) having to explain sex trafficking or (at best) having to explain that women in our society are viewed as possessions. Neither of these things seem like a fun conversation to have. And the thing is, even if no explanation is necessary, those cultural values would still be there. I never had the bride auction scene explained to me as a kid, but I understood that men were buying wives. I further understood that the pretty and sexy redhead was the most valuable because she was pretty and sexy. It’s awful that this very damaging worldview was presented to me at the happiest place on earth.
This scene may very well have been part of the Pirates ride since 1967, but this is a ride in a theme park, not a historical monument. We certainly should not change great literature or art if it makes us uncomfortable,and I’m not arguing for that kind of censorship in the name of political correctness. However, a ride in a theme park intended for children is not a great work of literature. If everyone was okay with adding Jack Sparrow to the ride to help contribute to the cross-promotion of the film and ride, how could they not be equally okay with altering a scene that is outdated and, frankly, offensive? Gross commercialism is okay, but reflecting a more evolved view of basic human decency isn’t? This bride auction scene may have seemed appropriate, or even funny, fifty years ago, but I like to think that in 2017, our views on propriety have changed and evolved. I also like to believe that when we know better, we do better.