Fandom: Pirates of the Caribbean
Relationship: Jack Sparrow/Will Turner
Author: Bianca (email@example.com, broken-body.net)
Spoilers: Basically everything in the first movie.
Pirates of the Caribbean. Ah, where to start when describing that fandom? Predicted to flop, ended up a hit, brought on two sequels, one already released, proving once again we’re just suckers for pirates, and the third causing more anticipation than ever. Now, the ironic thing is, a lot of the fandom is based upon the fitting, funny, and oh-so scandalous pairings that can be created with a snap of the fingers. For many people, this has been one of the greatest fandoms to be involved in, but I honestly don’t know what my opinion would be of the movies had it not been for my personal favorite portion extradited: the Jack Sparrow/Will Turner pairing (or Turrow, if you know the lingo).
At first glance it is non-canon, but there are a thousand and one reasons to believe it actually may not be so, just like any other pairing in any other fandom. Negativity towards this pairing is mostly due to people believing neither have an ‘interest’ in the same-sex. Although I normally hate quoting actors for ‘proof,’ Johnny Depp recently said himself: “…with Jack, it was more that I liked the idea of being ambiguous, of taking this character and making everything a little… questionable. Because women were thought to be bad luck on ships. And these pirates would go out for years at a time. So, you know, there is a possibility that one thing might lead to another.” Maybe this doesn’t raise an eyebrow about Will, but it certainly does on Jack’s feelings towards the young blacksmith.
Well, we should raise an eyebrow for both of them, separately and together. And hopefully the following essay will do so. Without further ado, I bring you “Either Madness or Brilliance”: the Jack/Will ship manifesto.
Jack Sparrow has been a pirate most his life. His most prized possession was The Black Pearl, which he captained with his first mate, Hector Barbossa. While in search of a treasure, Barbossa committed mutiny against Jack by turning the crew against him and marooning the man on a deserted island. He took over as Captain of The Black Pearl.. The irony, of course, would be that the Cortés treasure they were seeking – which included 882 medallions – was actually cursed, and any person who took a piece directly from the chest would be doomed to immortality.
In Jack’s years of piracy he has obviously committed many, many crimes, including impersonating an officer of the Spanish Royal Navy and a cleric of the Church of England. He was also good friends with Bill Turner, or Bootstrap Bill, as most referred to him as. When Jack was marooned, Bootstrap found the act horrible and upon discovering the truth of the Cortés treasure, sent one of the remaining pieces to his son, Will. Possessing the last cursed coin meant that The Black Pearl crew would remain immortal, unless it was found and properly covered in the blood of the original coin holder.
Years later, Jack, having escaped the island, comes to Port Royal in search of a ship to commandeer. Instead, he comes across Elizabeth Swann who has a medallion belonging to the Cortés treasure.
William (Will) Turner appeared to be a normal young boy with a mother and a father. But his father actually led a double life, so to speak, as a pirate. While his father was away at sea, his mother grew ill and died. Still reasonably young, Will went out to sea in search for his father with only the medallion to guide him through his journey. But the ship he was on was attacked by pirates and he was basically left for dead.
On a nearby ship, Elizabeth Swann, the daughter of Port Royal’s governor, spotted the young boy. Will was taken onboard the ship, and Elizabeth assumed by the medallion around his neck that he was a pirate. Not wanting the boy to be harmed, she hid the medallion and never told a soul about it.
Will was taken to Port Royal where he grew up in a stable life, most likely with the Brown family, who owned a Blacksmith shop. Will followed in the footsteps of the family and became a somewhat successful blacksmith, creating swords and other weaponry for the people around town, including the Navy personnel. He harbored very deep feelings for Elizabeth since he was a child.
Jack and Will have their first encounter in Mr. Brown’s blacksmith shop, where Will works and most likely resides. Jack, in the midst of running away from guards after a spiff with Elizabeth and Norrington, decides to hide away in the shop, mostly to find a way to remove his handcuffs. He is able to break them, but before anything else can be done, Will arrives. Automatically, Will notices some of his stuff is misplaced. Seeing Jack’s hat, he reaches over to examine it, only to be stopped with a sword blade to his hand. Will is aware the town is searching for a pirate and questions Jack immediately.
