Do You Have A Problem With This 'Captain Phillips' Poster?

by Sergio
July 26, 2013 9:34 PM
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Call me super-sensitive, but I do.

Columbia Pictures has just released the image for the poster for one of their major fall releases, Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks, directed by Paul Greengrass, which tells the true story of Captain Richard Phillips, the commander of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama, who gave himself up as a hostage to Somali pirates to keep his crew from having to leave the ship with them.

But from the image, I get the feeling that the film should be called, either, Savage Darky on the Loose, or White Man’s Greatest Fear: Crazed Kneegows with Guns.

What message are they trying to convey with this poster?

And just what audience is the film trying to appeal to?

Shades of Birth of Nation - and that film is almost 100 years old, but still resonates today.

However, I should add that it’s interesting to note that this is the international poster for the film. The domestic, more politically correct poster, is a stark image from the film, of the silhouetted hijackers, climbing up the side of the ship. Unless you know the story, you might not even know that the hijackers were black men.

And considering that racial profiling is the topic du jour in the U.S., as if it doesn’t happen in Europe (yeah sure), no doubt, Columbia Pictures is being more careful not to fan the flames, so to speak

But why not use that poster for the film worldwide, instead of the "scary black guy" version for the overseas market? Scary black guys are a big box office draw in Istanbul? Who knew?

But then again maybe I’m just being super sensitive.

Both the international and domestic posters are below:

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  • Bill | April 13, 2014 8:35 AMReply

    I agree this movie should have been filmed in ice land about the blood thirsty whites pirating all the Somali merchant ships and it could have the slogan based on a true story that never happened.

  • Pam | April 5, 2014 8:56 PMReply

    Anyone who has a problem with that poster is either an idiot or a troll.

  • Pam | April 5, 2014 8:55 PMReply

    Anyone who has a problem with that poster is either an idiot or a troll.

  • Pam | April 5, 2014 8:05 PMReply

    Anyone who has a problem with that poster is either an idiot or a troll.

  • Pam | April 5, 2014 8:05 PMReply

    Anyone who has a problem with that poster is either an idiot or a troll.

  • Pam | April 5, 2014 7:59 PMReply

    Anyone who has a problem with that poster is either an idiot or a troll.

  • Pam | April 5, 2014 7:59 PMReply

    Anyone who has a problem with that poster is either an idiot or a troll.

  • marc | March 4, 2014 2:14 AMReply

    I agree. this film would have been so much better if they cast Denzel Washington as Captain Phillips and James Franco as the Somali pirate.

  • marc | March 4, 2014 2:14 AMReply

    I agree. this film would have been so much better if they cast Denzel Washington as Captain Phillips and James Franco as the Somali pirate.

  • marc | March 4, 2014 2:13 AMReply

    I agree. this film would have been so much better if they cast Denzel Washington as Captain Phillips and James Franco as the Somali pirate.

  • marc | March 4, 2014 2:13 AMReply

    I agree. this film would have been so much better if they cast Denzel Washington as Captain Phillips and James Franco as the Somali pirate.

  • marc | March 4, 2014 2:13 AMReply

    I agree. this film would have been so much better if they cast Denzel Washington as Captain Phillips and James Franco as the Somali pirate.

  • marc | March 4, 2014 2:13 AMReply

    I agree. this film would have been so much better if they cast Denzel Washington as Captain Phillips and James Franco as the Somali pirate.

  • ridiculous | February 23, 2014 5:25 PMReply

    The life and time of modern political correctness here in this article.
    Any possible chance of polarising a situation and attempting to turn it on its head and neglect the real issues.
    The issues aren't racism, aren't the hollywoodisation of real facts (this is an entertainment movie, not a documentary)

    The real issues would be the globalisation of trade and the neglect shown to the rights of local less advanced peoples - apparently fishing by other nations/companies depriving locals of their rights to earn a living (as indicated in this movie).
    Their then extreme measures (measured illegal by international law, but not necessarily respected by local communities) and it being ok to do it because if anyone complains... it's racist. Lol
    This sort of piracy/opportunism is wrong and is happening and it's not excusable.
    The overfishing of areas by other nations/companies is also not excusable but needs to be addressed by other measures than piracy.
    The tone of this article indicates that it's racist to portray the natives (that do do piracy) by their own colour...... ie a black man robbed me but I can't say he's black because that's racist. The poor black man being victimised again. Get a grip.

