Pocahontas Was a Mistake, and Here’s Why!

Pocahontas Was a Mistake, and Here’s Why!


So, I have a pitch for a movie.
It’s about this young girl, and she’s the daughter of the tribal chief
of a group of indigenous people living in pre-colonial times.
And she’s about to come of age and her dad is like ‘time to come of age, honey.
You need to do the thing and take your place in the leader-archy’.
“It suits you.”
And she’s like ‘eh, I’m not too keen on your particular vision for me, dad’.
She likes water, it’s like a metaphor for freedom,
and she’s like ‘hey water, is there something more for me out there?’
And then she sings a song about the water.
She has this grandmother character who is special because she’s got a spiritual insight that nobody else in the tribe has,
and she’s like ‘hey, maybe your dad is being too restrictive.
Maybe there is something more out there for you’. But then a conflict comes from over the sea,
and grandma’s like ‘well, you know what? hey, maybe that’s your destiny, and you need to go meet it’.
And our heroine is like ‘okay, yeah, that sounds legit’.
Turns out she has this treasure obsessed antagonist who is really obsessed with being shiny.
So she gets in a boat and goes out to meet her destiny.
And after some trials and tribulations and hanging out with some guy who is pretty disrespectful to her TBH,
she kind of f*cks up by way of overestimating her own abilities and nearly gets the guy she’s paling around with killed,
and then she’s like ‘you know what? Maybe I can’t do it. Maybe I can’t fix the conflict’.
And so she’s kind of sad, and she talks to her spirit grandma like ‘I have no idea what I’m doing’,
and spirit grandma’s like ‘no, honey, you got this’.
And she realizes what her destiny is and ultimately our heroine saves the day,
not through violence or might, but with her compassion,
and then her dad was like ‘oh okay, honey, I guess you were right’,
and then she takes her place in the leader-archy and helps her people into a new era of hope.
The end.
That’s not been done before has it?
♪ “Have you ever heard the wolf cry
to the blue corn moon” ♪
The 90s was a weird time for representation of Native American people.
There’s a documentary on Netflix called Reel Injun you should check out for a better overview.
“I’m greeted with open smiles and looks of appreciation.”
“In short, I have become a celebrity.”
We’d be here all day if we did even a brief overview of all the media trends leading up to that.
But suffice to say that by the 90s the trend was… sympathetic? to the Native American plight.
But also, you know, white Americans, don’t want to feel like ‘the bad guy’,
which is why almost all of the 90s crop of movies that involved Native Americans had *good* white protagonists,
helping the natives out against the *bad* white people, who are greedy and bad and like money.
Not like the *good* white people who just want to be free,
and live one with the nature and the spirits of the nature, and ‘hey, maybe we’re not so different’.
♪ “Savages, savages, barely even human” ♪
That brief resurgence of the Western in the 90s was a reflection on America’s changing understanding of its own history.
White America was in a process of coming to terms with its relationship
to the people who were here, you know… first.
Enter Pocahontas, which effectively ended that 90s era of ‘Why can’t we just all get along’ colonialist Hollywood narratives.
Oh, there continued to be smatterings of that kind of movie here and there in the years that followed.
But by the time Pocahontas came out people were kind of sick of it.
“My bark is worse than my bite.”
Disney was expecting Pocahontas to be the smash hit
that would break through the glass ceiling cracked by Beauty and the Beast.
That Best Picture Oscar glass ceiling, because Best Animated Picture was not a thing yet.
Inside of the Disney studio, the faith the filmmakers had in Pocahontas caused minor chaos,
with animators begging to jump ship off of the Lion King in favor of Pocahontas,
which was widely considered within the studio to be the superior of the two. The more legit and artistic, see?
“See how I glitter.”
Heh.
So Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who were CEO and studio head respectively at the time,
were somewhat surprised that the reaction to the film was mostly indifference, disappointment and harsh criticism
