Constructing the Identity of the Popular Pirate The Outlaw, Marginal Identities, and Utopia in Black Sails (2014-2017) and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013)
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This thesis investigates how the Golden Age of piracy and the identity of pirates is reconstructed in the recent popular television series Black Sails, and the videogame Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. By building upon recent literature on the connection between pirates in popular culture and history, it asks: How is the identity of the popular pirate constructed in the recent television series Black Sails (2014-2017) and the videogame Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013)? In order to answer this question, this thesis is divided into three chapters which elaborate on the following three themes: outlaw identity, gender and ethnicity, and utopia. Each theme will be discussed in relation to pirates in popular representations by providing a discussion of (recent) literature, and a subsequent application of the discussed ideas on both Black Sails and Assassin’s Creed IV by elaborating on a few key moments. Discussing the way pirates are represented in popular media grants insights into the way the past is invented on screen, how pirates are idealized, and how videogame- and filmmakers alike create and maintain a sense of believability in stories which mix (historical) fact with fiction. As the appeal of the outlaw and the pirate outlaw is widespread, they have been interpreted in countless (fictional) stories, and this, in turn, has created a persistent image of a mythical pirate, which is even further articulated because of the fact that so little is known about the historical pirates of the Golden Age. Yet this scarcity also offers videogame- and filmmakers the freedom to paint their own idealized picture of Golden Age pirates, and it adds to the fabricated status of pirates on screen. As I have argued in this thesis, the idealization and contemporary nature of the pirate in Black Sails and AC4 is evident in the way they represent a more desirable version of the past, in which current societal issues, such as the representation of marginal identities, play a significant role in the establishment of a story which is supposed to appeal to a twenty-first century audience. Recent representations of Golden Age pirates thus indicate that, even if they seem to depart from more caricatured versions of pirates, they still pertain to utopian ideas expressed not only in their narratives, but also in their visual and musical aspects.