  • Eric | November 21, 2013 6:49 PMReply

    Your dumb.

  • Eric Sami | October 25, 2013 1:37 PMReply

    The movie is not obviously racist. there are some questions that remain. virtually all the white guys in the movie are white. That is Chief Engineer, Chief Mate, Captain Philips, U.S warship Captain, U.S Seals, U.S seals Commander, the nurse or doctor at the end. it is well know that most container ships have many people with darker skinned complextion working on them. yet the only major role for the brown guys in this film was them complaining about their union agreement. There was in Seal in the End that in the end from his back side was portrayed as black. basically this film was not racist compared to other films. but generally the entertainment industry does not favor roles for guys with darker skins. that's not just Hollywood. look at Mexican soap operas they are all white.

  • Pam | April 5, 2014 8:09 PM

    As was the case on the real life Alabama. Jesus Christ.

  • fatoftheland | October 20, 2013 2:52 PMReply

    Can we please have more Cowboy and Muslim films. I so miss the Westerns.

  • David White | October 19, 2013 11:14 PMReply

    You are as delusional about racism, as the Tea Party is about Obama.

  • bulkforce5 | October 14, 2013 12:43 AMReply

    clickbait article for shrill shitlibs

    go write one about how RENT is the apex of cinematic craft you predictable faggot

  • daz | October 12, 2013 7:08 AMReply

    so if a white fella was in the background with the same look and a black fella was in the foreground that would be a racist poster too??get a grip!

  • Joella Jones | October 8, 2013 3:00 AMReply

    Thank you Sergio for your very thought provoking article. You are right on. Not only is the poster racist, the very premise of the film is racist and based on a LIE.

    The poster TONTON MICHEL had a most valid point which no one is discussing. He said,...

    "Maybe foreign countries (America and Europe) should have stopped illegally fishing in Somalia waters effectively destroying the local fishermen lively hood and forcing them into piracy."

    To all readers of this article, I ask you to honestly consider if someone broke into your family's house, would you defend it?... I believe the answer is yes. So when America and Captain Phillips and other Western ships went illegally floating into the Somali waters and polluting it, killing the people's food supply, did they not have a right to defend the territory? To defend their families and livelihood? This was not a political issue, it was a self defense issue.

    Educate yourselves and find out the history of what happened and why. That said,
    It should be Captain Phillips looking sinister, not the Somalian national defender and hero.

  • bulkforce5 | October 14, 2013 12:37 AM

    travelling through international sea lanes = illegally floating into Somali waters

    you're one of those people that think Guam is going to capsize

  • Loco Mofo | October 7, 2013 9:44 PMReply

    My problem is that you are continuing to spread the falsehood that Phillips "gave himself up as a hostage to Somali pirates to keep his crew from having to leave the ship with them." Phillips has even pointed out that this is a myth. In actuality the crew's actions saved the ship and prevented them from being caught. The Chief Engineer and the crew were the real heroes on the ship. Phillips was a hostage from the get-go and had no choice.

  • Chinito Reivax | September 27, 2013 5:14 PMReply

    This article is nonsensical. Do you know why the movie poster has a black man on it? BECAUSE THE PIRATES WERE BLACK! SOMALI PIRATES! For crying out loud, this PC nonsense has gotten out of control. What's next, will you write an article about some World War II movie that has a German as a Nazi on the cover because it's racial profiling germans? Or if they make a movie about something Al Qaeda did, will you complain when it has a scary middle eastern looking person on the cover? Look , the people who made this poster weren't trying to profile, the movie is based on true events, it's not like someone went out of their way to profile a particular group of people. The movie is about pirates who take a ship hostage, and your complaint is that the pirate looks scary? Get over yourself.

