When the first couple of Captain Morgan commercials with Joshua Burrow playing the Captain came out, I was blown away. They were aesthetically beautiful fantasies where hot pirates take off their clothes to reveal pristine, white underwear and where rich people in Santo Domingo in 1661 don’t have African slaves (like I said, it’s a fantasy). More than that, the commercials took for granted that a character, who in the 1600s has a multicultural, woman-friendly pleasure boat and who doesn’t really respect class distinctions, would also have an interesting lack of other kinds of boundaries.
I’m trying to think of another case where a male character in popular culture is presented as being matter-of-fact-ly sexually appealing to everyone, who is throwing around as much “Wouldn’t it be more fun if we were… you know… having fun?”-face to people of all genders and all levels of attractiveness, and it’s presented as the epitome of masculinity.
The look that Captain Morgan gives the Spanish/Dutch
Bisexuality is pretty invisible in pop culture. Sometimes women are bisexual, but they, by and large end up with men in the end. Captain Morgan doesn’t end up with a woman, or at least not just a woman. He’s got a boat! Full of all sorts of interesting people.
In the first commercial, “To Life, Love, & Loot,” Morgan’s ship is being attacked by… um… who knows? I thought the Dutch from the hats, but it seems like it has to be the Spanish. Anyway, Morgan’s people are all getting ready to fire back, but Morgan instead walks through the boat, taking his clothes off as he goes, so that, by the time he gets to the gang plank, he’s in his underpants. One of his men looks at him as if to say, “My god, is he getting naked again?” Morgan then shoots the Dutch/Spanish a look that asks, “You really want to waste some fine shoulders like these?” He dives into the Caribbean, and, by the time he comes up, the Dutch/Spanish have decided they, too, love those fine shoulders and everyone cheers. I think it’s clear an orgy comes next.
Importantly, the camera focuses tightly on Burrow’s face quite a few times. At this early point, whoever is directing the commercial understands that Morgan’s charisma is pretty specifically linked to Burrow’s ability to seduce whole armies just by wiggling his eyebrows.
In the second commercial, “Glass,” Burrow’s eyebrow wiggling skills–second only to The Rock’s, I’m pretty sure–are forefronted. In this commercial, the crew is dining with some stuffy proper folks. A servant girl drops a glass and the mistress of the house, who has already been looking at Morgan with a mix of lust and disgust, seems to be prepared to deal with the servant in an unpleasant manner.
The look the Captain gives the grumpy woman's husband.
Captain Morgan to the rescue. He breaks a glass as well and then gives every other person at the table not already on his crew a look that says, “Wouldn’t it be more fun to all enjoy ourselves?” Everyone, even the scowling unpleasant mistress agrees. We can only assume that this, too, is followed by an orgy. (Hopefully, after someone sweeps up all the broken dishes.)
In both cases, though, the message of the commercials is simple and blunt–when you are in stressful situations with unpleasant people, a little Captain Morgan can make it easier to deal and and get you laid. By all of them.
For two glorious commercials, it was like nothing I’d seen in pop culture–a kind of genial, open hedonism where everyone is invited to watch and appreciate this hot dude, who is going to have sex with everyone he can get his hands on and they all want him to.
And then came the Captain Morgan Black commercials, which just suck. Captain Morgan is no longer promising you a taboo-pushing way to deal with your problems. Now, it’s just “Drink our product and it’ll be like escaping into a PG-13 version of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.” In every one of the Captain Morgan Black commercials, Morgan is either pulling someone away, being pulled away by a boat, or the camera is pulling away from him. Not only his he no longer lingering in places where he might instigate an orgy, the camera doesn’t linger on him (This is a real loss, not just because Burrow is fun to look at, but because he’s very interesting to look at. He conveys a lot of emotion with his face–the best part of All Dark Places, for instance, is him in a van by himself looking scarier and scarier–but, if you don’t get a good look at what he’s doing with his face, that doesn’t really matter, does it?). Gone is our carefree, hedonistic omnisexual and, in his place is a dude who looks just like him, but keeps a woman on his lap at all times–you know, just in case the first commercials gave us the wrong idea or something.
It’s so disappointing. For two commercials, Captain Morgan offered up a Bacchanalian fantasy the likes of which you don’t see on TV.
And now? We’re back to the traditional fantasy of commercials, where men are men and they like women, only–one pretty woman at a time–and other guys don’t appreciate the sexiness of a guy with fine shoulders, of course not. That’s too bad. It was awesome to see something that suggested other possibilities, if only briefly.