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Disney’s Pocahontas: Selling Lies As The Truth

3220 words - 13 pages

"Instead of progress in depicting Native Americans, this film takes a step backwards – a very dangerous step because it is so carefully glossed as 'authentic' and 'respectful.' " – Jacquelyn Kilpatrick

[1] Disney’s first attempt to relay the Pocahontas story was filled with blatant falsities. The producers, who claimed to eradicate politically incorrect statements found in past films with the highly anticipated 1995 Pocahontas, found themselves at the center of criticisms from many vocal activist groups. Feminists, Native Americans, and religiously based Christian groups found the movie to completely overlook the true essence and spirit of the Powhatan Indian princess. In an attempt to curb many of its criticisms and appease angry minorities, Disney produced a sequel. Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998) picks up on Pocahontas’ life in Jamestown and transports her to London. Here Disney hoped to give more accuracy to the historical figure’s life and continue to teach society the lessons of tolerance and good triumphing over evil. However, this second film does little but add even more criticisms to an already long list of complaints from interest groups. History continues to be romanticized and distorted beyond recognition, and, consequently, a fallacious version of the Pocahontas story survives.

Feminist Criticisms

[2] Many feminists attacked the 1995 Pocahontas for its mythical portrayal of a young Native American girl. She was created by the animators as an exotic creature capable of jumping off extremely high waterfalls. She also uses the “colors of the wind” to allow her the ability to fly, to immediately comprehend a foreign language, and to solve practically impossible problems. Pocahontas also has the capacity to converse with four-hundred-year-old trees, talk with wild animals, and leap effortlessly through the forest. This depiction of Pocahontas immediately causes the audience to view her as a fairytale character rather than a historically prominent figure. Feminists argue that if the story were about a fictional heroine as found in all previous Disney films, there would be less concern. However, Pocahontas was a “real woman who lived during a pivotal time of first contact” (Kilpatrick 2). The movie encourages children to perform similar “Wonder-woman”-like feats, rather than being a strong and realistic woman in today’s world (Rosenzweig).

[3] One of the most significant discrepancies in the movie for the feminists was the Barbie-like figure given to Pocahontas. Not only is her chest size capable of toppling her over, but the remainder of her physical dimensions are also completely impractical. The supervising animator of the film, Glen Keane, worked hard hours in the studio envisioning “an animated beauty-formula for a sexy, muscular model. The Pocahontas of the 90’s makes Cinderella pale in comparison” (Rosenzweig 1). Feminists argue that Pocahontas should have been depicted as...

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