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Charting course Norrington

elessil in ship_manifesto

Commodore James Norrington/Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean)

Title:Two Sides of One Coin
Pairing:Commodore James Norrington/Captain Jack Sparrow
Thanks: to hippediva and fabu for proofreading and pointing out mistakes
Spoilers: until the end of movie

Rooting for You
When I first saw "Pirates of the Caribbean" in the cinema, it was simply an entertaining and well-made movie. Not more, but no less. This however changed when I watched the DVD. I was, as were most viewers, impressed by Captain Jack Sparrow, but above all, I was intrigued by Commodore James Norrington, whom many others barely noticed.

The freshly-promoted Commodore is the embodiment of the law, devoting his life to justice and its application. In the prologue, he states his intention to make certain every pirate would be brought to the gallows. While there is a certain amount of personal zeal to his pirate hunting, there is little doubt that it is his intention to protect innocent people from men like Barbossa and his crew, who present a good example of actual, average pirates.

Jack Sparrow is anything but average. He is an outlaw, a pirate; a man who values his freedom, his ship, above everything else. Yet it is obvious he also values life and freedom of others. His first action in the movie is to save Elizabeth from drowning, for no apparent profit but with a great risk of capture for himself. Among his list of crimes, there are only offences against property and propriety but no mention of rape or murder. Obviously, he does not fit Norrington's image of a pirate, of a vile dissolute creature, but neither is he a respectable citizen of the British Crown.

Their values clashing together, both of them right, and both of them wrong, is one of the most interesting aspects of the movie for me.

Often the pairing is refered to as Sparrington, a simple combination of their surnames. Yet, it implies much more about their relationship. Whenever they interact, they can hardly refrain from countering each other's words, every statement a challenge made to the other. They are sparring: exchanging blows, glances and jibes; competing on every possible level. In German, there is a saying "Those who love each other, tease each other." Nothing could better describe their relationship, which is highly reminiscent of that between Benedick and Beatrice in Shakespeare's "Much Ado about Nothing". These two keep goading each other, and almost everybody, on and off stage, believes they make a perfect couple. The same is true of Sparrow and Norrington, except that they are both men. Neither of them is in an existing relationship, which means there is no need to ignore or "get rid of" a canon character in order to make this pairing work. Therefore, if tolerant to homosexuality, it is just as "logical" to pair them as it is with Benedick and Beatrice.

While there is no actual movie evidence of Jack Sparrow's definite sexual orientation, Johnny Depp himself said that his interpretation of the character was based on "a gay Keith Richards", and subtext suggests he is not loath to any type of company, regardless of gender.

James Norrington, on the other hand, is Elizabeth's jilted suitor, obviously loving her, although she favours Will Turner. In order to save him, she promises to wed Norrington, who, in the end, gives her up as not to stand in love's way, even if it means giving up his own hopes.

The only one who shows a reaction to how difficult this is for Norrington is Jack. Compared to his other parting words, those directed at the Commodore strike me as being more personal and serious.

"I want you to know that I was rooting for you, mate. Know that." True to all their previous interaction, there is a hint of sarcasm and their usual banter involved as well, but, taking into account Jack's previous sympathetic glance at Norrington, it is at least as much an attempt at offering a small measure of comfort, the only one James receives, and that from the man he has just tried to hang.

Although Jack is a pirate and defies everything for which Norrington stands, he is clearly uncomfortable with hanging him. Probably for the first time in his life, he is forced to realize that the law and justice are not necessarily the same. This is not because he believes that pirates do not deserve to be hanged - he does -, this is because he has come to respect the man standing on the scaffold. Because of this, he lets Jack go in the end.

Which brings up another crucial aspect of their relationship: respect. Jack knows the Commodore is the scourge of piracy; knows who he is (calling Norrington by his name before it being mentioned to him), and is wary of him, as he hesitates to take Norrington's offered hand when they first meet on the dock.

Jack tries to convince the Commodore to chase the Black Pearl by appealing to his pride, his pirate hunting zeal. However, Norrington declines with the words "By remembering that I serve others, Mr. Sparrow, not only myself." The pirate is extremely surprised by this reaction - he did not expect it from him, and his facial expression betrays a grudging respect.

These are minor points, but what makes it definite for me is Jack's last sentence to James.(Rooting for you) He's the only one who openly displays a sympaethetic reaction to James's situation, even though he is the one who has the least reason to. James is the one who receives the most personal "farewell" line (and a taunting one "Another day you've almost caught..." because Jack simply can't resist). That, too, is a sign of respect.

Concerning Norrington's respect for Jack, it doesn't show in the beginning, or at least not really. (though the amount of reaction Jack gets out of him says otherwise) But with "So it would seem." after his Lieutenant's "This is the best pirate I have ever seen", he acknowledges Jack's intelligence. By letting him go, he acknowledges Jack's being a pirate and still not deserving to die. That is respect, too. That is learning from each other, learning that law and justice are not one and the same.