Like most encounters in PotC, Jack and Will’s is quite intense. Not only do they get off on the wrong start, but Jack immediately takes an interest in Will’s familiar appearance. Jack’s suggestion of Will being a eunuch is a lot more than a comic relief for the audience, it’s also evidence of Jack’s ability to see through people and why they do what they do. Will spends all his free time making swords and not romancing a woman, which Jack sees as a clear sign the young blacksmith feels trapped and craves something he cannot obtain. This unobtainable craving is of course Elizabeth, but it’s also adventure, something different. The comment angers Will, and they engage in a sword fight. It doesn’t take long for both to realize the battle is futile. They are unable to out-do each other, resorting in Jack ‘cheating’ by throwing sand in Will’s face. This is the first indication the two shouldn’t be fighting with each other, but working together.
The next scene they share is after Barbossa has taken Elizabeth. Jack, now imprisoned, gets a visit from Will, who is determined to find Miss Swann. Will gets straight to the point: he wants Jack to help him find Elizabeth. “Oh, so it is that you found a girl!” Jack shouts, once again seeming stuck on the fact Will may have a love interest.
Jack and Will have quite a few revelations during this scene, the most important going back to Jack’s prior questions on Will’s appearance, which was due to him being the son of an old friend, ‘Bootstrap’ Bill Turner. Jack’s facial expression after Will admits his father’s name is a key to how he must have felt for Bootstrap, meaning they were indeed close (not necessarily romance, mind you). Jack teases Will by insisting the younger man wants to become a pirate. This upsets Will, but Jack does not seem to mind the boy’s anger; he seems to get a kick out of it.
The two spend the most time together right after they insanely pull off commandeering a naval ship, The Interceptor. That alone is proof of how much compatibility they have. Although Will is following more of what Jack says than anything else, there is obvious teamwork. Later, when they are alone at sea, Jack admits he knew Bootstrap in the same, hazy tone he had before. Will presses the man more, especially when Jack states his father was a pirate. Annoyed, Jack moves the sails so that Will is dangerously hanging off the ship by the yard. Calmly, Jack tells him that he will be sailing under the command of a pirate, and if he has any issues with it he needs to speak up. If anything, this is flirtatious banter, but also a clever way to get his message through. Jack is determined to let Will know pirates can be good men, and this certainly is not the one and only time the issue is brought up.
Jack and Will arrive at a hot-spot, so to speak, for pirates: Tortuga. Aside from Jack’s not-so pleasant reunion with a few women, the town brings the possibility of forming an “able-bodied crew,” to assist in the rescue of Elizabeth. After finding an old friend of Jack’s, Mr. Gibbs, all three go to a bar to discuss the adventure. Will is not a part of the planning and is instead left to stand uncomfortably around the bar with a sharp-eye out for trouble that will undoubtedly and unwillingly come his way. He is nothing but a lost soul in the environment, who feels like even the slightest defect in his surroundings, is a threat. He does, however, overhear Jack say something about ‘leverage,’ referring straight to Will himself. Now Will finally has a reason not to trust Jack, but he does not act out on it right away. He uses Jack, knowing well that he cannot possibly rescue Elizabeth alone. He goes on pretending he knows nothing.
After finding a crew and sailing to Isla de Muerta, where Elizabeth is being held, Will learns from Mr. Gibbs that Jack was once captain of The Black Pearl. Although he still does not know why he is ‘leverage,’ Will does understand Jack’s reasons for helping rescue Elizabeth.
Jack and Will enter the cave, and while discussing their situation, Jack seems to have intentionally trapped Will into admitting he might be bound to a life of piracy. This is the first time Will does not completely throw off the idea. He simply clarifies one thing: he’s not obsessed with treasure. Jack counters with, “not all treasure is silver and gold,” referring to Will’s perspective of Elizabeth. Will is eager to save Elizabeth and does not think of the immediate complications of safely doing so. Once they are in full-sight of Elizabeth, Jack quickly pulls Will back from foolishly running towards the girl and revealing their presence to Barbossa. Will does not take kindly to this and thinks that it is just because Jack has plans of his own. Will is frustrated by not knowing why he’s leverage. Moreover, he wants things to go his way. Will, in aggravation, takes an oar and hits Jack upside the head, knocking-out the pirate. This is a contradiction to everything Will presents himself as and is indication of an impulsive nature similar to Jack, and even Elizabeth.
