Why Yondu is the pirate I want to imitate this Talk Like a Pirate Day.
Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day and while I’m excited, I’m also thinking too hard about the concept of pirates. Our ideas of pirates often have peg legs, parrots, hooks for hands, and use a lot of RRRR’s in their speech. We owe a lot of these ideas about pirates to literature and a particularly enduring film version of Treasure Island from the 1950’s.
From Treasure Island, Long John Silver gives us the peg leg having, parrot toting, archetypal pirate. While J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan brings us such pirate staples as walking the plank and, or course, Captain Hook and his famous pointy hand. If anything, Talk Like a Pirate Day reminds us all of a typical stock image pirate.
Why not dare to be a little different this year? In this modern world where piracy goes beyond the world of the sea, is there room for some new phrases to the pirate lexicon? To be more specific can we all be space pirates today? Spaceships are still ships and the sky is more unruly and vast than any ocean. Plus, space pirates often adhere to the same logic and tropes of seafaring pirates but they do it in zero gravity.
Look at Yondu. In the film version of Guardians of the Galaxy, Yondu is the leader of the Ravagers, a group of mercenaries with their own set of rules, their own code of honor, and an obvious unchallenged leader. Betrayal is a crime punishable by death and Yondu is willing to risk the universe to uphold his claim on the infinity stone. His manner screams pirate captain.
While the Yondu of the comic world has a bit of a different story, actually being a member of the Guardians, he does have one accessory that ties him to the pirate world. He has a hook hand.
Actually, Yondu has a better than hook hand with his bionic appendage that can change into a knife, laser, mace, comb for his pretty sweet Mohawk, etc. While Youdu is a great pirate role model from the comic world, he isn’t the only one.
Comics gives us an example of another space pirate. The Starjammers, a team in the Marvel universe, showcase another aspect of pirate culture. Particularly the idea of a ragtag group of men taking arms against a bigger stronger Empire. It seems that pirates had the British Empire and the Starjammers have the Shi’ar. At least pirates in popular culture had the British Empire to go against, in history the relationship between the two was more complicated.
In a prisoner to pirate origin story, Christopher Summers a.k.a. Corsair, goes from serving a sentence in the mines, to hijacking a starship, to escaping from D’Ken’s tyranny with other prisoners. Together the escapees form the Starjammers. Aliens, compelling backstory, outer space, sounds like a premise for a great movie.
Did I mention Corsair is the father of a certain bespectacled X-men? Who can forget that moment as a kid when you found out the Scott Summers’ father not only was still alive but also led the intergalactic team the Starjammers? Corsair might be a terrible father but he’s a pretty good space pirate, just by virtue of facial hair alone.
I have to get one non-Marvel plugin for space pirates and I’m picking a team that includes a former hitman, a con-artist, a former officer with a cybernetic arm, a teenaged hacker, a corgi, and jazz. Cowboy Bebop had just about the best ragtag crew of misfits from any space pirate crew I’ve seen. Feel free to challenge that opinion.
The group survive by acting as bounty hunters traveling planet to planet picking up scores and playing into several outlaw tropes. In the episode “Wild Horses” the bounty hunters actually search for a crew of criminals described as “space pirates”. The lawbreakers manage to take over people’s ships through a computer virus instead of sheer force, swords, and cannons. This change in method shows a blending together of the new ideas of piracy and classic piracy, and they marry together so well. Spike also represents a piece of pirate lore in a nod to the new and old pirate culture.
Spike has a cybernetic eye that lets him see “patches of reality”. There’s the notion that pirates used eye patches to keep one eye adjusted to the light and one to darkness. Spike’s eyes see past and present. Clever clue in a deeply layered show or a stretch? I don’t know, but I do know I’m seeing pirates everywhere now. Once you start it’s hard to stop.
While this is just my own personal way of celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day there are many other choices. Talk like modern day pirates, use hacker speak, eat a cursed piece of fruit, or even just go nuts mimicking the pirates of yesteryear. No matter what you do have fun me hearties.