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Pirates of the Caribbean 5 Almost Had a Female Villain – Depp Said No

I was not at all thrilled to read on The A.V. Club yesterday that screenwriter Terry Rossio had written, in a column on his blog, that his original script for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales featured a female villain opposite Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, and that Depp nixed the idea outright and the script was changed to feature Javier Bardem’s Captain Salazaar. Apparently, Depp “was worried that would be redundant to Dark Shadows, which also featured a female villain.”

Um. Yeah, right.

First of all, the box office for Dark Shadows was appalling, and did grave injustice to the original series that has a cult following. Second, I didn’t even really think of it as having a female villain, although Eva Green’s character could count as such, but everyone in the Collins/Stoddard clan (and yes, I had to look up their names) was pretty messed up. It wasn’t much of a battle of good versus evil, at any rate. Honestly, this new piece of information does zero favors for Depp, who has fallen out of favor due to over-saturation of weird characters in his repertoire and his allegations of domestic abuse against Amber Heard. The film is also five years old. So the logic here is that one time, five years ago, Depp starred opposite a female villain, so he can never do it again?

While I’m glad we are living in a time when even former heartthrob/box office darling Depp feels the heat when abuse allegations surface (it is, at the very least, a slight improvement over all the old-time Hollywood leading men who man-whored their way through the starlets of their day, maintained their sham marriages, and suffered little consequence), he still retains the ability and power to dismiss a good script idea outright, in a sexist manner, from the screenwriter who penned all four of the previous installments in the Pirates franchise. Rossio retains a “story by” credit on the new film, but has been downgraded from “screenplay by” – that honor goes to Jeff Nathanson, who already had many sequel films to his name.

I’m sure Pirates 5 has done good things for the bank accounts of all involved, which is why they keeping making new ones and why there is a sixth film in the works. However, it would be nice if these movies – the first three of which I really enjoyed a lot! I love swashbuckling! – featured just a little bit of diversity in terms of who gets to do the swashbuckling, and thus be the hero. Even a cool character like Tia Dalma (actress Naomie Harris, who has gone on to do great work in Oscar films such as Moonlight and Mandela) was villainized a bit in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as the embodied of scorned sea goddess Calypso. Of course, they had to make her the tossed aside love of Davey Jones! Because lost love is the only thing that makes a woman mad, am I right?

In fact, only the only other woman in the cast that makes the first page of the IMDb list is costar Keira Knightley – making it two women out of 15 credited actors in terms of female roles. This fifth outing is no different, with Knightley and newcomer Kaya Scodelario the only two named women in the cast and the only two listed within 50 characters (fifty!). That is pretty appalling, even for a male-driven franchise. It reminds me a bit of how few women were featured in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in the background shots – we got Jyn Erso and Mon Mothma, but little else in terms of female representation. Blockbusters should be striving to change the game at this point, if only to avoid criticism such as this piece.

Pointing all this out, counting female characters, and reporting on a male star not helping matters feels old, and tired. Don’t you feel old and tired reading it? Like, oh here we are, another tale of sexism coming out of Hollywood. It is well past time when these actors should be championing cool parts for women, especially an actor like Depp, who has a young daughter that has entered the family business. Women obviously deserve to see themselves represented not only as the hero, but also as the villain. There is much to tap into beyond “strong female character” or “damsel in distress” and when a screenwriter actually decides to create a role beyond those, it should be taken as the opportunity it is. Shame on ya, Johnny, and shame on the execs, directors, and higher-ups that took his word as law.

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Source: The A.V. Club

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Amy Imhoff

Amy Imhoff is a writer and editor who blogs at Shoes and Starships, a geek lifestyle blog that specializes in genre fandom, pop culture, travel, fashion, and feminism. She is a featured convention panelist, podcast contributor, and interviewer. Amy has her masters in literature, enjoys a slightly unhealthy obsession with all things British, and likes to sniff old books. Amy is based outside NYC, where she lives with her husband and two silly cats. Find her freaking out about X-Files and Star Trek @lightstar1013

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