Will manages to rescue Elizabeth himself, and takes off on The Interceptor without Jack. By the time the two see each other again Jack has already revealed himself to Barbossa, and Elizabeth has finally told Will about the curse and the fact they need his blood. When Will tells Barbossa his true identity in order to keep Elizabeth safe, the captain deceives him and sends Jack and Elizabeth off onto the same island Jack was marooned on years ago. The two escape the island the following morning thanks to Commodore Norrington and the HMS Dauntless. Elizabeth is unable to convince Norrington to search for Will until she abruptly agrees to marry him.
On their way towards the Isla de Muerta, Jack tries to persuade Norrington to allow him into the cave to talk to Barbossa while Norrington and his men wait back on the Dauntless to attack the unprepared crew once they leave the cave. Jack is granted access into the cave, but Norrington decides to stay on the rowboats and shoot the crew down instead of fully following Jack’s – a pirate’s – plan. Norrington, of course, does not know about the curse, and is unaware of the crew’s immortality.
When Jack shows up, right before Barbossa is about to slit Will’s throat, he is able to talk the man out of breaking the curse right away. He tells Barbossa it would be much safer to continue being immortal so they can succeed in killing Norrington’s crew and stealing the Dauntless as well. Will is outraged by Jack’s cruelness, but quickly changes his perspective when he sees Jack slip one of the coins into his sleeve. They lock eyes, communicating without any words at all. Will now knows Jack is deceiving Barbossa, and is, for the most part, on Will’s side. When Jack finally throws a sword to Will, the blacksmith is ready, as if he has been waiting for Jack to finally take action. Instead of thinking of a way out of the situation himself (like he previously would have done in the beginning of their relationship), he decides to trust Jack enough to wait for his queue.
Elizabeth soon makes her entrance into the cave and sees that Jack is in the middle of a sword fight with Barbossa. She approaches Will and asks whose side Jack is on. Will responds, “At the moment?” revealing admiration for Jack’s cleverness at deceiving both Barbossa and the Royal Navy while forming a very successful plan. Regardless of the ‘amoral’ approach, Will sees past it and at the outcome.
Curse broken and casualties aside, Will and Elizabeth take the time to share a ‘moment’ with each other. Elizabeth suggests they head back to the Dauntless and Will remembers Jack previously stating she has agreed to marry Norrington. After Elizabeth walks off, Jack teases Will briefly by stating he once again missed an opportunity to admit his feelings to Elizabeth; however, this shows Jack feels some form of pity towards the boy’s inexperience. By nonchalantly pointing this out to Will, he’s disguising his advice and is, in a way, trying to help him.
The Black Pearl is gone when the three leave the cave, having sailed off in the command of Jack’s able-bodied crew. This leaves Jack in the hands of the Royal Navy, ultimately resulting in the fact he must be hanged despite his assistance to Norrington.
On the day of Jack’s hanging we see that Will comes prepared to take some form of action. He’s clearly thought this over to the point where he’s considered the consequences: if he attempts to save Jack he himself may be killed, or he’ll be shunned from Port Royal, leaving him with very few choices on what to do with his life. He may be destined to become an outlaw, maybe even a part of Jack’s crew. When he approaches Elizabeth, giving her the long awaited declaration of his love, his tone reveals it might be a farewell, too.
Will saves Jack by throwing his sword toward the platform, giving the pirate footing when the trap door drops. Jack and Will fight off numerous guards in order to escape, and for the first time, they are fighting and working together.
The ending is the most evidence of how Jack and Will’s relationship has developed. Will comes to the revelation that even though society may frown upon something such as piracy, it doesn’t necessarily make those involved bad people. Will risks everything, his life included, to save Jack. He wants to stand up for what he believes in, but also sincerely wants to save Jack.