from Native American groups who were annoyed at basically every aspect of the film.
And it’s easy to see where that criticism comes from. Pocahontas is basically peak 90s neoliberalism.
It has all of the required merchandiseable Disney things.
“Cool!”
“She’s beautiful!”
“She’s so tall!”
“And her hair’s so long!”
We’ve aged up the historical figure into a sexy Barbie doll.
Middle-aged pudge man, John Smith-
“Jooooohn Smiiiiiiiith!”
-has been chiseled into a golden haired Adonis voiced by Mel Gibson,
and it plays into basically every Native American stereotype that even by the 90s had reached parody levels.
This movie is so parodic in levels of Disney-ness I’m surprised Miko didn’t have like, a cute snarky one-liner,
that they then printed on millions of shirts, that went on to fill millions of cubic landfill feet.
The subject of the Disney Company and its portrayal of indigenous peoples in service of the Disney brand is massive.
So I’m going to have to omit a lot of stuff in the service of streamlining this thing,
so I apologize for that, I’m gonna have to leave a lot of stuff out.
I should probably also mention that talking about issues of indigenous people as an American is somewhat fraught,
because Americans are kind of obsessed with this idea of blood quantums,
especially since that is actually how a lot of tribes determine tribal membership.
And a lot of white people have this tendency to claim some obscure Native American ancestry like it makes them an expert,
or it makes whatever they say or do regarding Native American representation ‘totes okay’.
“I can remember my grandparents you know, they, ya know,
talking about our- you know, we had some degree of Indian blood and that was, for me, a point of pride.”
You don’t even know what tribe you’re supposed to be descended fr-
I’m not trying to qualify anything I say, except as a student of media studies.
I am just one well-meaning idiot trying to contextualise Disney’s portrayal of indigenous people and how that has changed over the years.
Eisner and Katzenberg thought they were ushering in a new era of artistic credibility.
Instead the film feels more like… a mistake.
“See how I glitter.”
But now in the era of Moana, much as I still think Pocahontas, well, sucks-
“I’ve never been a… popular man.”
“I like you.”
-my feelings on the film and its place in ‘the discourse’ have softened a bit.
Pocahontas was in many ways a mistake, in the same way that Song of the South was a mistake.
I think history will only look more and more unkindly upon Disney’s Pocahontas.
But a mistake need not necessarily be a bad thing. As a wise Megamind once said,
“There’s a benefit to losing You get to learn from your mistakes.”
So the question is with this little stealth remake they’ve done with Moana,
has Disney learned from the mistakes of Pocahontas?
“Here at the studio. we have many artists who achieved national reputation as painters,
in addition to their accomplishments in the field of animation.
These men know the value of hen rise advice to be yourself.”
In 1962 during a screening in his home in the hills of Los Feliz,
Walt Disney watched Robert Mulligan’s To Kill a Mockingbird starring, Gregory Peck.
“In the name of God.
Do your duty,”
After the film was over Disney lamented to his family ‘That’s the kind of film I wish I could make’.
Disney had so successfully solidified his brand that he had branded himself
right into a corner with fun light-hearted family fare,
and because of that he could not make the kinds of movies that were revolutionizing the film industry.
Disney was experiencing a creative styming, at least on the movie side of things,
that would follow him until his death a few years later.
The Walt Disney studio is the only major movie studio that has a specific brand
attached to the sort of movies it puts out, and with that brand is a certain set of expectations.
This problem was especially obvious with several of the Renaissance era Disney movies.
There was a desire to expand and tell more complex narratives,
but the studio was still really constrained by that Disney brand.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is the best example of this.
♪ “Like fire, hellfire” ♪
♪ “And as I ring these bells tonight” ♪
“God have mercy on me.”
“I’m losing to a bird!”
“Sanctuary!”
“Pour the wine and cut the cheese!”
But Pocahontas is up there too.

