Jack Sparrow complains of the mutiny against him and the taking of his ship, but who enforces him being captain or ownership of the ship, if not the crew itself? So why would he talk in such terms?

I've read that with pirates IRL, they would vote on where to go and what to do, and a captain would be chosen for times of battle, and if the captain did poorly, they would just pick another, no big deal. And the bounty would be split mostly equally, with I think a bit more for the captain. A mutiny in the Royal Navy is a mutiny because the Royal Navy says so and enforces rank and ownership of the ship (or with the help of other government forces), even if, say, the captain doesn't complain about being left on an island.

It seems in the movie it's imposing norms from their own society on a culture which had no such devices. Or am I missing something here where a mutiny on a pirate ship would somehow be applicable? Did the movies make any sense of this that I missed? Like saying there was some pirate organization that made such actions punishable? Or did someone at some point at least point out the ridiculousness of his mentioning mutiny and claiming the ship as his, whereas it's obviously the whole crew's ship and decision (something similar could have been said to Barbossa)?

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    Pirates of the Caribbean doesn't strike me as the kind of series that gives two hoots that historical accuracy, in all honesty. Especially when the idea of the eyepatch-wearing, peg-legged, West Country-accented pirate captain is so deeply ingrained into popular culture. Mind you, there may be an in-universe answer here.
    – F1Krazy
    Sep 4, 2020 at 14:12
  • Owner of the ship might but mhigt not be the captain. Think about it as company (nudge nudge wink wink) When the owner might be the CEO or not. But when the workers don't like where the ship is going they can either leave (after end of contract) or strike. Sep 4, 2020 at 14:18
  • @F1Krazy I don't disagree. Yes maybe there is an explanation like being captain was supposed to be enforced by supernatural beings, but wasn't for some reason, so it still doesn't seem to hold a lot of weight.
    – user83507
    Sep 4, 2020 at 14:22
  • @SZCZERZO KŁY With a company their ownership is enforced by the government they live under. With a pirate ship, who enforces a contract besides the crew? Who would they go on strike against, themselves?
    – user83507
    Sep 4, 2020 at 14:25
  • In the "pirate age" when workers went on strikes the owners send their police to brake strikers legs, bones and beat them. On ship the company strike against the captain and decide to remove him from office. But if the captain was also the owner then the first port they came in checked ownership. So Spanish ship with it crew escaped to english ports to get pardon and became buccaneers. Repeat ad infinitum (or at least till the age of Piracy). Sep 4, 2020 at 15:09

1 Answer 1


Your question is built on the premise that just because someone can't enforce their ownership, that they somehow shouldn't complain that they lost that ownership which they couldn't enforce.

What's your basis for that premise? People can complain all they want, about whatever they want. Doesn't make them right, but doesn't make them unable (nor unwilling) to complain either.

if the captain did poorly, they would just pick another, no big deal

What you call "no big deal" is actually one of the biggest deals there could be on a ship.

Even forgetting the lawlessness of pirates for a second, mutiny is one of the few acts punishable by immediate death even on a "legal" ship (in that same time period as POTC).

In cases where a group of people ventures out into the great big yonder and rely on cooperation for survival, those that upset the necessary cooperation are effectively endangering a large part of the (if not the entire) crew.

The general lawlessness of pirates on top makes them even more likely to just outright kill mutineers.

A mutiny in the Royal Navy is a mutiny because the Royal Navy says so and enforces rank and ownership of the ship

When you're out on the ocean, the captain is the highest authority. The captain has no superiors to rely on. When the captain is being mutinied, there is no one else to enforce rank or ownership.

When that ship docks back and the Royal Navy finds out, of course they are going to punish that mutiny. Those crewmen have shown to violently overthrow their superiors. Of course their superiors are not going to let that fly without consequence.

That being said, context applies. If, for example, the captain perverts their ship's mission and the crewmen relieve him of his duty specifivally to continue the original mission, then the Royal Navy is likely not going to see that as a malevolent mutiny.

I've read that with pirates IRL

At no point does Pirates of the Caribbean claim to be historically accurate. You're holding the movie to a standard that it did not hold itself to.

We're talking about a movie centered on magical immortal skeleton "arrr matey" pirates, and you're trying to find the historical accuracy.

  • I don't think you're understanding, ownership, mutiny, and being a ordained captain just doesn't apply when talking of pirate ships since it's the crew that decides and enforces things. You can't have a mutiny on a pirate ship, that would just mean they decided to do something different. If there are groups that disagree, then they would have to figure out a method to settle it. And one claiming ownership is like claiming Antarctica, it's already decided no one owns it, anyone doing so would be called nuts. I'm asking if anyone points out that it is nuts in the movie.
    – user83507
    Sep 5, 2020 at 1:01
  • And having a captain change is just them telling one person who led a battle that they did a bad job and they'll get another to do it. Then they may get a smaller part of the booty. They may feel offended a bit but they expected it and have no claim to being captain other than what the crews let's them be, and they want to have successful raids also, so they deal with it and keep at it. It's not like a career change, they're pirates.
    – user83507
    Sep 5, 2020 at 1:05
  • And yes, I'm pointing out a ridiculous fallacy in the movie, just wondering if they acknowledge it at all, or make a weird explanation for it, like supernatural beings were meant to enforce ownership and leadership of a vessel.
    – user83507
    Sep 5, 2020 at 1:06
  • And to reiterate, a captain on a pirate ship is not the highest authority, if the captain wants to go to an island that nobody else wants to go to, they don't go, that's not a mutiny, that's just how they work, and the captain is only really a captain during a fight, to coordinate things. In the royal navy, they have orders they have to follow that are enforced by the navy sooner or later, the threat is always there for them.
    – user83507
    Sep 5, 2020 at 1:32

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