Being able to learn from one another is an important part of an interesting relationship, as is equality, the aspect that appealed the most to me. Despite their differences, they can meet as equals. Often they are described as complete opposites, and at first glance, this seems correct. However, when examining the characters more closely, it becomes apparent that this is not the whole truth. They irritate each other so much because not only are they nemeses, they are at the same time very similar to each other. Leading a life at sea, they are both men of their word, men of action, quick with blade and wit. Both are able to retain rational thought even in dire situations. Their worldviews collide, Navy and Outlaw, but the men beneath it have a lot in common.

To reconcile these worldviews is a challenge to the writer, and, if well done, a pleasure for the reader. Their equality, their learning from each other and their sarcastic banter ensure that this pairing never becomes boring or flat.

Recommendations and Resources
Personally I prefer fiction that deals with them getting together, because it requires consideration to make the pairing work, which usually ensures an interesting reading experience.

Sparrington in general seems to be a well written pairing, perhaps because it takes a certain amount of maturity to appreciate their character dynamic. It was difficult for me to pick out these recs, because there have been many more fics I liked. Still, these are the ones that I can consider a must-read.

There are Sparrington fanfics in every length from drabble to epic, and at first I would like to recommend three epic tales which had their part in defining the pairing for me.

The "Moonverse Series" by firesignwriter was one of the first Sparrington stories I've read, and possibly one of the best pieces of fiction I've encountered in any fandom I have frequented. It shows the development of a relationship, if one might call it that. It isn't love at first sight, it isn't "everything perfect forever", and that's what it makes so good fiction in my opinion. The description of feelings sometimes is so real that it is scary.

Focusing more on the humourous and swashbuckling aspect of POTC, I highly recommend commodoresexual's "Matter of Rules" Series , which tells the tale of an interesting adventure from Norrington's Point of View. A fourth part is currently in progress, but the first three can be read as stand-alone and provide no cliff-hanger.

Told from Norrington's Point of View as well is cupiscent's "Carribbean Cartography Trilogy", another tale of adventure, humour and love.

Similar to Benedick and Beatrice in Shakespeare, webcrowmancer brings the two of them together using rumor and talk. "Loose Lips Sink Ships" is only one of the excellent stories by this Sparrington authour of the first hour.

As I mentioned, they are often defined as opposites, and true to this, there is many a fic focusing particularly on this aspect of their character dynamic, and the resulting attraction.

"The World Turned Upside Down" by viva_gloria, "The Part You Throw Away" by isagel and "Gravity and Levity" by Mary describe the essence of Sparrington already in their titles and are excellent pieces of fanfiction.

Their constant competition often leads to interesting and amusing situations and conversations. "Carnival" by isagel, This Untitled Snippet by mimesere and "Silent As the Grave" by serafina20 (with a more serious sequel "Freedom") all put a smile on my face.

Often there is a darker side to their adversariness, resulting in darker fanfiction, sometimes dubious consent, often Jack attempting to buy his freedom with sexual favours which sometimes leads to something more. Excellent examples for this are "Bluebird" by hippediva (also its rather dark sequel "This Ragged Wound) and fabu's (Melusina) "Besieged" short series.

These are only a select few of the fic written for Sparrington, I could go on and on about James/Jack fic I would recommend for reading. If I sparked your interest in the pairing:

sparrington is an excellent resource for almost all Sparrington fics. They are sorted by authour in the memories, although the newer stories have not been added yet.
pirategasm is a great place for all types of Pirates of the Caribbean fic
The Sparrington Archive is an excellent archive dedicated solely to this pairing, both fic and art.
flagitiousabuse focuses on flagitious abuse, perhaps of wigs. Flagitious Wig Abuse is a topic often coming up in Sparrington fic, and usually leads to a very humourous outcome.

An informative page on both of the characters is One Day's Headstart, which includes passages of the actor's commentary and from the first draft of the script, where it was Norrington who set Jack free, and not Will, as in the final version.

Also mimesere's screencap filled meta, mostly on Norrington should not be missed.

I would also like to point out that the Theban Band has made some excellent Sparrington manips which are really worth seeing. Additionally, here is a link to my own Jack/James fanart

My earnest thanks go out to fabu and apatheia_jane for encouraging me to write this, cupiscent and mimesere for their meta and inspiring thoughts on the pairing/Norrington, hippediva, drbillbongo and meletor_et_al for their support and friendship.


