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Pocahontas Essay

2985 words - 12 pages

Pocahontas
Introduction

[1] Disney’s Pocahontas has understandably received a lot of flak about the historically inaccurate story that is told about the legendary Pocahontas and Captain John Smith. There is a good reason for that. The movie does little that can be construed as historically accurate, yet Disney claims that was never their intent. Disney, in their previous movies, has been attacked for being racist and unsympathetic to racial minorities. Their answer was a movie whose sole purpose, as stated by Disney, was to promote racial tolerance. The question is, then can a movie promote racial tolerance when the issue is built on false history, history that if told accurately would depict the exact opposite?

[2] First, I feel that it is important to establish exactly what Disney’s intentions were in making the film. Secondly, I intend to show that Disney provided enough historical information that it is questionable whether or not one can assume that they were trying to teach history, history that is specifically aimed at children. Lastly, I will show that the real story of Pocahontas was not about racial tolerance, that it was not about understanding one’s culture, but it was in fact about trying to change one’s culture.

Disney’s Intention

[3] From the movie’s start Disney has been preaching innocence about trying to accurately depict history. Disney, in their press kit, expressed that, “Pocahontas is a story that appealed to us because it was basically a story about people getting along together… which is particularly applicable to lots of places in the world today” (Pocahontas 33). In addition, Thomas Schmucher, who is the senior vice president of Disney feature animation, says, “It is a story that is fundamentally about racism and intolerance and we hope that people will gain a greater understanding of themselves and of the world around them. It is also about having respect for each other’s cultures” (Pocahontas 35). In a sense that is what the story of Pocahontas promotes, racial tolerance between two groups who are seen as “different” from one another. The problem that most people encounter is that Disney chose an actual person and an actual legend in which to display that theme.

[4] Disney even goes on further to suggest that their intentions have a modern relevance when they say that “It is an important message to a generation to stop fighting, stop killing each other because of the color of your skin” (Pocahontas 37). It is quite clear that Disney never intended to write or rewrite history, as they have been so viciously attacked for doing. They are writing about tolerance and understanding, while at the same time they are giving back some respect to the indigenous people of America. James Pentecost, the producer of the film, feels that “moviemakers shouldn’t be handcuffed when using real stories as jumping-off places for works of entertainment” (Kim 24). Disney simply liked the...

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