Nostalgia is a wonderful thing.
We look back at the past through rose-colored glasses and decide the difficult thing we went through wasn’t really that difficult, or it taught us a valuable lesson, or it was the best moment of our lives.
Nostalgia doesn’t just work on events though, it can do a wonderful job at making yesterday’s villains the heroes of modern stories.
We see this all the time with Revisionist histories that take cruel and monstrous figures and morph them into benevolent and wise leaders.
With this in mind, Redditor YanTyanTeth asked Reddit:
“300-400 years ago, pirates were a terrifying force to be reckoned with.”
“Now they’re family friendly figures of fun.”
“What will be their modern day equivalent a few centuries from now?”
Society has a short memory.
“Bloods and Crips type gangbangers, motor bike gangs, hell in 500 years the memory of people like the nazis, bolsheviks, and Al Qaeda will be such distant memories people might like them.”
“People dress up as Vikings for Halloween.”
“Atilla Th Hun was a good guy in Night At The Museum.” ~ devilthedankdawg
The Irony is not lost on us…
“ISIS … Just imagine the irony of western kids playing with ISIS figurines”
“Edit: Wow thank you all for the upvotes and the award. I really enjoyed reading all your comments” ~watergate_boi
Revisionist history isn’t just for madmen!
“In 400 years cancer will be so cured that ever being seriously ill with it will be forgotten too. Then it’ll be inaccurately represented in historical stories whenever an illness is needed…”
“A: are you coming out tonight?”
“B: no sorry I’ve got cancer”
“A: ok! Well catch you tomorrow!”
“B: lol ok!” ~ Sell200AprilAt142
Two sides of the same coin?
“ICE and Immigrants.”
“Instead of cowboys and Indians.” ~ spderweb
Some took a broader view of the question.
“The irony, though, is that we remember pirates fondly because at least some pirate ships were more egalitarian than their legal counterparts.”
“You were treated better by your peers on a pirate ship than on a privateer’s crew… at least, that’s what is commonly believed.”
“That isn’t true these days. Drug syndicates and gangs are just as ruthless as legal business corporations.”
“The sole good thing that can be said about illegal organizations, that can’t be said about some legal ones, is, I suppose, that they offer employment to people who would otherwise be complete outcasts.”
“But that’s not an artifact of them being good— it’s a consequence of our society being so sh*tty.”
“I think movies and books have an influence here.”
“Fiction requires balanced characters, even among your antagonists.”
“A bad guy with no redeeming qualities is lazy writing. But in the real world, people with no redeeming qualities exist— they’re not even uncommon.” ~ michaelochurch
The siren call of the Highway.
“Bikers in general.”
“They’re already being ‘diluted’ from predominantly (or almost exclusively) outlaw types into a subculture.”
“People who ride the traditional Harley and Harley-like cruisers already often dress the part, and try to give off an air of rebellion and counterculture, while doing things like charitable events.”
“We’ve had around 100 years of biker counterculture, and gone from the progenitors to the subculture I speak of. In another 200-300 years, I could easily see a ‘Jack Sparrow’ type biker character.” ~ Euchre
Some tried to give context to our fascination.
“Instead of looking forward, we should look back.”
“A lot of pirates of the past actually had political motivations/capabilities and commanded small navies.”
“Others acted as toll stations on popular sea routes.”
“Our views of them have been severely slanted by Hollywood. There were also several african/black pirates who became commanders.”
“We tend to think of most pirates as white, which was not entirely the case.”
“There also was an entire history of pirates inside the Mediterranean (Ottomans and Arabs) that has been completely ignored by history.”
“We tend to look on pirates as dirty criminals who were ugly and disabled, when in fact many were competent and rich.”
“My feeling is modern elites don’t like to expose stories of successful rebels in the mass media.”
“Anyone who rebels in a movie or story has to eventually be suppressed, with the message being that you can’t win against authority ultimately.”
“You can go out in a blaze of glory, but you’re going to lose.”
“The movie ‘Outland’ is a bit of a sci-fi space pirate movie, or at least one where a security guard (Sean Connery) sets up a defense against a hit squad.”
“Other than that, there’s Han Solo, and maybe a bit of Captain Kirk.”
“Other than the, the future pirate story is pretty underdeveloped, but there are past pirate stories that would make great ‘yarrrrns’ as well!” ~ soundtrackband
Some fell back on the innocence of youth.
“In 6th grade I DID know they had something to do with hookers and I did a pimp voice/persona and all the girls at my lunch table called themselves my hoes and it was a big f*cked up joke that we all thought was hilarious.”
“Kids are messed up.” ~ Schnitzelgruben
We don’t even have to go that far back.
“Narcos, we don’t even need a century to know that, just how people idealizes the figure of Pablo Escobar and others infamous narcos in Latin America” ~ Molokon92
“Yeah, the way they are presented is problematic.”
“At least movies like Sicario show the brutality of the narcos/cartels.”
“If anything, movies covering narcos/cartels should at most do what Godfather 1 and 2 did, where it was more matter of fact than glorification.”
“That being said, I wont fault a movie for glorifying the wealth and excess just like I didn’t fault Wolf of Wall Street.” ~ karsh36
Historical revision is a dangerous game.
We take the parts of our past we don’t like and paint over them so they’re a little easier to deal with.
The danger, of course, is we forget the past was filled with monsters to be learned from and avoided.
Be wary of false histories, but don’t forget to have a little fun along the way.