Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why I Just Can't Get Into the Pyrate Thing

All of my negative biases against pirate reenacting were confirmed yet again this weekend at the Beaufort Pyrate Invasion. I saw more ridiculous crap this weekend than I see at any other type of event. Pirate events just seem to bring out the weirdos and the crazies in all shapes, forms, and fashions, and for some reason people just eat this shit up. But in the long run its more like a Star Trek convention than a real historical event. My personal opinion (and the folks in Beaufort will want to crucify me for this) is that this was just an opportunity for business owners and event organizers to rake in a little money. As a tourism strategy it sure as hell seemed to work. Otherwise, it just seemed like Halloween come two months early for one town in coastal North Carolina.

Now, as a supposedly "historical" event this is where I have real issues. I listened to the narration of the "battle." Fast and loose with the facts would be an understatement. It seemed the narrator was making up whatever he thought sounded good and the crowd was accepting all of this as truth. Furthermore, while some of the reenactors are concerned with authenticity in their costuming and presentation (the Devil Men of the Cape Fear are a good example, but unfortunately they don't have a website) most of the reenactors don't seem to give a damn about being historically accurate. Take for instance the Shadow Players. We talked to their leader at great length. He was a great guy, very personable and easy to talk to. But he admitted very readily that as a stage combat theater group they are not terribly concerned with complete historical authenticity. A look at their website will confirm this.

I could go on about this for a long time, but it would only get my blood pressure up. I wouldn't have a problem with pirate events if they at least tried to be authentic and accurate, and dropped the theatrics and sideshows. I have a hard time taking any "pirate" seriously when he's carrying a caplock pistol or Hawken rifle. As with any other form of living history, if you're going to do it you ought to at least try to do it correctly. But, as long as pirate events bring in the number of tourists they do and make the kind of money they do, organizers will continue putting on these circuses.

On a more positive note, I think my friends from Pennsylvania had a great time, they really enjoyed doing the pirate thing, and I'm glad for that. Greg also had a wonderful time shooting the cannon with us at Fort Macon on Saturday morning, which was a much more authentic experience. I should have photos of that soon.


Anonymous said...

It's a shame that the majority of pyrate interpretations are really just ren faire party excuses to dress up and drink. I think I told you that I am absolutely bonkers for all things Pirate, but I am motivated to learn the real "factual" history of piracy. That is my main motivation for seeking out the Carolina Living History Guild: Age of Sail done properly. Got to love it! Maybe someday there will be an opportunity to truly interpret piracy for the public to learn from, but for now I think it will probably remain an excuse to get dressed up and drink rum.

Andrew Duppstadt said...

Thanks for the comment Justin. Unfortunately, I think you are correct in your last sentence. Not that there aren't groups out there doing it "right," but the vast majority just don't care about authenticity.

mrwill said...

Justin put it well. The pirate thing just seems to be more of people playing the old, history as it should have been game.

I must admit that I do like the Ren fair elf ears and as long as there isn't too much gross tonnage weight involved, women in chain mail bikinis


mrwill said...

Oh yeah, Justin, there isn't a THING wrong with getting dressed up and drinking rum. GRIN

Diana Waldier said...

As a founder and managing director of the Shadow Players, I would like to comment about being bashed for not being historically correct in our dress.
WE ARE ENTERTAINERS, NOT HISTORIC REENACTORS. We have NEVER claimed to be historically accurate in any way. We were hired for our swordfighting ability and to interact with and entertain the public. We dress to allow the public to instantly recognize us as pirates, not wonder if we are colonials.
We greatly respect those who want to be historically correct, but we did not choose to go in that directon. We also entertain in other genre such as medieval, renaissance and star wars. Are we historically accurate in those, no, but we are hired to entertain the public nonetheless. Our group has been entertaining people for 18years, so we must be doing something right.
I feel it was unfair to be singled out as being historically inaccurate when that has never been our focus and we just happen to have a website. If the author of the post talked to our artistic director, which it sounds like he talked to Steve, then he was told we were entertainers, not reenactors.
I just wanted to set the record straight about this subject.
Diana Waldier
Managing Director
Shadow Players Stage Combat Group

Andrew Duppstadt said...

I appreciate your response, but if you read my original post I point out the fact that your own people admitted that historical authenticity was not your major focus, but rather you were a stage combat theater group. I'm not bashing your group or what you do. You provide a service that people pay for. However, I am of the belief that serious historical organizations shouldn't pay for your brand of entertainment if they could provide a more authentic and educational historical experience instead. I actually enjoyed watching your show for what it was - theater, not history. But I am a historian and I feel that historical organizations should strive to do something more authentic. Then again, it was the businesses in Beaufort that were driving last weekend's program and it was all about making a buck for them. Your group helped them accomplish that. I have nothing personal against you or anyone else in your group, but this blog is about history and that's what my original post was about. My friends and I really did enjoy talking with your folks; they are all very personable and professional. I certainly didn't mean to offend, but simply was stating my opinion from a historical point of view.

mrwill said...

Hi Diana,

I understand where you are coming from, but I don’t think that Andrew was bashing you or your group in the slightest way.

You see, I have seen the other edge of this "sword" if you will. My wife, a friend and I attended PirateCon 07 in New Orleans and was told more than once that I didn't look like a pirate, but rather a sailor. I was also told that I was ruining peoples "buzz" by being there, whatever that means. I didn't take it personal since I can get good out of any situation I get into and I understood that they were into, as I said in my earlier post history as it SHOULD have been rather than how it was.

The nice thing about the world is that there is room for ALL of us out there. I am sure I could learn something from your group of folks and I hope ya’ll might be able to pick up a idea or two from me, stitch Nazi that I am. –GRIN-

Mike Williams

Chris Grimes said...

Well said, Mike. Different strokes for different folks!