Pocahontas is a great Disney flick. I too wanted to paint with all the colors of the wind and run barefoot. I envied her hair. I think John Smith is why I like blondes. It’s a beautifully animated film, but the problems behind it are not so pretty.
First of all, it was awesome that Disney made a movie about Native Americans. BUT it was also terrible because they Disneyfied it to death and not in the best way. What happened between Native Americans and English settlers was not cute or something to sing along to. Pocahontas came out when I was five, and I was pretty appalled when I actually started learning about Native American history. Disney had me thinking something else! Anyway, here are some of the most problematic things with Pocahontas:
Damaging Native American Stereotypes
I know Grandmother Willow is supposed to be really awesome, and she is. However, the portrayal of magic in this film is pretty problematic. (Also willow trees wouldn't have existed in America yet.) Anyway. Many Native American cultures do have a serious connection to nature and the earth, but the movie portrays it as magic instead of religion or a real part of the culture.
The Real Pocahontas
One of the biggest issues with this movie is the fact that Pocahontas was a real person. Her real name was Amounte but was also called Matoaka. Pocahontas was a nickname meaning "playful one" because she was notoriously curious, much like her character in the movie. In the movie, Pocahontas disobeys her father multiple times and runs around doing her own independent thing. She is a strong character, but historically she wouldn't have been as free to do what she wanted. Many think that portraying Pocahontas this way is sort of an American guilt thing, and I agree.
Historically, this relationship was not romantic at all. In fact, Pocahontas was ten or eleven in real life, and John Smith was a father figure. That whole thing where she saves him may have actually been an adoption ceremony, but history can't seem to agree on that.
No Means No
I forgot about it until I rewatched it, but there are some major consent issues in John and Pocahontas' relationship. The Body Pacifist points it out as well that after singing "Colors Of The Wind" John Smith tells Pocahontas he wants to see her again. She says no and that she has to leave at which point he grabs her against her will and tries to kiss her. You think it's cute when you're watching it until you realize that she is literally saying no and trying to get away from him.
Generalization Of Native American Culture
The movie focuses on the Powhatan tribe and their conflict with English settlers in Jamestown, but it mashes a bunch of Native American stereotypes together in one film. Disney did the same thing with Aladdin and Mulan. It's unfortunate because there was a big opportunity to show respect to Native American cultures, and they really messed it up.
Pocahontas is portrayed as a full-grown woman with this super hot bod. The real Pocahontas was a child, and Disney's sexed up version of Pocahontas is a bit unwarranted. Disney's other princesses are over-sexualized too, but Pocahontas gets the worst treatment. Historically speaking, she wouldn't have worn much clothing but her outfits don't really bother me. I think it's more that they made her look like she's in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
The Song 'Savages'
This is a very common critique of the movie and for good reason. The song "Savages" is gross. You can read the lyrics for yourself if you like. This song didn't need to be in the movie. They could have portrayed the issues between settlers and Native Americans without throwing in a catchy song that perpetuates the idea that Native American people aren't human. Oh but Disney also has the Native Americans in the movie singing too, so it's fine.
What do you think about Pocahontas Tell us in the comments!