♪ “They’re not like you and me
which means they must be evil” ♪
The filmmakers originally envisioned a more, shall we say, historically rooted film.
But the studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg pushed it to what he considered to be more commercial.
Pocahontas was originally closer in age to the historical Pocahontas.
It was even kicked around for a while that the Powhatan characters, yes, would speak entirely in native Powhatan,
and Pocahontas would have to go through the process of learning English.
Malick style, baby.
“Wind. Wind.”
But in the end most of the decisions that dragged the movie down into mediocrity
were born out of Katzenberg’s desire to force a Best Picture contender like Beauty and the Beast.
Pocahontas was aged up, and it was turned into a Romeo and Juliet inspired love story,
with the language barrier being transverse via… listening with one’s heart.
“Listen with your heart.”
Then there’s Pocahontas’ design, a trope as old as the hills.
By the time Pocahontas came out the only other Disney princess arguably as sexualized as Pocahontas
was Princess Jasmine, and the year after that Esmeralda.
“Look at that disgusting display.”
“Yes, sir!”
Funny that.
“Well, how you doin’? Heh…”
According to an interview with Glen Keane from 1995,
‘We’re doing a mature love story here, and we have to draw her as such. She has to be sexy.
This is a Disney version. This is not a documentary’.
This may seem, ehm, harmless, but these media trends mirror very real problems in the real world to this day.
Even now, Native American women are twice the national average in reported rapes and sexual assault,
and those are just the ones that get reported.
Media trends of sexualizing indigenous women do not exist in a bubble.
But the worst hangover I get from Pocahontas is how it reinforces this comfortable lie
that white Americans are fed from birth: that things were a little tense at first,
but ultimately the whites and the natives got along and everything’s fine.
Like seriously, the movie both-sides-es the whole issue.
Yeah, the English had guns and smallpox and decades of driving the natives off their lands,
‘but the Powhatans were jerks too, you guys’.
♪ “Savages, savages
killers at the core” ♪
♪ “They’re different from us
which means they can’t be trusted.” ♪
Wait, wait, wait, wait, the Indians calling the Europeans savages?
Mind. Blown.
The studio purported a desire to honor Native Americans, and I’m sure there is some truth to that.
But at the end of the day the film’s just kind of reinforces this myth of the founding of the country
that we are force-fed from birth, like a goose being fed for ‘pâté’.
But not everyone reads it like that.
According to Russell Means, ‘this film is the finest feature film ever done about American Indians
in the history of Hollywood. It’s so revolutionary, it shocked me when they showed it to me.
The first thing that shocked me was the truth. The Eurocentric males are admitting why they came here:
to kill Indians and to rob and pillage. That’s never been done before.
This is also the first time other than on Northern Exposure that a human face has been put on an Indian female.
Here is this young woman who is wiser than her father or any man in the village,
and she causes peace to reign. It’s beautiful’.
Without going too deeply into it, uh, let’s just say that Russell Means is somewhat controversial in the activism world.
Russell Means was the actor who played Pocahontas’ father in the film.
He was also a Lakota Sioux activist for Native American rights and a leader of the American Indian Movement
in the 1970s, helping to organize the standoff at Wounded Knee in 1973.
According to the LA Times Russell Means brought instant legitimacy and authenticity to Pocahontas.
‘I haven’t abandoned the movement for Hollywood’, said Means, ‘I’ve just added Hollywood to the movement.
The entertainment world is a powerful venue for revolution,
particularly now that there are 500 channels on the horizon, and the global market is so big’.
Many of Means’ former activist colleagues did not agree with his interpretation on the media,
or that he was helping to champion that causes he purported to champion by the media he was participating in.
But my point here is that the legacy of Pocahontas is more complicated than thing good or thing bad.
So, cultural appropriation!
RIP comment section.

