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Are Pirates The New Monkeys?

During a recent visit with a friend, he mentioned that he had heard that "pirates are the new monkeys." The comment struck me as odd since I have long been a fan of monkeys and just couldn't believe that pirates had overtaken them in terms of popularity. The comment rattled around in my head for a few days and finally reached a point where I had to find out if it was true.

The first thing I did was try to gather some statistical data to prove or disprove the claim, but how can such a thing be measured? A Googlewar seemed like a fair place to start. Googlewar.com compares two words or phrases against each other in terms of how often each appears on a webpage. Look at the results:

Bringing you hard-hitting analysis...
Pirates easily beat monkeys by two to one but the results are hardly definitive. Next I hit the streets with a survey. I asked seven people the following question: "Monkeys or pirates?" Four of them replied "pirates" and three of them replied "monkeys." Googlewar had a much larger margin between the two than the survey had, which made little sense. One possible explanation was this exit poll from one of the survey participants:

GoodsonChat: Monkeys or pirates?
Citizen: totally pirates
GoodsonChat: Elaborate.
Citizen: eye patches win over prehensile tails
GoodsonChat: Interesting. I totally would have pegged you for a monkey vote.
Citizen: monkey was my gut feeling
GoodsonChat: Thought so
Citizen: but after several seconds of thought, totally pirates

Ah ha! This supports the theory I've had since I first heard the rumor that pirates had become the new monkeys. The recent surge in pirate popularity was just a fad. Notice that the citizen's gut reaction when asked to compare the two was monkey. It's only after consideration that pirates get the vote.

It's easy to see why pirates have recently stepped into the spotlight and forced monkeys down the ladder. Pirates have had big box office success with blockbusters like Pirates of the Caribbean (which actually had a monkey) and Dodgeball (which actually had Ben Stiller), while monkeys haven't had a hit since 12 Monkeys. In fact, movies with monkeys in them more often than not bomb. Dunston Checks In, Monkey Shines, Monkey Trouble, Monkeybone, Mighty Joe Young and the remake of Planet of the Apes were all box office failures. Even the films that have had box office success often portray monkeys as evil (Wizard of Oz, King Kong) or as disease carriers (Outbreak).

Pirates have had their ups (The Princess Bride, The Goonies) and downs (Cutthroat Island, Pirates!) in film. Even though pirates by nature are ruthless, thieving scoundrels, their lifestyle is often romanticized in our culture. When was the last time you saw a romance novel with a dashing young monkey on the cover?

See how the media insults monkeys?
So pirates definitely have the advantage when it comes to penetrating our culture due to our left-leaning pirate-biased media, but let's see how the two compare in other aspects of our culture:

  • Monkeys can learn sign language, while most pirates barely speak English (in defense of pirates, it is very difficult to make the letter "K" when you have a hook for a hand.) Winner: Monkeys.
  • The greatest video game with a monkey in it is Donkey Kong (just pretend he's a monkey and not an ape for argument's sake.) The greatest game starring a pirate was LucasArts Curse of Monkey Island. Obviously pirates couldn't carry the weight of the franchise by themselves and monkeys had to be added. Winner: Monkeys.
  • The Monkees were a pretty good 60s band and had their own TV show. There has never been a successful band or TV show called The Pirates, unless you count Duran Duran, which often dressed as if they were pirates. Really, really lame pirates. Winner: Monkeys
  • Academy Award Winning Actress Glenn Close has played both a monkey (in Disney's Tarzan) and a pirate (in Hook). Winner: No one.
  • You might think that in a fight the sword wielding pirate would have the advantage but I would argue that the monkey is not only faster and more agile, but far less intoxicated. Winner: Draw with slight advantage to the monkey.
  • Great pirate name: Long John Silver. Great monkey name: Bonzo. Winner: Pirates.
  • The worst thing a monkey would ever do to you is throw poop at you. Pirates will plunder your booty. A plundered booty is totally unacceptable and often only corrected with surgery. Winner: Monkeys.
  • Monkeys clean each other. Pirates never bathe. While rumor has it that pirates do sometimes exfoliate, it's just a rumor, not a fact and therefore doesn't count. Winner: Monkeys.
  • Did NASA send a pirate into space? No. They sent a monkey.

    Bringing a whole new meaning to the word "poopdeck."
    Can't we all just get along? The word "monkey" is better than the word "pirate" Monkey has a hard "k" in it which any comedian will tell you is comedy gold. "A monkey walks into a bar" will always result in a funnier joke than "A pirate walks into a bar."

    "Monkey" also has a pronounced "e" sound at the end, like squeegee and Frisbee. As a word, the best thing you can say about "pirate" is that it has "pie" in it. While pie is a delicious dessert, pirates themselves are not know for eating pie, but rather drinking grog, which is quite nasty.

    After peeling away the media hype and propaganda about pirates, it's clear that monkeys are far superior to their buccaneer brethren. I predict the pirate fad that we Americans are currently wrapped up in will pass in time and monkeys will reclaim their rightful throne, from which they will fling poop.

    Michael Goodson

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