  • Nero | September 16, 2013 10:10 PMReply

    So it's ok to make a lady eat a pie of shit in "The Help," but not ok to depict blacks as pirates, even if it's based on a true story. If Somalian pirates happen to be black in real life, that's just too damn bad. It's the same with crime statistics; if the majority of violent crime in the US is committed by blacks, no matter how much the mainstream media tries to cover it up, that's just too damn bad. I hope "Captain Phillips" is a blockbuster.

  • Qalander | August 22, 2013 12:16 PMReply

    This movie looks racist as hell. Remember how Jim Carrey had a "change of heart" after the shootings in Newtown and criticized his own movie? When will we see white Hollywood have a "change of heart" about racism in this country. Trayvon Martin, a young, innocent, unarmed black man was murdered in this country and the killer walks free. Society and media, especially Hollywood, needs to stop demonizing black people.

  • Qalander | September 27, 2013 12:45 AM


    So, I speak out against anti-black racism and the deadly effects it has on people, yet you accuse me of being a racist? Look at how hostile your reaction is to my comment. Then you imply that black people deserve to be demonized because, according to you, they commit "so much crime." Clearly, you're the one with racist attitudes about black people.

  • WhatAMoron | September 17, 2013 6:02 PM

    You're an absolute moron. You're also a f***ing racist yourself. Stop putting blacks on a pedestal and acting as if nothing bad should ever be said about them. This is a movie depicting real life events. It wouldn't exist if blacks didn't commit so much f***ing crime!

  • Akimbo | August 4, 2013 3:15 PMReply


  • Itsa_Robbery | July 30, 2013 5:24 PMReply

    Yea you are obviously a fool. Too sensitive maybe, but most likely you're just dealing with your inferiority complex. You should probably just go away. Far away. I hear Somalia is nice this time of year.

  • Qalander | August 22, 2013 12:12 PM

    In other words, you're telling the author "get out of this country" (a country that was born out of genocide of Native Americans and enslavement of African Americans).

    You're a racist. Congratulations.

  • turner | July 30, 2013 3:00 PMReply

    Come on now... there are a zillion posters with white actors looking evil... if equality's the goal, then there it is. It's silly to expect a bad guy to look noble or dignified when he's anything but. Anyone here willing to take a cruise around Somalia?

  • Pam | April 5, 2014 8:54 PM

    ... and anyway, Tom Hanks is black.

  • Pam | April 5, 2014 8:54 PM

    ... and anyway, Tom Hanks is black.

  • qalanderepsilonminus | October 13, 2013 8:19 PM

    QALANDER wrote, "if (Travyon Martin) had been white, Zimmerman would have been in jail already."

    Wrong. If the Mainstream media hadn't been so anti-white, you would have known who Roderick Scott was already, so you would know that your statement is complete hooey.

  • QalanderIsAMoron | September 17, 2013 6:07 PM

    "hate crimes, murders, racial profiling"

    Coincidentally blacks commit these the most, and in cases of interracial crime, they commit these against whites at a rate of 9 to 1. Now consider the vast differences in the size of the communities. Hey Qalander, you racist, anti-white, ghetto-bound scumbag, head on over to one of your Afrocentric forums and claim another peoples' history, maybe it'll make you feel better about yourself. Maybe this Halloween you can grab an Egyptian costume and try to convince yourself that that's what "they" really looked like! LOOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!

  • Qalander | August 22, 2013 12:28 PM

    White people are overrepresented in western mainstream media. You don't see racial profiling laws or policies that target white people. There is no such thing as institutionalized racism against white people.

    It's not "equality" when there are white villains in films. Often times, the heroes themselves are white. How many black superheroes can you name? And how many of those black superheroes are household names? Now, think of the white superheroes you know. That's what I thought.

    Demonization of communities of color, particularly black people, has dangerous consequences that have led to hate crimes, murders, racial profiling, police brutality, mass incarceration (there are more black people in prison now than there were enslaved in 1850), etc. Look at the murder of Trayvon Martin - if he had been white, Zimmerman would have been in jail already. That is not "equality." Do your homework and read up on the impact demonization has on black people and how racist caricatures of them is rooted in a very long history in this country.