I’d like to take it back a few dozen steps and talk about some of these theoretical terms
that have become politically loaded over the last few years, particularly cultural appropriation.

As a theoretical term, cultural appropriation is neither bad nor good. It just describes a sociological phenomenon.
It may have deleterious or positive effects on certain groups, but the term itself is neutral.
Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture.
That’s all it is. That’s what I mean when I say cultural appropriation is a neutral term.
For instance, the fact that I wear a claddagh ring, this is a form of cultural appropriation. I’m not Irish.
Studied Irish when I was in college, I actually have a minor in Irish studies.
But I don’t know if I have any Irish ancestry, I might, I might not.
If I do, it’s so far back in the ancestry line is to be completely irrelevant.
So this is actually a form of cultural appropriation.
“Hit it!”

If you happen to be American and want a more subjective understanding of what cultural appropriation in movies even is,
one of my favorite examples is from a 2003 Bollywood movie called Donoho [?].
“I’m crazy about you, pretty woman.”
This movie takes place in New York
(this was filmed in Toronto).
And yeah, this, this is a form of cultural appropriation.

I like to use this example because unless you’re super into anime,
most Americans have an experienced media that has American culture on the other end of cultural appropriation.
Americans are so used to being the dominant producers of media that we aren’t accustomed to seeing
what it’s like to be portrayed by a culture that does not care if their product sells in American markets.
The fact that cultural appropriation is in theory a neutral term leads to a lot of false equivalencies,
i.e. why is this form of cultural appropriation okay,
but Gwen Stefani dressing as a sexy warrior is not okay.
Well, it’s a complex issue and there is a lot of intersection over race and class and gender,
but here is a general rule of thumb:
if it is a culture that was historically exploited by colonialism appropriating a historically colonizing culture, no harm, no foul.
No one gets mad at Mexico for appropriating elements of German culture
(unless you happen to live in LA and that’s all that’s on the radio).
If it is a historically colonialist culture appropriating a culture that was exploited by colonialism,
then people start to get a little cranky. Obviously there are intersections and complexities,
but for simplicity’s sake I’ll leave it there for now.
But I think most people would agree that unlike something like Pocahontas or even Slumdog Millionaire,
a movie which pretty much every Indian I’ve ever talked to is not a fan of,
this kind of cultural appropriation is basically harmless.
This is what I mean by cultural appropriation being a neutral term.
Not all cultural appropriation is created equal.
So I think the real question people want the answer to is where the line is between
positive examples of representation and harmful cultural appropriation,
and that’s the problem: there isn’t really a line.

