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Pocahontas is a Disney movie that created a princess who had very different traits from her counterparts. She was a Native Indian young girl who, in the movie, had to choose between following her traditions or the European cultures. Pocahontas is regarded as the most familiar conversant woman from Indian origin in American antiquity and, among all Indians. She is famous for saving Captain John Smith who led the colonists in Virginia, Jamestown, from being killed by her dad’s people (Aryangga and Nurmaily 23). Her life story shows the challenges of attaining a place between the English and Indian lifestyles. Pocahontas’ life story is also a crucial cultural link between the English and Indian cultures. She was considered as everything to everybody in which she was abused and used. She was praised as “the mother of us all”, “a daughter of Eve” and, “an angel of peace” (Jennifer n.p). The film is about intolerance, racism, respecting the environment and one another.
Bridge of Culture
In the movie, Pocahontas met and fell in love with John Smith when she was 10 years of age and Smith was almost 30 by a waterfall where he almost shot her. During her childhood days, Pocahontas put great effort in creating peace between the communities governed by her dad, Chief Powhatan and, the settlers who were at Jamestown (Brode and Brode 111). He was captured along river Chickahominy where he was looking for food and, taken to Chief Powhatan, where he was sentenced to execution. During the execution, Pocahontas threw herself on John Smith to protect him from being executed by her own father after which he was released. From that day onwards, no more conflicts emerged between the Europeans and the Native Americans. Their relationship led to harmony between the Native Americans and the European settlers and, thus helping them to improve the trade relations between the two communities (Gabriel et al. 132).
After the settlers’ castle was destroyed by a fire, Pocahontas supplied them with food and clothing during winter. There were negotiations between Pocahontas and smith to secure the release of the Native Indians imprisoned by the colonialists as they tried to improve weaponry. Pocahontas and John Smith brought harmony among the two communities and helped in preventing genocide. Without her help, the European settlers would have perished (Jennifer n.p). Pocahontas was imprisoned for a whole year in 1612 while she visited Jamestown. She married another British Settler, John Rolf, in 1614 and, he was very religious. Their marriage was arranged so as to correct the misunderstandings between the European settlers and the local Americans
Power, Ethnicity and History of Colonial Oppression
In the film, Mr. Smith is created not just as a peacemaker and romantic, but also very selfish until he met Pocahontas. Later, Pocahontas became the gateway between her community and the European settlers where she negotiated goods and maintained peace between the two cultures. Nevertheless, the association between the native communities and settlers deteriorated because of the aggression from the colonists (Killeen n.p). After Smith was released, he returned to Europe but Pocahontas refused to follow him; she chose to remain with her people and culture where she started wearing tattoos and feathers.
However, the European colonists finally overpowered the Native Americans and confiscated their land. Pocahontas became a Christian, changed her name to Rebecca, birthed a baby and traveled to England with her husband. The films portray Pocahontas as a bad/good Indian where the young children are taught that, Indians are not good people but some are good like Pocahontas. The movie also displays Indian Americans as hostile enhancing the English settlers’ image that killed many Indigenous Americans and stole their land (Suissa et al. 143). The Native Indians who managed to survive the genocide were locked up in reserves where they forced into subjective adjustment rules until late 1970s and, even today, they suffer highest levels of poverty, suicide and alcoholism than the average American.
The film appropriates the practice of oppression like ending it, while at the same time creating, as well as, sustaining modern methods to oppress, hence contributing towards the story of oppression through its many practices and strategies. Native Americans are largely portrayed as war-like. For instance the chief severally participated in war speeches and actions of vengeance and, John Smith was sentenced to execution which served like a punishment for being adventurous (Brode and Brode 212). Although the film envisions a princess who came from an oppressed minority group, the Native Indians, the story is inaccurate so as to convince the American viewers of 1995 during which it was premiered.
The character Pocahontas was created and written to look older so as her factually wrong relation with Smith would be proper for viewers at that period. However, despite how inaccurate the movie was, it missed a section of history where nearly all the Native Americans were killed by the settlers. One of the initial lyrics in the film explains ‘the savages’ that were already in America; the movie never mentions the mistakes the settlers made when they went to America (Killeen n.p). It is a great beginning for young historians and reminds the world about the good differences love for the land.