  • Cyril | August 1, 2013 9:02 PM

    You can't finish a sentence with the word "but"...

  • JP | July 30, 2013 1:43 PMReply

    Maybe the guys who were Somalian should not have been pirates and not committed an act of terrorism against the ship? And then Tom Hanks could make that sequel to Forest Gump. GTFOH on this sensitivity, I'm black and take no offense at the poster, they were pirates get over it. People acting like this wasn't a true story.

  • Tonton Michel | August 4, 2013 4:53 PM

    Maybe foreign countries should have stopped illegally fishing in Somalia waters effectively destroying the local fishermen lively hood and forcing them into piracy. That way we won't have to sit her nd read your mess.

  • Monique A Williams | July 29, 2013 2:21 PMReply

    The face he's making is creepy and loony. They could have made him angry, serious, strong, anything else. But crazed madman was the choice? Ugh!

  • Monique A Williams | July 29, 2013 2:21 PMReply

    The face he's making is creepy and loony. They could have made him angry, serious, strong, anything else. But crazed madman was the choice? Ugh!

  • JaySmack | July 29, 2013 1:57 PMReply

    People need to understand that this is the inevitable result of movies like The Help and The Blind Side.
    When white people are allowed to cast themselves in the role of black people's "saviors" and allowed to get away with speaking for us then it's no great leap for them to them turn right around and tell the world what they really think of us.
    And the reason they can so easily give themselves permission to do so is because they got away with claiming to be black people's best buds. Even though the depiction of their "friendship" was one where blacks are subservient and utterly dependent on them.
    Birth of a Nation used the exact same themes: whites as saviors of the brutish negroes who ultimately were beyond redemption and hence whites had the right to kill them.
    Black people need to recognize there is a method to the madness.

  • JaySmack | July 29, 2013 1:50 PMReply

    Keep in mind this this same Paul Greengrass who wants to do a biopic of Dr King, but ONLY if he can include all the lies about marital infidelity.
    Hopefully this will give people a clearer picture of who Greengrass is and what he thinks of black people.

  • Donna Duplantier | July 29, 2013 1:26 PMReply I think you are dead on. The media is riding in a very dark place right now. Zimmerman plus I live in New Orleans and a shooting happened a few days ago that the media is pouncing on because the shooter was white and the boy was an african american 14 year old. Its no surprise that this poster and this film is coming out now. DISGUSTED!

  • hausagal | July 29, 2013 1:20 PMReply

    I think the best analysis begins with comparison of the international poster to the alternative they provide and the alternative we can imagine. Sergio seems to suggest that it's the comparison that makes him wonder what the motives are for framing the poster a particular way for US audiences vs international ones.

    Why, for example, is Tom Hanks in the foreground? My first guess is that for international audiences, he's a draw. But, if it's just about using Hanks to 'sell' the film, then why put in the face of the Somali pirate, especially with this expression, when I am sure there were probably multiple menacing or sober shots that didn't evoke this particular reaction for 'sensitive' viewers. (And I don't think you're being sensitive; you are asking simple questions about representation that are very important. What, after all, is a marketing department doing, if not framing the issue for us to maximize profits?)

    The alternative they provide for the US audiences is guys scaling a ship with guns attached to their backs and coming from a smaller boat -- which conveys the point that this is a film about pirates (or something), and Tom Hanks is featured (his name is there but we don't see him). Why would this appeal better to US audiences, this long shot of dudes scaling a ship with very little identifying them?

    So, the people who are telling you it's nothing probably are missing your point (1) about the comparison (yes, there is a way to show that this is a film about a man surviving kidnapping by pirates without framing it this way, and the marketing team has done it), and (2) what context lies outside the frame to shape how a viewer might interpret this kind of advertising.

    I was also interested in how "based on a true story" is much more prominent in the international poster, suggesting that Americans know the story, but others don't, and that true stories sell well. When I lived and worked in West Africa and southeast Asia, I noticed that a lot of 'true stories' did quite well in street CD/DVD sales. But that's another issue...

  • JEFTCG | July 29, 2013 1:19 PMReply

    Sergio, I'm with you. And anyone who doesn't have a problem with this is clearly asleep.

