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Disney Ditches Controversial Wench Auction On Pirates Of The Caribbean Ride

by Liz Dwyer

July 3, 2017

Capt. Jack Sparrow is well-known for his partiality to rum, guns, and women. But it seems even pirates — and The Walt Disney Company — have decided that ladies shouldn’t be props for sale. The company has decided to ax its controversial “Take a Wench for a Bride” auction scene from the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at its theme parks around the world.

The ride, which made its debut in 1967, shows animatronic pirates doing the kinds of things they do in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films: stealing, getting so drunk that they pass out in a pigpen, and fighting. But on one section of the attraction, riders of all ages see that several women are tied up and being sold.

“What be I offered for this winsome wench?” the auctioneer calls out to a group of drunk pirates. He tells the woman to “Shift yer cargo, dearie. Show ’em yer larboard side!” But the inebriated pirates want a different lady. “We wants the redhead!” they yell in response.

“We believe the time is right to turn the page to a new story in this scene, consistent with the humorous, adventurous spirit of the attraction,” Suzi Brown, a spokesperson for the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, told the The Orange County Register. Instead of being for sale to the highest bidder, the women will now be gun-toting pirates who demand that people “surrender yer loot.”

The decision to ditch the scene is being applauded by some folks who believe seeing animatronic pirates selling women is offensive. “People are actually mad about the redhead in Pirates going from being an object to an actual individual?" wrote Twitter user Rickey. 

But other folks say Disney is giving in to political correctness because pirates are, by definition, bad guys. “Also the pirates at the end of the ride will no longer burn the town; instead they'll plant trees & participate in a recycling program,” snarked Twitter user How Bowers.

The popular website Theme Park Insider wrote in 2014 that in response to decades of criticism, Disney had already altered some parts of the ride; in particular, the company removed a pirate who chased a woman and seemed intent on rape. “Yet the auction scene has escaped most change,” the site noted. “It still features women being bought and sold, including a weeping girl at the back awaiting her fate. Perhaps this scene is still acceptable since the pirates are agreeing to marry the women and make them ‘honest.’”

Now that the scene is being scrubbed, Theme Park Insider is giving Disney a serious side-eye. “The skeletons, naval battle, burning city, and even the water torture are probably good to go in a modern corporate decision-making environment, but the whimsical depiction of human trafficking and sexual assault are definite proposal killers among any non-psychopathic corporate executives,” it said late last week.

But as Kathy Mangum, an executive on the Walt Disney Imagineering team, wrote on the Disney Parks Blog, the tweaks to the ride represent “new twists and turns in our story, and a chance to introduce new characters and magic to this classic attraction.” Disneyland Paris will be the first theme park to debut the new scene at the end of July.

Image via Flickr user Derek Springer

Artistic rendering via Disney Parks and Resorts

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Disney Ditches Controversial Wench Auction On Pirates Of The Caribbean Ride