Assumptions about Race, Gender, and Dominance
In the film, the storyline skips any harm that the European settlers may have caused the Native Indians. Pocahontas concentrates on the harmony of race, gender and class dominance where Pocahontas’s story demonstrates America’s soft pot like a sign of integration instead of her character as a mediator towards the colonial relationships. Pocahontas was the first American animated heroine reflecting a woman of color. In the movie, both the Native Indians and European settlers were depicted as of equal dominance; none was more dominant than the other. In the Native American’s culture, young girls were expected to follow the paths of their mothers and grandmothers; Pocahontas father handed her a necklace which belonged to her mother and, signified her reaching the marriageable age (Gabriel et al. 176).
Instead of following the will of her father and preferring a safer method, Pocahontas went against what she was expected to obey. The act of going against her father shows her own understanding and self-awareness since they have serious consequences. She stands a commanding ground which could later cause harm to herself and the people she surrounds herself with, a trait which is commonly possessed by men. The film depicts Pocahontas as a woman of color one who was overshadowed by love and, whose only aim was to be together with the love of his life, who was white of European origin (Suissa et al. 132). Pocahontas and Smith overlooked their different races and build their friendship on the basis of humanity. She disagreed on her father’s opinion in marriage where he wanted her to marry a man of Native Indian origin, whom he considered serious and loyal to him and, would keep his daughter away from harm. Moreover, Pocahontas and Smith fell in love on the bases of their looks as they never spoke similar language. They had mutual interests in each other’s culture and language where she taught smith to make peace with the environment and people while Smith taught her the Europeans’ greetings.
Pocahontas did not depend on marriage to be happy, but instead, she reconciled with herself and resumed the position of leadership within their community. The film illustrates gender, tribe and class as an achievement from selfish interest in relations which dedicate one selflessly in nurturing other people. Although Pocahontas would have wanted to stay with the man she loved, which would have meant also exploring more adventures, instead she fulfilled her duty of staying with her people who needed her. According to the film, girls were not supposed to differ from their mothers and, they are expected to be basically loving as well depend on other people for approval (Brode and Brode 154).
In the film, the change from selfish into selfless actions happens at ten years, when young women start to suppress their emotions. However, at this age close relations are considered as dangerous and, decisions based on them are considered as inappropriate. This explains why Pocahontas acted rebelliously towards her father and, refused to accompany her lover Smith to Europe but, later agreed with the community’s expectations to help others (Jennifer n.p). Whereas in other cultures the change from childhood into adulthood is marked by rituals, many grownups got confused and dealt with the situations unprofessionally: this was shown when Pocahontas father reprimanded her when she refused to be left in the village.
As opposed to men, who are considered noble as far as they anchor their verdicts on obligations, women are exempted from both the masculine form selfhood as well as from the type of honest, open relationships that are known as preadolescent. Thus, while Smith could still follow his personal adventurous comforts and still remain immature, Pocahontas had to subdue her individuality and became included within her community. As the film ended, however, her father accepted Smith and called him “my brother” and claimed that he was always welcome among the American Indian culture (Gabriel et al. 143). He went ahead to tell Pocahontas to choose her own path; this was a sign he accepted Smith culture and ethnicity. In the film, men are depicted as people who love adventures and women as adventures to be found which explains the racially and gendered meaning for Pocahontas animation.
Animation and Ideology
Pocahontas carried a socially and racially undecided and little militant brown title which is meant to guarantee white audience of their dominance. Therefore, she portrays whiteness in herself which is why her character is called “the white man’s woman”. Intensifying on the display of the other, the film stayed committed in offering positive ideas of Native Americans; the movie focuses on the Native Americans’ religion with wisdom. But the film unavoidably goes back into white ideologies which contains both colonialism and orientalism.
The idea of orientalism consist the view of the Native Americans by the European like something exotic, alien and foreign; orientalism does not portray the other, however, it defines and shapes the Europeans. Hieratically, James Smith was above them and, in his first experience with the Native Americans, he sees the exotic people like barbarians. Therefore, in spite of the improved descriptions of the ‘other’ in Pocahontas, the movie eventually serves the western story and, also the ideology of the white supremacy (Gabriel et al. 98). To promote the trait, Pocahontas was created looking pleasurable so as to be perfect for large manufacture of goods. Critics have termed Pocahontas doll as pornographic where it carries serious troubles to the understanding of body images for both women and girls as they could be pressured into attaining the principles of the ideological customs of the doll.