So you can have a movie like Moana, which had a much higher proportion of Pacific Islanders working behind the scenes and in the caste and American natives did for Pocahontas
But the film still reads as appropriative to some because the story is still cookie cutter Disney-

-and the department heads were overwhelmingly old white men.
As long as you have a multinational corporation appropriating some element of another culture to sell stuff,
no matter how respectful or well researched, there is always going to be some level of appropriation.
So with regard to the lesson Disney took from the backlash against Pocahontas,
you would think that the lesson Disney would have taken with regard to depicting indigenous peoples is…
don’t.
But it wasn’t. We’ve had four more Disney features with indigenous protagonists since Pocahontas,
two of which involved said protagonists turning into large mammals in order to learn a lesson.

I’m not gonna get into that, I’m just saying, it happened. Twice.

“I don’t speak bear.”
First was the Emperor’s New Groove which was in development hell for years and was originally a large,
very important, portentous musical in the vein of Pocahontas called Kingdom of the Sun.
But then that vision got scrapped. Most of the creative team got replaced and the film turned into a buddy comedy
with barely a veneer of the original setting slapped on top.
“Butler.”
“Chef.”
“Theme song guy.”
“Oh, yeah!”
The Emperor’s New Groove has almost no relation to the culture it takes place in,
other than llama being the one domesticated animal down there and sometimes the topography.
The Emperor’s New Groove is so thoroughly divorced from the culture it takes place in
that the appropriation discussion rarely even pops up in relation to this movie.
Brother Bear, the other movie where the arrogant protagonist gets turned into a large mammal to learn a lesson,
has more to do with the culture that is appropriating than either Emperor’s New Groove or even Pocahontas for that matter,
taking the concept of spirit animal to a very literal literal-ness.
But the thing that fascinates me about Brother Bear in this context is less how it appropriates culture in its story,
with the idea of the spirit animal turning Joaquin Phoenix into a literal animal,
but with the way it mixes native language with a European style of music.
You tuber sideways did a great video essay entitled how Disney uses language this essay has a little segment about brother bear
and it’s use of any pet language with Bulgarian women’s choir music because it
Sounds vaguely, you know, ethnic.
So they used music that most people hadn’t heard of that had nothing to do with the context of the film in order to
Make the scene sound, I don’t know, more magical?
Point here being that Brother Bear kind of took a step back and got away with it because most people couldn’t tell the difference between a Bulgarian women’s choir and [?] music.
Both are presumed to sound equally alien.
So even though Brother Bear uses Bulgarian music to try and convey an Alaskan sound which, all right,
they were actually on the right track by using the native language.
Part of the reason Brother Bear was a huge step back is because there was a lot of chaos going on at the Disney Company at the time,
with Roy Disney basically staging a coup against Michael Eisner from the outside of the company,
so the result was that the last few gasps of traditional animation in the mid-2000s were just kind of lazy and careless.
But if we really want to take a look at the way Disney portrays indigenous people,
especially indigenous women, the real shift isn’t Moana, it’s Nani from 2002’s Lilo and Stitch.
“Hey! Watch where you’re going!”
Pocahontas is hyper sexualized, she moves animalisticly, falls in love with the first white guy she sees,
talks to the animals and communes with the spirits of things like rocks and trees.
Nani is a complete departure from that
She isn’t sexually available to white men
She’s not even sexually available at all not really she has one guy who’s interested in her
But she can’t return that interest because she doesn’t have that luxury because she has to take care of her sister you’re not doing anything
David I told you I can’t I
The most exotic thing that Nani wears is for when she’s working for a literal tourist trap
But Nani is not divorced from her culture either and one of the most emotionally powerful moments in the film the night before lilo is
Set to be taken away from Nani by social services Nani sings to her Aloha Oe
Aloha Oe was written by Queen Liliuokalani the last monarch of the kingdom of Hawaii it
Translates to farewell to thee and became a symbol for a lost country after the forced
annexation of Hawaii into the United States
And this isn’t the only reference to Liliuokalani in the film the song at the opening invokes her as well in the Hawaiian language
It’s super subtle for Disney
But there is a deliberateness here to tie in the characters personal struggles with their heritage
So in a later scene when Nani is singing Aloha Oe – lilo Nani is using one of the most iconic cultural songs of Hawaii?
To symbolize what is literally about to happen to her her family is about to be ripped apart by a literal
Agent of the United States government in case you’re wondering
This did not go well. This is an issue that directly affects indigenous peoples especially in the United States. We like most countries
Have a long proud history of tearing indigenous families apart
That the film uses Aloha Oe a song that has become a symbol of the forced annexation of Hawaii into the United States
about our own pain over her family being ripped apart
That’s almost radical for a Disney movie, and yeah
It’s also some level of appropriation it might be a powerful moment and was mostly positively received
But it’s still Disney see that’s what I mean by there. Isn’t really a line. It’s a complex topic
Lilo and Stitch had a deleted scene that confronted the racism of the white tourists head-on
Hey speak English which way to that Beach
I’m kind of bummed they cut this out for a lot of reasons
It would’ve helped the movie from a story standpoint as this deleted. Scene is the moment where Stitch decides
Hey, maybe this kids alright it also points to Lalo’s feelings as an outsider being more than just her being a weirdo
She is a tourist commodity in her own country. Oh
Lilo and Stitch begins to scratch the surface of Hawaii’s poverty job market and its dependence on mainland tourists
But you know not really dug because it’s still a Disney movie, which is why I think they cut that scene out
So the big lesson learned from Pocahontas wasn’t don’t make narratives about indigenous peoples
But rather don’t make these narratives about the characters
Relationships to white people with the Emperor’s, New Groove, Brother Bear and Moana
This is accomplished by simply setting the story in the pre-columbian era with lilo and Stitch in the modern era
But with no white characters except for the tourists
I wish Disney had internalized this lesson with The Princess and the Frog which goes so far out of its way to portray the
Healthy white family is nice and well-meaning and what systemic oppression what Jim Crow?
I’m just a nice wealthy white patrician here for some beignets from my favorite black owned establishment on the other side of the tracks
Anyway, and then came Moana.

