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A Fountain of Maggots: Rob Marshall’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

So, this is going to get very disgusting very soon, and it’s not for the squeamish.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

So, this is going to get very disgusting very soon, and it’s not for the squeamish. As most of you know (how could you not, you’re all fucking stalking me), I live in Istanbul, Turkey. We have our national elections this year, and as the date approaches, a memory keeps popping into my head of 2007 when the previous national elections took place on July 22nd, the day before my birthday. The governing party, of which I am most definitely not a supporter (to put it mildly), was expected to win, but a possible coalition between the two main opposition parties was also not out of the question. After I voted, I invited my friend Rauf for a few glasses of wine and a Sunday roast to watch the results come in. It was very hot, even for a late July afternoon in Istanbul, and there was a fly buzzing around my eighth-floor apartment as I opened our first bottle. The results started to trickle in at around six, and it was a landslide for the government. Our hearts sank.

As we had our roast and depressed our tears of agony and frustration, I let the chicken cool off on the kitchen surface. Rauf could not take it anymore, he left around nine, but I kept watching, all the time, the roast on the surface. Eventually, I gathered the strength to get out of my sofa and into the kitchen, wrapped the sufficiently cool roast in foil, and put it in the fridge.

The next day, gasps and shocks of bewilderment and despair ran throughout the office, as I received a few phone calls of celebration from family and friends (okay, just family [fine, no one]). So, Monday blues, election-defeat blues, and birthday blues. What fun. At least, though, I had that roast from the day before to look forward to when I got home (I don’t go out on school nights, even on birthdays).

As I nuked the chicken and the potatoes and the veggies, the talking heads on the TV were going on about how this was now a new era in Turkish politics and society, their idiotic commentary punctuated intermittently by a hearty “FUCK OFF” from yours truly. I finally sat down to eat, and took my first bite. Then the second. I nibbled on a potato, I think, and had a spoon full of peas. Then I looked down, and, as I did, a strange sight caught my eye. Something was on the move on the left breast of the chicken.

I looked closer. And, there they were: Two ravenous maggots had crawled out of their cocoons of flesh, and were gently, yet hurriedly, traversing this vast expanse of food, harbingers of their ravenous brothers who were only just waking up. There’s nothing more terrifying, to me at least, than looking at one’s food, and seeing on it larval insects. I gagged. I gagged again. I threw out the food in the dumpster immediately, and took out the bag and dumped it in the skip outside my building. Then I made myself vomit for an hour. This, my friends, was one of the worst experiences of my life. Well, Rob Marshall’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was worse.

One of the worst films of all time, On Stranger Tides has absolutely and utterly no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I wanted to say it’s like watching an enema, but even that’s a good thing: you get rid of the filth. Instead, here, you are force-fed shit, then made to regurgitate it, and then eat it again. It’s as if you were cloned, and the clones shared the same consciousness, and then were turned into the human centipede, but instead of three, this centipede is endless. It’s not so much pain, though there’s that, too, but, instead, nausea.

What can I say about it? There are pirates and movie stars and ships and mermaids and whatever. Something about the Fountain of Youth. I don’t know. I don’t fucking care anymore. And this is not a review, anyway (I walked out of the movie, the first time I’ve done that since, fucking hell, Mr. Magoo). It is an exercise in free association: a collection of thoughts and feelings that I have to grapple with in the wake of a traumatic experience. Shiver me cunting timbers.

The film has no scope, no imagination, no sense of wonder. It’s just a product, and it’s a product for the international audiences more than the U.S. ones; like most of Hollywood’s latest major product, it sets sails for these morally dubious shores. It’s like a circus geek show, but instead of the geek biting the head of a chicken, in this one, he shits in your mouth.

I used to ridicule people who got worked up about a film (“It’s only a movie, Ingrid,” etc.), and think the grand scheme of life is much more important than two and a bit hours lost in the pursuit of entertainment. But, recently, I have started to change my mind. Everything matters. Every moment counts. Your actions can affect the very being of someone halfway across the world: the butterfly effect and all that stuff. So, to pigeonhole this film into the “yet another piece of shit from the summer” category is a disservice to the human race. I realize I am pseudo-intellectualising this to the nth degree, but it’s true, nonetheless. I saw the first Pirates of the Caribbean film during a particularly bleak period of my life in Balham, South London. It made me happy and joyful and proud to be a member of our species. Smiles all around. So, if we can celebrate fluff when it’s handled well, if we can champion it, if we can, fuck it, beatify it, then it’s our duty to ourselves (and in fact the filmmakers), to call it out when it fails. When my fellow brethren are watching the new Terrence Malick or the new Lynne Ramsay, I have to actually pay for this shit, and then pull my punches, and go through the motions, and be content? Well, fuck that. Fuck that with fucking bells on.

What have we become? What has the Average Joe become? Generations upon generations at best made up of clueless fashionistas and at worst thoroughgoing fascists. “The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals,” reduced to this. No feelings, and no connections. Everything is momentary, everything is fleeting. This is our world now: An individual’s choice to earn money in a certain way and an individual’s responsibility to look after themselves in their own, usually self-nurturing way are substituted by a dishonest system and its malign influence on our lives. You could say, “But thus is modern life. Suck it up.” This would not be reasoning. Reasoning is for the bourgeois. People don’t take to the streets and commit the necessary passionate “actions” when they are reasoning. In face of such monstrosity as this film, we need to regroup, spiritually, and get back. Take the right path.

This is not a case of good versus bad. Bad people need redemption. Average Joe undergoes clarification, realization, call it what you will, but it’s not redemption. It’s not conversion either. Conversion is a long-winded, difficult affair, usually involving thought, feeling, intuition, a variety of nodes of experience generally mixed with hard work: study, reading, debate. And, importantly, sudden conversions and spiritual redemption (in the Christian mold at least) are available to everyone. The theory of an eternal Chandala, the myths of inferior race or blood or, yes, entertainment, don’t fit with this. So the Average Joe is, necessarily, alright to start with. Safely, one of us.

If we cannot take solace from an art form, what can we take solace from? As I tweeted that I was on my way to see the film, a friend replied to say he considered Jerry Bruckheimer a marketing genius. This is it, though, isn’t it? Marketing. Products. Consumption. Joy of fucking joys. We had dreams once, we fought for liberté, égalité, fraternité. While doing that, we were supposed to be given hope and power by the arts. Now the arts have become our enemy.

I will be the first person to admit that not everything is a front in the Kulturkampf. And, as I said, indignation is an unattractive quality (the gatekeeper, it seems, to modern wisdom is indignation). But, in the words of the great Jean Luc Picard, the line must be drawn here—this far, no further! Stop fucking seeing pieces of shit like this, start demanding better from your gods. Because, if you like this film, you are a cunt.

This article was originally published on The House Next Door.

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