The film was created with an intention to address the critics on portraying of racial stereotypes in the previous Disney films. However, critics say that the characters present ideologies of the white supremacy. buying the Disney complementary goods and doll means to buy the distorted presentations of both history and cultures of other religions (Aryangga and Nurmaily 34). In Pocahontas, the characters and stories are remolded to maintain the ideologies such as the white supremacy that are sold to particular buyers. Therefore, the customers of both the merchandise and films must master to differentiate the myths in both the merchandise and films. The movie gives an impression that non-European communities are better than European communities in subduing the essentials of a person. Pocahontas trait of self-sacrifice can be translated as the character of the Native American cultures. The film can be depicted as respectful and, authentic towards the Native Americans ethnic group.
Chronology of Events
The cinema illustrates the events that took place when the ettlers arrived, they destroyed the forests and created their own version of civilization regardless whether the Native Americans wanted it or not. Governor Ratcliffe, the head of the Virginia Company, led the destruction of forests using cannons. After the protests by the Native Indians, the settlers opened fire on them where the Indians retaliated by capturing some of the Brits. Captain John Smith and a part of his colleagues were abducted by the Native Americans during their adventures in the modern world (Killeen n.p). They were later taken to chief Powhatan where only Captain Smith was locked in and, later survived an execution due to the intervention of Pocahontas.
Pocahontas’ Complications on the Ideas of History
John Smith and Pocahontas’s relationship outlines the film’s storyline and, considering their difference in age the film seems awkward. In reality, Pocahontas was just 10 years when she met Smith while he was 30. The film skips any undesirable actions that the settlers might have caused on the Native American, portraying both races as different without demonstrating which one dominated the other. The betrayal of the settlers was seemingly lightly solved at the completion of the film, with the “happy-ever-after” finishing which is not historically correct (Aryangga and Nurmaily 22). The Disney version of Pocahontas is the common known mode of the life story of Pocahontas and, it is always the children’s first method of education about the Native Americans.
Beginning learning with a film that is considered more of lies than truth is a wrong route to follow. Therefore, Children should be provided with a much accurate facts of what exactly happened in the first encounter of the Native Indians and the settlers before they can watch the movie. However, the film could be used as an instrument for exploring how it influenced the advancement of the Native Indians stereotypes; a learning tool which can be useful for children learning critical thinking (Suissa et al. 134). In many areas in the United States, Native Indians are few, which means that the children’s only knowledge comes from the learning in school. If elementary classes modify their curriculum in reference to the Native Indians, lies about Indian’s history can be eliminated.
In conclusion, Pocahontas film can be used as a tool to promote environmentalism and conservation as well as interracial dating. The film reminds the audience not just the love for environment, but also the importance of loving each other. When the settlers went to America, misunderstanding and lack of acceptance on both communities almost caused war. Until today, racial inequality and intolerance is a big problem in the modern populations. Pocahontas film reminds the audience that that, everyone is the same despite the differences. Everyone have similar human needs, yet, despite the concerns and needs, the world continues to allow their minimal differences overshadow their better thinking, causing many unnecessary conflicts. It is a great beginning for young historians and also reminds the world about the good differences love for the land.
Aryangga, Afri, and Ely Nurmaily. “Women’s Power and Stereotype Denial in Pocahontas Movie.” TEKNOSASTIK, vol. 15, no. 1, June 2017, p. 43.
Brode, Douglas, and Shea T. Brode. It’s the Disney Version!: Popular Cinema and Literary Classics. Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.
Gabriel, Mike, et al. Pocahontas. Disney, 2017.
Jennifer, C. Jennifer’s New Historic/Cultural Analysis of Pocahontas | Methods of Advanced Literary Studies. 2016, http://scanlon295s16.umwblogs.org/2016/03/08/jennifers-new-historiccultural-analysis-of-pocahontas/.
Killeen. “Pocahontas Analysis.” Prezi.Com, 2014, https://prezi.com/ffeickhcv6ug/pocahontas-analysis/.
Suissa, Daniele J., et al. Pocahontas: The Legend. Criterion-on-Demand, 2013.
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