As I may have alluded to earlier
Moana has a very great deal in common with
Pocahontas both narratively and in concept so because of that there was a lot of cringe and anticipation of the film
This cringe was upgraded to cringe upon the announcement of a little brown face
brown body costume for kids of Maui’s body and tats which
yikes
And yeah, well, they pulled that but yeah, Disney. What were you thinking?
You know at the end of the day Disney gonna didnee
even before my wanna came out
I was like oh boy
The rock sure looks fun and love that lin-manuel, Miranda, and I can’t wait to book my Disney vacation
So I could stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort
I’d also be really curious to see if this movie would have even been greenlit if Disney had just bought its own private
Chunk of Hawaii hey check it out. It’s the star of Moana promoting Disney’s new Hawaii chunk
what are your impressions about this reel forward?
At the end of the day mallanna is another cog in the vertically integrated Disney machine as such
It’s only willing to go so far with regard to authenticity
Instead of focusing on a Polynesian culture Moana is more of a mush of all of them
Which kind of reminds me of Mulan which took place in China, but aesthetically picked and chose a lot of elements from all over Asia?
Korea Japan the gang’s all here Moana also avoids the sexually available submissive Polynesian woman’s stereotype
But it still plays the happy natives with coconuts trope

Disney hired what they called an oceanic?
Brain trust a collection of scholars and activists from all over the Pacific to help with accuracy and sensitivity issues
But as Tina and got two points out having brown advisors doesn’t make it a brown story
It’s still very much a white person’s story no matter how much the story draws from the culture
It’s trying to portray at the end of the day. It’s still a very narrow Disney coming-of-age story
Vicente M Diez wrote in Indian country today before the movie came out any altruism associated with this latest commercial
Adventure will always be trumped by the proverbial bottom line
But more depressingly by an enduring colonial legacy in the Pacific Islands that is further animated in the 21st century by neoliberal and post-colonial
Desires for selling and consuming native culture of a very specific type, and this is why the line between
representation and cultural appropriation especially in animated movies can be so blurry
the legacy of colonialism is baked into every facet of every culture on the planet
colonialism has had an incalculable impact on human civilization that is why it’s so difficult to parse out exactly the impact of
group a being portrayed by a dominant cultural group B in Disney movies
But that’s why we’re here we’re gonna fix colonialism y’all
Filmaker Taika Waititi a native of new zealand of Maori descent wrote the first draft of mallanna before leaving the project although
little of Waititi script which focused way more on gender and on moana’s struggle in being in a family full of boys
Remained in the film his departure from the project seemed amicable. He’s on good enough terms with Disney to be directing this fall’s, thor ragnarok
Waititi said after the movie came out
Indigenous people in films. It’s like all knows flutes and panpipes, and you know people talking to ghosts which I hate
I thought well the best way of them not making something that’s insensitive or shallow was to involve people from that community
from the Pacific if there’s some way I could be at the table and help try and make this not a bad film then I’ll try
Waititi left Moana to go make what we do in the shadows with Shimane Clement who incidentally stars in Moana as Tama Toa and
And if you haven’t seen that movie, you should, it’s cute.
Just leave me to do my dog bidding on the internet
what you’re bidding on?
I’m bidding on a table
But here’s the thing that I think really separates Moana from Pocahontas
And the Emperor’s New Groove for that matter the plot derives from lessons Moana learns about her own culture
Moana’s personal journey only really kicks in when she finds out that she is descended from a long line of voyagers
we are descended from voyagers who found their way across the world
They call me
And that’s the thing that sticks with me racial stereotyping aside is that ultimately the story isn’t just about a young girl finding herself
But discovering that her ancestors did incredible things and her joy at discovering that
We were voyagers
is anyone going to say that we should sacrifice some little girl in New Zealand or Los Angeles
Or Hawaii seeing a well-rounded character who looks like her just because it’s Disney and therefore appropriative? No.
That’s why there’s a push for ethical cultural representation
and a lot of this stuff is subjective that is why there can never be a pure representation
especially in a globalist media economy an increasingly diverse consumer base wants to see characters who look like them portrayed on screen
Disney gets that it’s just good business to try to be authentic to the communities they are portraying
but they should hire more people from those communities, I’m just saying
but the one article I found the most interesting was Doug Herman writing for Smithsonian Magazine and that article was about his ambivalence on the film
He liked that it got some stuff right but it also still plays into racial stereotyping he felt ambivalent about it
Frustrated even and this frustration kind of gives me some hope because I feel like we’re making progress from the days of Pocahontas
It’s no longer a hot mess but a mixed bag, and you use a bird to write with
It’s called tweeting
and that may always be the case because let me say it again for the people in the back
The legacy of colonialism is baked into every facet of every culture on the planet
so yeah Disney’s not about to challenge your ideas on American history
They’ve got theme park tickets to sell come down on to Epcot Center
And enjoy the American experience or you fans of Pocahontas can march on down to the world of Pandora
Which is a thing now.
Ugh.
Again especially with a multinational hydra like Disney progress isn’t always linear
at the end of the day the financial bottom line will always be
the most important thing for a company like Disney
But there is money to be made in authenticity
And I think Disney is edging closer to that then for instance the days of the Enchanted Tiki Room
There’s just one scene that’s there towards the end of both films where our heroine gets a pep talk from spirit grandma
that I feel speaks to the evolution not just of the cultural angle
but of the ethical storytelling of Disney movies
in both films our heroine is feeling down and out and she’s ready to give up
here’s what spirit grandma in Pocahontas
You have to stop them.
I can’t
Child well then they your dream.
I was wrong, grandmother willow
and here’s what spirit grandma says in Moana.
It’s not your fault.
I never should have put so much on your shoulders
if you are ready to go home I
Will be with you this is such a tiny difference
But it is so telling to me because it tells me that the filmmakers were thinking about what children would take from the exchange with
Moana in Pocahontas spirit grandma tells her that she’s obligated to fix the mess that other people made but in moaña
Spirit grandma concedes that it wasn’t fair for her to put that
Responsibility on a literal child and rather than pushing moana to fulfill her destiny
She reassures her that her family loves and supports her no matter what she decides she loves
people
This is indicative of how taking into consideration
the
feelings of your audience in this case of children can actually help make the story stronger mallanna’s moment is stronger than
Pocahontas is because it is motivated by her character growth. We’re in Pocahontas. It’s her remembering this dream. She had at the beginning. It’s
Dream I was right for Moana
It comes not from kompis ex machina, but from a place of love and support creating a much more iconic moment than Pocahontas ever got
And I don’t think would have happened if the filmmakers hadn’t looked at the scene in Pocahontas and thought oh
Wait this has already been done, and it was kind of week the first time we can do better
Moana is far from perfect
but I think the
Ambivalence of the criticism it received is telling it tells us that Disney and by extension all of us has a long way to go
But the Disney has learned some from the mistakes of its past.
the best advice I have ever given to students who have studied under me has been just this
educate yourself
here, educate yourself!
What you love most about cinema, but get you called a movie snob
the language can be subtle and poetic
but not all people care about that like Mary Alice or Jim Bob
to be safe we use a visual dialectic
Water is the metaphor
water is the metaphor
I’m pure and free water is the metaphor
I’m like the sea, I’m wild and I’m deep. I’ve got a spree swimming through my guts and gore. Water is the metaphor
for me
That describes me

100 thoughts on “Pocahontas Was a Mistake, and Here’s Why!”