A continual question here is, was Will planning to run away with Jack? Neither Jack nor Will knew exactly what was going to happen, and surely there would have been a major outcome change had Elizabeth not stepped in when she did. By doing so, she enabled a distraction for Jack to get away and for Will to stay in town without putting him in danger. There really is no answer to the question, but mulling it over results in some very interesting scenarios.
Jack and Elizabeth’s similarities in the desire for freedom and adventure make them a sensible team; however, towards the end of the movie, Will has experienced a sense of freedom as well, and realizes he desires something more of it. Meeting Jack changed Will massively. Jack gave Will the courage to stand up for what he believes in, but also finally admit to Elizabeth – after years of yearning for her – that he loves her. Upon discovering the truth of his father, Will refuses to believe it, but eventually comes to terms with it because Jack as an individual showed him a brighter side of piracy. There is the argument of whether Will wants to be a pirate himself, but as Jack cleverly points out towards the middle of the movie, he’s well on his way to becoming one. Will is willing to break the law for what he believes is right and to get what he wants. His motivation in the movie was to save Elizabeth, but a great portion of the movie is also dedicated to Will opening up to the idea he very well could be a pirate and his overall ability to accept it.
PERSONAL POV & OPINION
To me, I see Jack and Will having obvious attractions to each other. And it has been that way since day one of seeing the movie. It took me a long time to finally see the movie, and although I was well aware of the fandom between Jack/Will, I was blown away by the characters’ interactions and its oh-so evident homoeroticism. The relationship would make sense, considering the amount of time spent on establishing their once shaky connection and turning it into trust and ‘friendship.’ It also seems dire in the movie to let the audience know how close Jack and Bootstrap were. After all, Jack did not help Will until he knew for sure that he was the son of his ole buddy. Is that really just because the two were ‘friends’?
It’s not entirely absurd to assume these types of things about both relationships. A very well-known fact about pirates is that they often ‘committed’ sodomy. Although the term sodomy was used to describe a broader variety of ‘acts’ besides homosexual relationships back then, it has been narrowed down to that presently. But that’s a story for another day.
My main point here would be it’s not completely out of the question to presume Jack is, well bluntly put, a sodomite – and Bootstrap along with him. That’s not automatically saying that the two had have been with each other, but it’s highly considered in the Jack/Will fandom. Of course, this also raises another issue with people (who are either fans or not of the pairing): If Jack and Bootstrap were lovers, doesn’t that make the idea of Jack and Bootstrap’s son later becoming lovers icky and wrong? The answer would be based on your own beliefs, but this type of situation has often been put into scenario in various forms of media.
I, admittedly, favor these type of relationships/scenarios, but not all Jack/Will supporters see the ‘history’ like that. So, what does make this pairing so damn fun and irresistible? For goodness sakes, it is a pirate movie, one that includes completely suspicious and homoerotic male relationships. Not to mention the chemistry! Almost every scene they have together is heated. Jack moves up closely to Will on countless occasions, raising the question of whether or not he’s flirting with the boy. He doesn’t do this as much with the female characters, seeming particularly interested with Will and Commodore Norrington. He’s invading their personal space, partly to annoy them, but also because he seems comfortable with doing so. A lot of credit goes to the actors, Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, who brought the characters to life. It wouldn’t be nearly as fun if these guys didn’t have such amazing chemistry and originality in presenting their roles.
Fanfictions come in a wide variety, including action/adventure, mere fluff, PWP, and sometimes, dark romance. The latter usually includes some type of love/hate relationship or – in the case of abuse/non-con – turning into eventual romance. Other scenarios can be very broad.
Most of the time Will’s romance with Elizabeth turns out all wrong, and their relationship ending is actually an agreement. This is very realistic considering the twos personalities, and it’s done without having to kill off anyone. There are numerous stories that depict Elizabeth’s death being the cause of Jack and Will’s romance, but the majority feature otherwise. I have always favored stories that include Elizabeth in the major storyline since it adds interesting complications and also depicts her with much more independence. Plus it’s always fun to read her reaction to Jack and Will’s new relationship. But, whatever scenario is written for Elizabeth, almost all stories are about Will becoming a pirate willingly and Jack helping him through it, eventually leading towards romance.
