'Pirates 5's Jokes About "Ugly" Women & Sex Workers Are Uncalled For

by Rachel Simon
Walt Disney Studis

Like many major Hollywood franchises, the Pirates of the Caribbean series has never exactly been known for its inclusion and treatment of women. The movies have starred almost entirely male casts, with Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann and Penelope Cruz's Angelica the only leading female characters in nearly all of the five films. The newest installment, Dead Men Tell No Tales, adds Kaya Scoledario's Carina into the mix, but while the tough, clever heroine is certainly a welcome addition to the series, her presence doesn't take away from the movie's underlying gender issues — particularly, Dead Men Tell No Tales' constant, unfunny "jokes" about its few female characters' appearances and sex lives.

About halfway through the new movie, there's a scene in which Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow has been captured and is told that he must marry a woman who everyone in the film considers unattractive. She's overweight, badly dressed, and generally unkempt, and her appearance causes Jack to become visibly disgusted. He tries to do everything he can to get out of having to even look at her, let alone marry her, when she leans in to kiss him, his revulsion becomes even stronger (a nod to the "buy a bride" part of Disneyland's Pirates-themed ride, in which everyone ignores the larger woman in favor of the smaller, more "appealing" one). The woman's appearance is clearly supposed to garner laughs from the audience — look at Jack Sparrow, forced to touch a woman the men of the movie deem unattractive.

It's a tired, unnecessary joke, if not a particularly imaginative one. But that's not all Pirates 5 has to offer in the way of offending women. Several times throughout the movie, Carina, a bold, intelligent astronomer, is referred to as a "whore" — because she studies horology (get it?). Jack and the other men awkwardly murmur about how hey, everyone has to make a living, and they're not going to judge her for her profession, before Carina rolls her eyes and tells them that that's not what her job actually means.


As far as franchise movie sexism goes, what Pirates 5 does certainly could be worse; it does feature a leading female character, after all, and far more of the movie is focused on the silly antics of Jack and his pals than on criticizing women. Yet that doesn't mean that what the movie does do in that regard is excusable. It's 2017 — aren't we passed the point where every blockbuster movie needs to include a few denigrating jokes at women's expense, just to make the men in the audience laugh? Pirates 5 could've taken out the marriage scene and all the "whore" jokes and had its story and humor left totally intact. Those moments add nothing to the film, but instead make it feel dated and out of touch.

It's a shame that the movie chose to go this route, when it easily could've avoided making any of those jokes and alienating half of the population. Adding in the character of Carina was a good and necessary change, so why ruin that with scenes that do nothing but offend?