  1. The only good thing Pocahontas really ever gave anyone was little brown girls having a brown "princess figure" to see in media, and the movie's flaws almost completely outweigh that one good thing.

  2. Ironically that Bollywood film appropriating american culture in the early 2000s is WAY MORE COLORFUL than american fashion was at that time. Looks like 2019 USA instead lol

  3. Speaking of misunderstanding or misrepresenting other cultures… @13:55 is the most American pronunciation of "Toronto" (pronounced: Chronnah) I've ever heard 🙂

  4. Check out how John Radcliffe died and tell me who the bad guys are. History is intensely more complicated than we think.

  5. I get the comparison of Moana and Pocahontas, but the villain in Moana is internal and her family's views while Pocahontas is an external group of people.

  6. But can we agree that “Colors of the Wind” needs to be heard by everyone? The message of the song brings tears to my eyes every time.

  7. White girls growing up:
    "I wish they would put more princesses from different cultures in Disney movies"

    White girls now:
    "That's cultural appropriation"

  8. Uhm Mexico didn't "appropriate German culture", they had a Habsburg emperor and German-speaking immigrants…

  9. I mostly agree with these points. However as a woman of color, it was so nessiccarry to see myself in media growing up.

  10. Whoa, is Moana the Disney remake of Pocahontas? The only remake that isnt live action and is actually better than the original???? Its beautiful!

  11. You know, at the beginning I was with you. Once you started to say that Disney shouldn't make movies about indigenous people I was rubbed the wrong way. If you believe that it is not a good thing for indigenous people to acquire representation through a huge company like Disney, EVEN THOUGH they hired real indigenous people and did all the necessary research with Moana, then I have do disagree. Pocahontas had many questionable qualities and scenes, but saying Pocahontas "moves animalistically" comes off as straight up racist. I never noticed that and do not see it. The fact that you do is strange.

  12. You mean cultural appropriation when done in a respectful and ultimately harmless way isnt bad thing? But that would be rational! Lol

  13. Despite many good points your essay has rot in its core. You maintain a condescending 'noble savage' and 'other' mentality towards the 'natives'; just as Disney (and everyone really) does. As a 'white european', you are, and have ALWAYS been, a noble savage and a native, just like everyone else. Before 'Rome, etcetera', everyone, shat in the forest, couldn't read, died young, never saw a movie or read a book, never had a shower and had to stay cheerful with the three great joys of human life: eating meat, sitting around a fire getting drunk (PLEASE!) and inventing religion and other ways of pretending that none of this shit was real. All of us have spent all of our multiple lives working to get out of the fucking forest. Please do not pretend that ANYONE wants to go back to that crap. Pass me another rat on a scewer. yum yum. You probably cant really rate sex as a net positive, since childbirth, envy, hatred etc etc. But hey, this comment aint perfect neither.

  14. Both instances of the male characters being disrespectful in the begining are shown to be earned because the main character overestimates herself in both instances meaning they would feel disrespected by anyone not showing more respect than diserved.

  15. Doesn't fit the use of the word "mistake" that I can find in any dictionary… A mistake means it was unintentional

  16. Oh, get ready for multiple Avatars. Jim Cameron is "giving" us them whether we want them or not. It is going to be insufferable.

  17. I didn't expect you to come at Kal Ho Na Ho like that… Like all I can think is "Stop that! Don't do that! I will protect Shah Rukh Khan and his oversized nose till my dying breath!"

  18. They're remaking Pocahontas I'm sure and I think there's a lot that can be fixed… I see a lot of good artistically in the original so this might be the first live-action Disney remake which isn't a misstep. Maybe. At least Mulan looks set to be more based in Chinese history and the original legend of Mulan.

