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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Black Sails: Literate and Raunchy Piracy

Hey, I caught the first two episodes of Black Sails on Starz last night, and was mightily impressed.  The series is much more than swashbuckling, and dresses up the high action and fast-moving plot in at least four commendable ways:

1. The show has a real literacy.  Captain Flint quotes the Odyssey in a poetic, soulful reflection about wanting to find some peace and get away from the danger of the seas - the human danger, given his business - and you can't get much better than that.

2. There's a consistent and refreshing political dimension.  The pirates are champions of democracy, with all of its messiness, even their leaders who also yearn to be kings.  And the women are not only fetching but feisty.   I suppose this is a romanticization of what most real pirates were about, but there is a democratic logic and imperative in the pirate's life and community vis-a-vis the Crown, and, besides, it makes for a good story.

3.  The characters and plot display a media savvy - in particular, an awareness of the interplay between the written and spoken word at the time.   Apropos Homer, John Silver's commission to his memory of the page he stole is not only a smart move for him - as he realizes, the only way he could survive - but it puts Silver in league with all the poets of an earlier age who didn't read or write at all, and instead kept all of their creations in their minds for easy retrieval.  If anyone doubts that Silver would be able to memorize a page, consider that The Iliad was committed completely to memory, before the written word had come to Greece, and that's how it ultimately managed to make it into Black Sails' and our own age.

4.  There's nudity and all kinds of hot sex going on, which is always a plus.

So I'll be a regular reviewer of Black Sails.


Black Sails Sampling
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