Monday, May 28, 2007

The Immaterial Has Become Immaterial

This line comes from the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which I went to see tonight. It's ironic to see a movie from the Disney company that heroizes culturally subversive pirates and tells a story about taking on a giant monopoly, the East India Company. The initial sequence, which shows a range of citizens of different races, ages, and genders being persecuted for their sympathy with piracy becomes particularly ironic, given the company's history. If you haven't already seen it, check out this mash-up of Disney films made into a tutorial on copyright and fair use by Bucknell professor Eric Faden.

I thought that the depiction of Asia as a place for disordered and lawless sociality puppeted Orientalist stereotypes and that the Yellow Peril-style caricature of sexual danger to white women from Asian men played right into racist ideologies. Personally, I'd pick Chow Yun Fat over Orlando Bloom any day. I wonder how much of this China-bashing was seen as permissible, given the region's well publicized disregard for Disney's intellectual property claims.

I know that some free culture advocates are using the release of the movie as an opportunity to educate the public. Free Culture and Defective By Design held an event at one of the theatres showing the film in Boston to highlight parallels with net activist interests. You can see photos here.

In this week's Los Angeles Times cartoonist Berkeley Breathed explains how his joke about the director of Pirates went unintentionally viral thanks to a blogger at a book signing in "Is Gore Verbinski really 'sick of pirates'?"

Update: There's also another great Disney mash-up that has been made up to argue for the stance of documentary filmmakers, who often need clips from popular movies to illustrate essential points in their visual arguments.

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