When I was little, I was terrified of basically every movie that didn’t involve Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen. (Even then, their movie about the ghost that actually turns out to be a beekeeper really scared me.) Even animated Disney films were essentially horror movies to me; in my defense, some of those movies are pretty dark. Like, don’t even get me started on The Fox and the Hound, the unparalleled saddest movie of all time.
Anyway, my mother used to call me a “chicken lips,” which means “scared” for those not prone to making ridiculous nicknames like my mom. So how did I get to my current mass action movie-consuming point? Why does gore no longer faze me, and suspense barely make me squirm? It was a long journey to get to my point of intense media consumption, but it began with one movie series: Pirates of the Caribbean.
I never went through any phases in middle school, mostly because I didn’t have any friends and therefore was unable to be introduced to the magical world of way too much black eyeliner and “emo” music. But the summer before seventh grade, the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out, and I was absolutely hooked. My birthday party was a POTC-themed one in which my friends sat in my basement with me and partook in a marathon of the first two movies, and then I saw the third one in theaters (again). All in all, I watched it five times in theaters, and the fifth time we had to go pretty far into Suffolk County to find a theater that was still playing At World’s End (if you know anything about Long Island geography, you know this is a big deal).
So seventh grade started, and my life still really sucked—let’s be real, it was middle school, everyone’s life sucked—but this time I didn’t feel so pathetic. I had a new obsession, a fiery passion for romanticized pirates. When I spoke, half of the things I said were quotes by Captain Jack Sparrow. I was convinced that Will and Elizabeth had the most beautiful, tragic love story of all time. When I got my first iPod, the majority of the songs on it were from the POTC soundtrack. (The other songs were by The Jonas Brothers. I was twelve.) Until Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End came out on DVD, I would watch the trailer every day.
Elizabeth Swann was my hero. It may be excessive to say that she was a formative influence, but not really. In the first movie, she is the beautiful daughter of the governor, but she still fights for herself and stands up for her beliefs. By the third movie, she is the Pirate King who leads a legitimate army against the British navy. The plotline is campy, yes, but the message was clear: I could be beautiful, I could be strong, I could demand respect and get what I want. For a tiny twelve year old with braces, glasses, scraggly ginger hair, and no friends, this was an incredibly important message.
POTC was my gateway drug into the wider world of action movies. From there, I moved on to Star Wars, the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies (which had previously been too scary for me to even read, although I rectified that quickly), every sci-fi saga I could get my hands on. I began to appreciate the superhero movies of the 2000s, especially the X-Men movies and Batman Begins. By the time I reached my thirteenth birthday in 2008, I was strong enough to see The Dark Knight in theaters. Now I love all action films—the Transformers catastrophes being a notable exception—from spy thriller to superhero to good ole fantasy/sci-fi.
I mention all of this because—shocker—I’m the secretary of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Society at Tufts. A couple of weeks ago, we watched the first Pirates of the Caribbean. It had been years since I last saw it, but I could still remember all of the words, the soundtrack for each scene. It was like hanging out with an old friend.
This spring break, I’m planning a hardcore movie marathon week. I’ll watch the extended editions of Lord of the Rings, the full Star Wars saga (including prequels), and Pirates of the Caribbean. I know that’s like two months away, but I’m already looking forward to it. Sometimes you just need to go back to the old standards, because obsessions die hard.