  • amo | July 29, 2013 11:25 AMReply

    The disproportionate focus on piracy in the Gulf of Aden is easily exploited by studios wanting to appeal to and make money off the same audiences who thought Black Hawk Down was an accurate depiction of Somalia and Somali people. I'm pretty disgusted by it. This poster is not surprising.

  • deecreative | July 28, 2013 9:07 PMReply

    I saw the trailer and looks like a good movie! Although as I was watching the trailer I was thinking wouldn't it be more interesting if a movie explored how the pirates became pirates and why? It's a good vs. bad thing it's way more complex than that! I hope that they explore this aspect because a handful of small armed pirates takes over ships is truly a story unto itself. But not you're not over sensitive, it was on my mind too

  • Black Sun Tzu | July 29, 2013 1:09 PM

    I haven't read the script but had access to one of the scenes used at the auditions for this project and the scene tackles that aspect. I hope they don't cut it off.

  • Kool | July 28, 2013 4:51 PMReply

    Yes. I totally agree with you. You ARE being overly sensitive.

  • JaySmack | July 29, 2013 2:16 PM

    And I agree that you're clueless.

  • Brian Marino | July 28, 2013 1:01 PMReply

    I don't think you are being oversensitive at all. That first poster is definitely problematic.

    Ever since I first started seeing previews for it I've been feeling that way. It's obviously a really interesting and exciting story so I can see why they made it but I'm definitely quite worried about the film. Having Hanks be the lead, etc. It all kind of reeks of "White American fights off the savage horde and is inspiring." I hope the film is more complex than that. We'll see.

  • onyx80 | July 28, 2013 9:51 AMReply

    I wouldn't say you're oversensitive, it's just that you're being cautious, knowing how some, and I stress the word some, may perceive this image and comments will fly accordingly on the internet regarding the "scary black man" negative trope, without regard to the subject matter of the film. Separating what was done to Captain Phillips and not applying it as a behavior inherent of all men of African descent, that's what I see as the issue here.

    Having the gun loom so large in the foreground and Tom Hanks expression is what I think the marketing dept probably thought best conveyed the premise of the film. This looks more like a still frame taken directly from the film, though the kid in the background looks super hyped up, as if he's issuing a demand or seconding what someone else is ordering Hanks to do.

    Anyway, I've seen this type of different marketing before (one for the US and one for overseas). When The Help was released overseas, some of the Facebook sites in Ireland and England termed several white males who were leads as either a "Southern Dreamboat" "swoon worthy" and the like, so that some moviegoers wouldn't associate these characters in a negative light, that is, they practiced segregation but please forget all that because they're handsome.

    Am I offended at the overseas poster for Captain Phillips? No. I've seen posters from Birth of a Nation with The KKK as heroes and also John Wilkes Booth as some sort of hero, and white actors in blackface, so I wouldn't go as far as saying this reminds me of that poster. But I do understand your concern.

  • bob | July 28, 2013 3:25 AMReply

    Way too sensitive, Sergio. You're making controversy out of nothing.

  • JW | July 28, 2013 12:19 AMReply

    Ok, so what were the color of the men who kidnapped him? Or would you prefer the movie not be made, or just change the race of the pirates that captured him.

  • JaySmack | July 29, 2013 2:00 PM

    Hey genius, Fruitvale Station managed to tackle race without demonizing whites. Or do you think the cop who murdered Oscar Grant was black?
    The promotional materials are inflammatory, and deliberately so.
    Do your race-warrioring over on StormFront.

  • Curtis | July 27, 2013 4:35 PMReply

    Nice comeback. Try writing an article with some substance instead of manufacturing controversy where there is none.

  • JaySmack | July 29, 2013 2:01 PM

    And right on cue the net-based bigots come out of the woodwork. They seem a little more deranged and disorganized than usual. Guess Hannity and Limbaugh haven't told them what talking points to use yet.

  • Relax ahole | July 27, 2013 4:45 PM

    Try pulling the panties out YOUR ass. It ain't that damn serious.