Some stories portray a darker side to Jack, featuring him kidnapping Will and either forcing him into piracy or having Will turn over a new leaf and accepting his life, even though he initially didn’t want anything to do with it. This does seem out-of-character, seeing as how the movie-Jack (or Disney-Jack) is portrayed to be very considerate and touchy when it comes to killing and abuse. Ordinarily in these types of stories, it unravels Jack’s own dark past, which makes his actions seem justified.
As previously mentioned, the Bootstrap/Jack relationship is always mentioned, but not necessarily portrayed one way: it’s featured platonic, other times romantic, other times one-sided in the romance department.
And where can one find such marvelous fiction?
• The LiveJournal communities jackwill and pirategasm have many user-submitted fiction, and are the two most popular when it comes to having stories.
• As for fansites, they have vanished over the past years, but one exclusively pertaining to Jack/Will is The Blacksmith's Pirate.
• PotC slash archives such as High Seas and Bella Donna are static, but you can browse through and find some good stuff.
Narrowing down to specific authors is hard considering there are actually a lot of wonderful stories out there, but here are three major recommendations.
• alexfandra’s series, “Pirate Dreams,” is required for the Jack/Will fandom, because it’s absolutely flawless when it comes to characterizations and basic storyline. It is sheer proof a Jack/Will fic can be magnificent without porn.
• veronica_rich’s “Contradictions” is another series I consider one of the best. Original characters fit into the story to a T, and there are so many creative revelations about the twos history, some that might even make the reader consider a lot more about Jack and Will’s individual qualities.
• And of course, the incredible and brilliant, “The Pirate Way,” by heartofslash, one of the most commonly known Jack/Will stories. Aside from being one of the earlier novel length fics, it features the post-romantic relationship between Jack/Bootstrap, which previously only was recognized in one-shots.
Maybe one of the many aspects that make “Contradictions,” “Pirate Dreams,” and “The Pirate Way” impeccable is the fact they are novel length, which basically goes to show it takes time and thoughtfulness when it comes to establishing a realistic Jack/Will relationship. They also represent the era beautifully, making you feel like you’re reading a historic novel.
As for authors who focus on one-shots or short novella, I would highly suggest Shara Nesu and again, veronica_rich (who has written one-shots as well). tessabeth and webcrowmancer represent some of earliest outstanding work. If you’re looking for a different approach on the supernatural elements of PotC, starrdust411’s Mpregs definitely fill your craving. And, last but not least, msaramat’s Jack/Will/Elizabeth drabbles favor the Jack/Will pairing, but they are undeniably some of the most original stories out there and stand alone as both J/W/E and J/W individually.
These mentioned authors are of course only some of the wonderful Jack/Will writers, and honestly, I could go on and on with recommendations. But, if you want to read more with Jack/Will it is easier to just go out and explore the many sites and communities.
Is this madness or is this brilliance? The Jack/Will is pairing is not something blown out of proportion. It makes sense and is popular for that reason and many more. It can be done without taking the characters out of context, and any complications in them being together are not that serious. All of the pairings you can snatch out of PotC have their own original potential, and none are superior with ‘possibility’ since they are each unique.
Will is intrigued and captivated by Jack, like most characters. He wants to hate him because he’s a pirate, but he sees past all of that and recognizes that Jack is a good man. Jack released Will from his boring, mundane life and helped him discover who he really is, letting him witness freedom.
Jack and Will are opposites, and at the same time, they aren’t. Thus, I like using the example of yin/yang when talking about the two, because they are indeed “two primal opposing but complementary forces,” as the definition goes. While Jack would obviously be the darker (yin) of the two, Will has the ability to keep him under control with his lighter, reasonable qualities (yang)… at least to some degree. Yin/Yang overlap each other often, causing contradiction and balance, much like Jack and Will. This really makes you think about their ‘madness or brilliance’ discussion, which is pretty much synonymous to the idea of yin/yang.
This pairing is madness and brilliance. And, as Jack would say, it’s unusual how often those two traits coincide.