I first knew of Mr. Rush when everyone else in the West learned of him, through his mid-90’s films like Shine and Elizabeth. His deftness on screen seemed obvious to me, for it was only he who could portray a person as historically obscure as Philip Henslowe as the funniest part of Shakespeare in Love. He even managed to be memorable through his performance in Mystery Men.
I just never knew one of his characters would one day school me on language.
Many people feel that the first two sequels of The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise—Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End—are lengthy, confusing narratives with convoluted plots. Maybe this is true, maybe it isn’t. I go back and forth on the issue myself. But Mr. Rush’s appearance in both films, as well as his appearance as the villain in the original, convey the most awesome likeness to piracy I’ve ever seen. He “arrrs” with such a thorough commitment that I want to squawk like a talking parrot in response.
And yet, the most acute manifestation of this awesomeness is not when he blasts a cannon or stabs someone with a sword, but when he engages in a dialogue with Chow Yun-Fat/Yun-Fat Chow:
Chow Yun-Fat/Yun-Fat Chow: I understand that you have a request to make of me.
Mr. Rush: More of a proposal to put to ye. I’ve a venture underway and I find myself in need of a ship and a crew.
Chow Yun-Fat/Yun-Fat Chow: Earlier this day, not far from here, a thief broke into my most revered uncle’s temple and tried to make off with these. The navigational charts. The route to the Farthest Gate. Wouldn’t it be amazing if this venture of yours took you to the world beyond this one?
Mr. Rush: It would strain credulity at that.
Right there. That last line. When I first saw At World’s End in 2007, I had heard, spoken, and written the word “incredulous” many times over. I understood “incredulous” to suggest a form of skepticism or disbelief. But, I had never heard, spoken, or applied the word “credulous”—or its associated noun “credulity”—ever before.
Back in 2007, I really didn’t understand Geoffrey Rush’s line. Like, at all. Chow Yun-Fat/Yun-Fat Chow suspected Mr. Rush and his crew of treachery, and this would burden them to prove themselves otherwise. After listening to Geoffrey Rush say the line multiple times over more viewings of the movie than some people would consider necessary, I couldn’t figure out how a venture beyond this world could strain credulity. “Incredulous” sounded like it was the opposite of “credulous,” but why would somebody say that their “credulity” was strained instead of just saying that they were experiencing incredulity? Given this confusion, I did something that I didn’t imagine I would ever do after watching a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.
I looked “credulity” up in the dictionary.
The dictionary said that credulity is a tendency to believe that something is true despite a lack of evidence or proof. In other words, credulity is sort of like gullibility. Someone could be walking down the sidewalk and see a bunch of lights and sirens surrounding a part of the street blocked off by emergency personnel. Then they ask someone who is watching from the sidelines what is happening and the person says that Jerry Bruckheimer is about to detonate a bomb attached to himself because he found out nobody actually wants to see Top Gun 2. The person then believes this statement without seeing Jerry Bruckheimer, a bomb, or anything else related to what was just discussed. This person can then be described as credulous. They have abundant amounts of credulity.
Now, after working it out step-by-step, I understand. I understand how we can switch out “credulity” with “gullibility,” and it will almost mean the same thing. While the word “incredulous” seems to connote a general skepticism or lack of belief, “credulous” relates to an inclination to believe something without evidence. It’s a very fine distinction, but still, one word regards a general belief or lack of belief in something, and another regards belief in something without proof. Chow Yun-Fat/Yun-Fat Chow suggested in his monologue that the situation they were in regarding the navigational charts was far too neat of a coincidence to actually be a coincidence, and only the greatest fool would not see the likelihood of the attempted thievery being associated with their arrival. And since Geoffrey Rush isn’t the greatest of fools, he conceded that the tidiness of this situation would make even the most gullible of people give pause and consider the situation as proof of treachery. It would strain credulity, at that.
Microsoft Word tells me that this is the 809th word in this article. And here are a few more to follow it. If anyone needs proof of Geoffrey Rush’s awesomeness, then all they need to do is read what are now these 843 words about what the hell the word “credulity” means—and how such a thing can be strained—and they’ll know that a throwaway line from a summer blockbuster can lead to a completely involved lesson on semantics and communication.
Geoffrey Rush totally rocks, and after reading this article I don’t imagine anyone will experience any strained credulity in response to such a statement.