Medeshi April 15, 2009
Somalia: Separating Fact from Fiction
Jerry Griswold talks about how real-life pirates affect a child's world of 'make believe.'
By Greg Block
The dramatic events off the coast of Africa this past week, pitting Somali pirates against the United States Navy, was the sort of story you might find in a history book, rather than every television news network and newspaper front page.
Real pirates and 'make believe'
As unbelievable and remarkable as the attack, capture and eventual saving of the cargo ship's captain was, it's the type of story that, according to Jerry Griswold, director of the National Center for the Study of Children's Literature at San Diego State University, is central in the world of childhood make-believe."The pirate has been relocated from history and become a stock character in the 'Theater of Childhood,'" Griswold recently wrote in an article for Parent's Choice. "A figure from general casting under the category of outlaw, and someone who has counterparts in other game-like scenarios known as 'Cops and Robbers' and 'Cowboys and Indians.'"
Separating fact from fiction
But separating fact from fiction, Johnny Depp and Captain Jack Sparrow from real, modern-day pirates, may have some parents worried about their children romanticizing pirates in the face of the story that just unfolded."I don't suppose events off the coast of Somalia will have much effect upon video rentals of 'Pirates of the Caribbean' or youngsters saying, 'aargh,'" said Griswold, quick to credit children's imagination and intelligence. "Despite what adults may think, kids know differences between fact and fiction."
Hollywood on hiatus?The International Maritime Bureau's Live Piracy Map shows dozens of similar attacks by pirates so far this year. There are still more than 200 hostages being held by gangs of pirates in the region. Whether or not Hollywood will take a hiatus from making pirate movies remains to be seen. But, according to Griswold, children should be allowed to continue to act as they always have."When Tom Sawyer and his friends are playing pirates and enacting 'The Black Avenger of the Spanish Main,' he stops them at one point and insists 'That's not the way it is in the book.'"