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That was fascinating. I'm going to have to watch the movie again now. Thanks for taking the time to write. I'll definately be looking at some of your recs :D.
Thank you for the feedback! I'm glad I could make you think about the pairing!
It is great to hear that a Sparrington shipper enjoyed this essay, and in my opinion, these (and many more) stories can't be re-read often enough.
Glad to hear that my line of reasoning seemed sensible to you. If I truly made you want to rewatch the movie with a different perspective, and see Sparrington, then I have truly achieved my goal.
Great job! Very insightful...you noticed a lot of things that I missed the first 100 times I watched the film. ;) Well pimped!
Thank you! I will admit that from the second viewing on, I focused on these two, and with discussion and closer examination, I just grew to love the pairing more and more.
Oh, I really love this. Loved it from the beginning!
It's a very well-written piece of meta which doesn't leave any question unanswered and is very entertaining to read!
I have to admit, I've seen the movie about 30 times now, but there were still things you mentioned that I hadn't noticed yet. The "sparring" comparison was priceless!

And if there are still people who consider Sparrington fanon and boring, they can't be helped. You have the arguments! :)
I'm realistic enough to call any slash pairing in a Disney movie fanon - becuase yes, quite unfortunately, they did not kiss or even hold hands. *sighs* But they do have lots and lots of subtext. *cuddles the Commodore and Pirate*
Hit the nail on the head for me. Summed up most of my reasons for coming to the pairing, including the story that hooked me ie. "Loose Lips". I had wrestled with this fandom at first because I wanted to write Jack, but just could not bring myself to put him and Will together. Maybe for one night, but not long term. There's just not much there to work with for that.

James though? Yeah, just like you said it's all there if we look for it. I love first time stories too, cause I like to see how writers bridge the gaps and make it work. I wish I was better at it. I'm more of a 'get them together and mess with them from there' kind of writer.

This was a great essay. I might refer to it the next time someone asks me 'why Sparrington?' Interestingly enough, no one really asks me that. Maybe they get it too and just won't admit it.
Thank you! I have the same provisos about Jack/Will, but James/Jack *really* works for me.
Excellent piece: I'm especially struck by your exposition of their similarities. Though they're on opposite sides, they are ... well, not precisely equals, but equally mature / powerful / dangerous. That's what makes it such a fascinating pairing for me: I can't imagine Sparrow (I want to say, being happy, but it's more like 'tolerating') any serious relationship with someone who's not able to give as good as they get, and who isn't a match for Jack. Unless it's a woman of course. <g>

And thanks for reccing me!
They're both able to match the other, and surpass him in some aspects. That's what I love about them. Thanks for the feeback!

As for the rec - thank *you* for writing something that compelled me so much!
Was sich liebt, dass neckt sich nananananaanaa Heh.
Great essay, captured the aspects which makes the pairing so appealing. I mean really, who can resist the sexy hard glares of James, Jack's evil taunting, sarcasmgalore!Norrington, goading each other, the snark, ... *babble*
Yup, that was exactly the phrase I referred to. It fits them so very well.
Excellent essay, recs, and layout.

*saving to memories*
Thank you! I had finished the essay more than a month ago, but only added the pictures yesterday, so I'm glad they fit in.
Ah, exactly. Exactly! That's all I can say. You summarized the pairing perfectly, even pointed ou some things I hadn't really thought of before. I will be adding this to my memories. Thanks!
I thank you!
I admit that I secretly love this pairing, but at the same time I have vague problems with it, in the fact that it's one of the only pairings I enjoy that I find it next to impossible to read short stories in.

Because, as much as I can see it, the author has to work an awful lot to make even vaguely plausible for me. It's a bit odd.
It depends. I will admit that there are some short stories I enjoy - mind, not if there's no connection to their characters, but if a short story is "existing relationship", and displays the characteristic traits, I still enjoy it. But yes, it definitely is a pairing that requires thouht to make work. That is part of why I love it.
Yay! Thank you for this!

When I first saw the movie, I was all about the Jack/Will, but I recently re-watched it and Sparrington just became so clear. Maybe I matured? Maybe I decided that Will and Elizabeth were cute enough and Jack needs someone older and snarkier? Maybe I developed a strange fetish for men in uniform? Well, who knows. But you've definitely covered all the things I saw in this pairing - the grudging respect, the equality, the teasing. And "Two Sides of the Same Coin" is great summation of their relationship.

And now I have recs! Whee! There goes the rest of my weekend!
Oh, you will have a very pleasant weekend then! Thanks for reading and commenting!
Thank you! Coming from you, one of my favourite Norrington pimps, this really means a lot to me!

The visual aids just were *the* scenes which struck me as most vital to the pairing. Hence, dockscene. (Conveniently I watched it three times while capping, because I always missed the cue and stared rather than pausing and capping)
Beautiful, just beautiful. Very well written and presented. And eeee! you've got fics there I haven't read! Thank you :)))
What are you waiting for? GO READ.
Yes. I didn't mention the sheer prettiness. It would have looked shallow. But it's impossible to deny.
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January 2018



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