Are Disney’s Pirates Legal in Florida?

I can’t remember when I first heard the term “politically correct.” I suspect it was back in the 1960s, when I was living near Anaheim, California. That was the year that Disneyland decided to make some changes to its popular “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride. It was the last ride that Walt Disney personally oversaw before his death in 1966. His team of “Imagineers” created a ride in which dozens of audio-animatronic pirates plunder and pillage a Spanish port.

After 30 years, the Walt Disney Company decided to make the ride more politically correct. This was the era in which every workplace had to provide mandatory sexual harassment training. Pirates were not exempt.

The ride was chock-full of scenes of lust and gluttony. The new ride would have a little less lust and a little more gluttony. The scene where pirates had been chasing women around a balcony was revised to have the running women carrying trays of food that the pirates were after. Admittedly, it was a small change, but it caused one of the Imagineers who had designed the original ride to suggest it should now be called “Boy Scouts of the Caribbean.”

In recent years there have been more changes. At Disney World the ride had a scene where captive women were being auctioned off to pirates under a banner which read, “Auction. Take a Wench for a Bride.” It was revised in 2017 to show townspeople lining up with their prized possessions to be auctioned off to the pirates. There was even a female pirate running the auction. It was suddenly more like a garage sale than an act of piracy. That original Imagineer must be turning over in his grave.

Over the years, the concept of political correctness has spawned a whole lexicon of liberal concepts such as cultural awareness, diversity training, gender identity, and critical race theory. Lately, conservatives have derisively referred to these concepts using the slang term “woke.” As the country has become more “woke,” many conservatives have decided they don’t want to be awoken.

Many states are trying to reverse the trend by passing laws banning certain books, prohibiting certain subjects in school curricula, limiting participation in girls’ sports, and dictating which bathroom people are allowed to use. Florida has taken the lead in these efforts.

We’ve all heard about the conflict between Florida’s governor and the Walt Disney Company when the state passed a law prohibiting classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity to young school children. Critics quickly dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The day it was enacted, the Disney Company issued a statement saying, “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts.” In Florida, them’s fightin’ words.

The governor promptly retaliated by abolishing the self-governing “Special District” established 50 years ago to manage the land and infrastructure around Disney World. This could have severe tax consequences, not just for Disney, but all the people who live in the two counties in which the district was located.

There’s no telling where all this will lead, but I began to wonder if Disney’s most popular ride, with all of its efforts to be politically correct, may have run afoul of Florida’s anti-woke legislation. So I decided to take the ride for a test run, and see how it measures up. To score compliance, I prepared the following ten-point checklist and watched an eight-minute video of the ride on YouTube. Here are my results.

Pirates of the Caribbean Florida Law Compliance Checklist:

1) Official language: Florida adopted English as their official language back in 1988. As far as I could tell, all the pirates were speaking English, with the occasional “aargh” and “blimey” thrown in for good measure. In fact, even the besieged Hispanic townspeople were speaking English. That’s good, because it will probably be a requirement if they ever decide to seek asylum in Florida. So, this category definitely earns a check mark for compliance.

2) The “Don’t Say Gay” law: During the entire ride, I never heard the word “gay” mentioned by any of the pirates or townspeople. In fact, all five verses of the “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)” theme song were gay free. Check.

3) Banned Books: I couldn’t find a comprehensive list of the more than 170 books banned in Florida schools. But that didn’t really matter because I never saw any books anywhere during the entire ride. I suspect the Pirates of the Caribbean were more into movies. Check.

4) Anti-mask mandate: There was nary a mask to be seen on any of the pirates or townspeople. Check. In fact, as of February 2022, none of the staff of Disney World were wearing masks either. That’s because Florida’s governor and surgeon general prohibited companies from requiring their employees to wear masks. Though, personally, I think Disney’s ticket window staff should be wearing some kind of masks if for no other reason than the highway robbery of charging $169 for a one-day ticket.

5) Anti-vaccine mandate: Since even the U.S. military can no longer require recruits to be vaccinated against COVID, I thought I’d try to determine if the pirates complied with that policy. It was hard to spot any Band-Aids on their arms because of all the tattoos. But if the boatload of skeletons anchored in the harbor was any indication, I’d say vaccinations were not a high priority. Check.

6) Critical Race Theory: There were no slave ships in the harbor, and no slave auctions going on in the town. In fact, there wasn’t a black face to be seen on any of the pirates or townspeople. It’s like slavery never happened. Check.

7) LGBTQ activity: I didn’t see any obvious signs of gay behavior anywhere on the ride. None of the pirates were even holding hands. Though, I did notice that there were an awful lot of men wearing earrings. Does that still count? I’d better give this item a check mark with an asterisk.

8) Gender identity: As far as I could tell, there was no questionable gender identity. But I must admit, I wondered about the pistol-packing female pirate running the auction. With her flaming red wig and ostentatious costume, she looked like a contestant in a drag queen competition. Unfortunately, the ride passed her by before I could see which bathroom she went into. I think I’ll give this item a check mark with at least half an asterisk.

9) Civil disobedience: The town was clearly in flames, and the pirates were running amok. Under Florida’s Anti-Riot Law passed in 2021, the pirates should have been held responsible for damages. But that law was declared unconstitutional. That was probably for the best. A clever lawyer could have gotten the pirates off by claiming that all the mayhem was caused by ANTIFA activists disguised as pirates. Check. 

10) Second Amendment rights: Florida has had a “Stand Your Ground” gun law since 2005. And Florida’s governor has vowed that, in 2023, the legislature would pass a law allowing anybody to carry a gun, concealed or openly, without requiring any kind of license or training. In fact, Florida was one of the first states to allow teachers to carry pistols into the classroom. If you thought Sister Mary Clarence was scary wielding her knuckle-rapping ruler, just picture her packing a Glock 9mm with a high-capacity magazine. As for the pirates, they all were carrying guns. Most had two. In fact, I noticed many of these 17th century pirates were able to fire multiple shots without stopping to reload their flintlock pistols. That’s firearms technology 200 years ahead of its time. Perhaps if the town’s teachers had been similarly armed, the pirates would never have attacked the town in the first place. Check.

So there you have it. Ten out of ten. Perfect compliance with Florida’s anti-woke legislation, with the exception of the occasional asterisk. At least for now, the Pirates of the Caribbean have dodged the bullet. But who knows what half-asterisk Mickey Mouse legislation Florida will pass this year?

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Larry Kolczak
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