Disnification, Pocahontas and Its Effects on Racial Issues

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Pocahontas was written in 1995 as a boost to Disney to gain popularity through diversity in character and cast. But what parlous choices were made for their benefit? To create the 33rd full length animated feature, 1st to be based on real-life events, and to follow hit movie The Lion King, Disney hired a historian and a live model to create a film that helped Disney become a racially aware movie studio and an ideal to all others. However, during this film “minor liberties” were taken to make Pocahontas a show for all with heartwarming scenes and a grand adventure. Some can attest that Disney’s creation of Pocahontas was helpful due to its spreading of cultural awareness to kids. It shows a great heroine that many can look up to and shows two cultures bonding and developing up to a great finale. However, looking carefully, the “Disneyfication” of Pocahontas through its storytelling was more harmful to the history, literature and American identity. It mistold history, romanticized the violence of colonizers and settlers, and contributed to the growing ignorance of Native American life.

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Fabrications of past events are harmful because it accepts ignorance, which can taint views on society and what America is. “Disney’s version takes an extreme amount of creative liberty… this story has a vastly happier ending – in which… the settlers lay down their arms, as do the Native Americans – than reality” (Pocahontas, Spiegel). This validates that Disney mistold history or rather “takes an extreme amount of creative liberty”, through altering key points in history and the ending to get more popularity. Additionally, it doesn’t take into account the mistreatment of Native Americans when John Smith returns to England which leads to the second point.

Pocahontas is a good example of the romanticization of violence between the Native Americans and colonists. After John Smith was injured and sent back to Europe “relations with the Powhatans worsened… Captain Samuel Argall, learned where she was, he devised a plan to kidnap her… [he] lured Pocahontas onto his ship… [Later] Argall sent word to Powhatan that he would return his beloved daughter [for a ransom]” (Pocahontas, Cohen). Powhatan gave them part of the ransom and ask they treat Pocahontas well. “After almost a year of captivity [of Pocahontas], Dale brought 150 armed men and Pocahontas into Powhatan’s territory to obtain her entire ransom… the Englishmen burned many houses, destroyed villages, and killed several Indian men” (Pocahontas, Wikipedia). Colonizers’ harsh violence and actions towards Native Americans is not shown in the movie, which instead focuses on the daring adventurer John Smith and his love for the beautiful Pocahontas and how their relationship can save the day from the greedy Englishmen. This shifts the attention from violence and murder to a sorry attempt to partially address “greedy Englishmen” and a love story. In many cases, romanticization negatively impacts the storytelling of Pocahontas because it hides and boldens the wrong ideas. Instead of telling children, the targeted audience, what our nation is based off and why it indoctrinates them into believing false stories of adventure.

The movie spreads false knowledge about tribes and Native Americans and appropriates their culture. In the movie, the Powhatans are shown as people who are there to assist the main characters or settlers and to provide for them. This exemplifies how the movie Pocahontas leads to greater ignorance in Native American life. The movie restates the false idea that Native Americans were inferior to the colonists by showing very little of the lives of Powhatans instead, showing only their actions which mainly consist of arguments about Pocahontas’ love decisions and how to deal with the new colonist’s threats.

Through the clouding of history, the making of the movie to be an adventure of love and the focusing on stereotypes to describe Native Americans, the Disneyfication of Pocahontas was harmful. The movie Pocahontas’ purpose was to be a money maker by creating a movie that wasn’t featuring Caucasians and led Disney to be a racial friendly film group by glossing over violence and by taking liberties in a historical standpoint to appeal to kids. However, this led to the insulting of many Native American tribes due to its acculturation. Creating a film enticing to children of young ages requires a fun, exciting story that sometimes does not fit with the true events. To that extent, Pocahontas was a film that should not have been made.

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