  • Truer Than Thou | July 27, 2013 11:52 AMReply

    I understand where you are coming from Sergio, and to me the poster just looks stupid. If the guy in the background was smirking or something else it would be much better. But he looks crazed and nothing in the picture suggests why he could be looking that way. It doesn't match with Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks being in the foreground is dominant and the man's facial expression in the background isn't parallel with Tom Hanks emotion. No regard for parallel emotion -> dehumanization -> racism -> Yep Birth of a nation sounds correct to me.

    Those who say you are oversensitive are too afraid to think.

  • Curtis | July 27, 2013 11:23 AMReply

    Perhaps if they turned the pirates into the cast of Spongebob Squarepants you might be more satisfied and less offended. For the love of all things good and holy, talk about reaching for something to write about. What a pointless article and just a way to stir up traffic on here. You are not a writer.

  • sergio | July 27, 2013 12:19 PM

    'You are not a writer"

    And I assume you're Victor Hugo

  • Ghost | July 27, 2013 9:25 AMReply

    No the ads look fine to me. The first does explain what is happening and since this was a true story-anyone complaining can have that fact pointed out.

  • Nah | July 27, 2013 9:06 AMReply

    Yes. And the Cats & Dogs poster shades Cannibal Holocaust.

  • Greg W. Locke | July 27, 2013 3:17 AMReply

    Poster #2 is better anyhow. But yes, too sensitive for sure.

  • JaySmack | July 29, 2013 2:03 PM

    You're just not paying attention. For sure!

  • alf | July 27, 2013 7:57 AM

    I second that

  • Pat | July 27, 2013 2:07 AMReply

    You're right, the fact that the darker guy is portrayed as the antagonist and Tom Hanks (aka the whitest man on Earth) is the protagonist is definitely a racist jab and has nothing to do with decisions based on adapting the true story.

    United 93 was also racist for portraying people of Middle Eastern descent as 9/11 terrorists.

    Having Denzel Washington play a crooked cop was pretty racist and I'm pretty sure Good Burger was the most racist movie of all time.

    Come on, man. Can we just talk about movies and not bullshit around to make something out of nothing?

  • youbadassmutha | July 27, 2013 2:04 AMReply

    Yeah, definitely super sensitive.

  • Darkan | July 27, 2013 1:10 AMReply

    Saw the Captain Phillips trailer today as it played right before Fruitvale and I said to myself "What the hell is this?!" I thought it was a spoof or something. Yeah and the poster is garbage too. SMDH

  • KMM | July 27, 2013 1:04 AMReply

    You are not being supersensitive. Not to mention that in other regions of the world the so-called "pirates" are seen as heros and defenders of their turf. But that's another discussion all together. It is actually worse that the "darkie" image is used internationally particularly since there may be few like yourself who will call the image and it's creators to task.

  • David Warner | July 27, 2013 12:29 AMReply

    You are being "super sensitive." The film is about a ship captain being held hostage by Somali pirates; the poster depicts that in its content and composition. Birth of a Nation was a lazy comparison, at best. And, to answer your question about the differing posters: it almost certainly was to avoid reactions just like yours.

  • No | July 27, 2013 12:26 AMReply

    I think this is called the "Crazy, Violent, Nigger" motif. Quite effective in certain circles, wouldn't you agree?

  • Jake | July 26, 2013 11:53 PMReply

    I do tend to think you're being insensitive. Nothing in that poster screams to me scary black guy. I was more concerned with Tom Hanks intense look. The Somalian pirate is literally the smallest element in the poster. However I don't think you're an idiot and the article was thought provoking and well written.

  • JaySmack | July 29, 2013 2:05 PM

    Jake is "*Underthinking."

  • Jake | July 26, 2013 11:54 PM


  • jackson | July 26, 2013 11:24 PMReply

    this is the most idiotic article I have ever read on this website. (Birth of a Nation? Seriously?)

  • sergio | July 26, 2013 11:34 PM

    So glad you like it

  • LeonRaymond | July 26, 2013 10:56 PMReply

    I can tell you exactly what the guy behind Tom Hanks is saying. "Why do you put Pork in every meal that you eat"!!

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