Protesting, Pirates, and Potter: our inconsistent outrage toward Hollywood

The summer movie season continues. First Elizabeth Diffin confessed her affection for da Vinci. Then Skye Jethani thanked Hollywood for not marketing Superman to churches. And now Johnny Depp and crew blur the line between character and criminality. In this post Dave Terpstra, pastor of The Next Level Church in Denver and frequent contributor to Ur, wonders why so many Christians protest Harry Potter but seem passively accepting of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is opening in theaters this week and I haven't heard a peep from concerned Christian parents. Yet anytime a Harry Potter film comes up on the screen many Christians are quick to condemn it. So I have wondered, why the inconsistency?

The similarity in material between the two movies that should concern parents is amazing. First, both films focus on activities contrary to the teachings Scripture, piracy and witchcraft. Second, the hero of Pirates, like the hero of Potter, is practicing what is considered evil - not just battling against those who practice it. Third, there are dark forces involved in both. Harry Potter films are amuck with sorcery and the like. Pirates of the Caribbean films are full of curses and the undead. The list could go on.

So where is the outrage? I wondered if the issue was simply one of popularity. Was Pirates just not big enough to condemn publicly? But I checked the records. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl grossed only $12 million dollars less than the best-selling Harry Potter movie so far. And it beat the other three. With all of the hype for the Pirates sequel, this new movie might gross more still.

So where is the outrage, I wonder? Is there another issue here? I believe there is.

Because most followers of Christ are unfamiliar with the occult, anything that looks like it or hints at it is suspect. We simply don't know that much about the spirit world. Scripture speaks of it, but not in a highly detailed way. So when we see children casting spells on the big screen, we ban our little ones from watching it because we know that witchcraft is bad.

But for some reason the swashbuckling comedy of Captain Jack Sparrow doesn't draw the same ire. I believe Captain Jack could be far more corrupting to youth. In the first movie, when asked about his plans by two bumbling members of the British Navy he confessed it is his intention to "raid, pillage, plunder and otherwise pilfer my weasely black guts out." Not exactly Christian virtues. Harry Potter would never stoop to that sort of behavior.

July 06, 2006

Displaying 1–10 of 35 comments

Pastor J

July 22, 2006  12:46pm

Points very, very well made! My kids have read almost all of the Potter series so far and we have talked to them about witchcraft and evil and the concerns some people have that are understandable. We believe that we have made the right choice and it is not a problem for them. I get tired of the same issue and it wears on me as a pastor and a Christian.

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Rony Figueroa

July 21, 2006  2:13pm

Racist Stereotypes in Pirates of the Caribbean By: Cheryl L. Noralez, President and Founder of the Garifuna American Heritage Foundation, United Long before the film "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" opened to record-breaking box office numbers, indigenous groups raised strong concerns over the film's racist depiction of the native Carib peoples as cannibals. Prior to production of the Pirates sequel, Michael Polonio of the National Garifuna Council of Belize accused Disney of perpetuating an unjust myth that harms the Caribs and their descendents. Carib Chief Charles Williams criticized Disney's producers and stated that, "Our ancestors stood up against early European conquerors and because they stood up…we were labeled savages and cannibals up to today." Despite such objections to the script's racist portrayal of the indigenous people, Disney refused to make alterations. In response, Los Angeles area Garifuna leaders organized a protest outside of Disneyland for the film's premiere on June 24th. The Garifuna American Heritage Foundation, United can be found here. By: Rony Figueroa It's hard to understand the issue of degradation against the Garifuna when people all over the world have been brainwashed by movies and television shows glamorizing pirates lifestyles and natives playing the role of the bad guys. Try to reverse that thinking when people have been conditioned all of their lives to believe what they see. It's time to get educated about the indigenous peoples of our planet in order to stop this erroneous thinking. Garifuna, Kalinago, Taino, etc. -peoples of the caribbean- are not cannibals, never were cannibals…It was just warfare tactics used by the British to overcome the so called enemy of the time. These tactics are still being used against the enemy…it's called character assassination!!

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July 17, 2006  8:40am

Just a thought, but the last I checked nobody has been out in our schools and neighborhoods recuiting pirates, but have you heard of wicca? They are very active and very real and they want our children. I think this may be the cause for a lack of concern about "pirates" and a pretty good reason to get our panties in a wad over "potter".

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July 14, 2006  9:04am

As a fan of Harry Potter, I can tell you that there is nothing that would threaten my relationsip with our Father in heaven. It is very similar to another generation's love of Lord of the Rings.

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July 12, 2006  8:43am

I vote for the monkeys!

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July 12, 2006  4:13am

Romans 14. Let us not be stumbling blocks to one another, and to the world. Let us understand that warnings have a place - they WARN us of potential danger. Let us pray that we are able to, and more importantly, be able to teach others - to discern good from evil and to know when to flee from temptation. I enjoy both HP and Pirates - but I won't advocate it to my kids till I know that they can understand what is fiction and what is right in the eyes of God.

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Kathi Sharpe

July 12, 2006  4:06am

"Likewise...Harry, Hermione, and Ron are true heroes as well. Sorry, but Harry and his friends are not "true heroes". True heroes do not lie, cheat, break the rules, and then silently take the reward ~ I don't know much about Pirates (though based on your review, I have some reason for concern) but I do know a lot about Harry Potter. I have talked to several young people who've researched or become Wiccan or Pagan because of a fascination with HP. If anyone doubts the fallout of Harry Potter, go to your local bookstore and thumb through the children's book section. Look specifically for titles like "The Wizard's Handbook" or worse, "Wizardology" - these are books that our 5-12 year olds are wanting to read now. Can't say what "Pirates" will leave them wanting to read. Though I doubt it will be books on how to call animal spirits into themselves and cast protective circles? (Wizardology)

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July 12, 2006  1:15am

This seems to be a repeat about what we are against, rather than what we are for. We spend so much of our time attacking things (sometimes rightly defending values). We always seem to be on the defensive, rather than on an 'offensive of love'

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July 11, 2006  7:43pm

"Please clarify which passage of Scripture denounces piracy. I can't seem to find one." Maybe not piracy, but try coveting, greed, murder, rape, pillage, theft, destruction of property, lawlessness, rebellion... Have we become so undiscerning as to not be able to identify good and evil? There in lies the danger. Personally I loved the first Pirates, the second lost its gloss somewhat - but with young kids there's no way they'll be watching for a while yet (as with LotR, which I loved). And I've sidestepped the HP question altogether (our kids haven't taken a particular interest, so hasn't been a huge issue).

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July 11, 2006  5:44pm

Perhaps we don't hear the objections simply because pirates are undeniably a part of the real history of this here earth, whereas magic and wizards live in a world of myth and legend (I am not denying the existence of the occult – I just don't see it as consistent with the type of magical activity evidenced in the Potter movies/books). The unknown seems to be far more scary to us than the known, although personally I find the known to be much more disturbing – we are capable of much more evil towards one another than I would have thought possible. I recently returned from a trip to the Caribbean and visited the pirate museum at Nassau. When I saw the "Pirates" movie, I was impressed by some details that were well-researched and consistent with history, terrible though they be. Unfortunately, it had to do with what the "good guys" did to the "bad guys (aka the pirates) once said pirates had been caught. It's not so easy to categorize a person as "good" or "evil" – I think that is the point of the "Pirates" AND "Potter" movies: People are not always what they seem.

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