  19. Вроде бы обзор на мультфильм для детей, но смотриш на очередную правду=истину кино от бэдкомедиана, где киностудии(спасибо что не фонд кино) впихивают актёров, профессоров истории и активистов, чтобы сказать "да-да, у нас лучший мультфильм.возьми своих детей и сходи в кино, а после купи игрушку, свози в Диснейленд и слушай тупые песни про обретения себя" + запах подгоревшей жопы от Культаса

  20. So visual displays of a Ojibway or Cree beliefs is now "Native American" (Insult of its own) stereotypical? Do you even HEAR yourself when you talk?

  21. Excellent video and explanation about what is cultural appropiation and why is neutral and so blurry draw lines about the subject.
    …Even that, nostalgia is powerful. I didn't know that Pocahontas went so terrible on the critics on its time, only thing I know is that I loved the movie and still do, but hey, yeah, it's really historically inacurate.

  22. Ok except it wasn't the US government that anexed Hawaii (or at least not directly) the government of Hawaii was basically coherced (read threatened) into becoming a state by the Dole company in order to avoid tarifs on on pineapple exports. Basically the country had already been taken over by a corporate coup before being blackmailed into joining the union (the US was entirely complacent in this so I'm in no way saying they were the good guys).

    That does put the popularity of Dole whip at Disney world into a rather sinister light though doesn't it?

  23. :*( Always loved Pocahontas. She reminded me of my mother: a strong-headed "poc." Why can't they leave classics alone? WOW

  24. Im very curious how the legacy of colonialism is baked into the culture of mainland china. Unless we redefine every conflict ever (wars between dynasties and clans of the same region aswell) as "colonialism".
    But hey, if you dont do research and just claim something to be wrong (like the Mulan topic), then sometimes you are bound to make statements that wont hold themselfs when faced against reality.

    But what did i expect, Black Panther was hyped as a good film, even tho it shits on african culture.

  25. ok so I see a lot of hateful trolls have started to swam the review replies lately and why? like, this video is several years old already…

    Looks like the altreich trolls got their feathers ruffled – that or it's just their random 'hay lets pick someone to hate on' swam attacks on anyone and anything that isn't white male centric.

  26. Moana was a mistake, hate it, hate the Rock. Toy Story 4 was good, The Goofy Movie is great, Shrek 3 is good and if you disagree with any of these you a buster ass foo

  27. Everyone says they want representation but as soon as someone tries and actually does a good job (like Moana) everyone is outraged. What are these producers supposed to do?

  28. at 7:30 she says: "Disney was experiencing a creative STIMMYING…" That word is mispronounced. She's using a short letter i sound, like saying the word "Jimmy." The correct pronunciation is with a long letter i sound, like "sty" or "style," and it's spelled STYMIEING (if you want to look it up). It means: to present an obstacle to, stand in the way of. This comment is strictly for clarification–it's not an attack on this woman, whose analysis seems spot on.

  29. There's so many valid counters to this that it would literally be a video twice as long….but the first being that it was completely forgotten that these films were created to be understood by CHILDREN. There are so many cultural complexities that you cannot portray that would be appropriate for children, point blank.

  30. My God… you have Hollywood on one end pleading for greater diversity and in the other hand deriding studios for cultural appropriation!! Pick a lane for Goodness sake!

  31. I'm freaking out because you sound like how I imagine Lindsay Weir from Freaks and Geeks would sound like when she got older

  32. Probably the best way to deal with cultural appropriation and telling appropriate stories about non-white people would be to break up pop culture giants like Disney and get more non-white people to the top in entertainment companies to develop and sell stories about their communities WITHOUT white people's involvement.

  33. Say it with me: JUST BECAUSE IT'S MADE BY WHITE PEOPLE DOESN'T MEAN IT CAN'T BE A POC MOVIE!!!!

    And Moana is an example.

  34. I dnt agree with the general idea of this video. Granted we see a whole bunch of evils in the movie now but at the time ot wasnt as offensive as it was now (even including the reaction of some native americans at the time). To put it differently, in 20 years from now we're gng to point out a whole bunch of evils in the current generation of movies. Even the unoffensive ones. That said, i found pocohontas a fun and sweet movie.

  35. LISTEN as a half indian/half pakistani american i gotta come to the defense of slumdog millionaire, it freaking SLAPS i love that movie

  36. I don't think you realize how many more people would complain about the lack of cultural diversity if they stopped

  37. I have a Question. Have you ever ask a Child if it think that Pokahontas is Racist ore some kind of thing? Why we all can't see sutch Movies more with the Eyes of a Child. I'm sure that Disney never intendet to offend someone with ther Movies FOR CHILDREN!

  38. Funny thing was when I watched Mohana for the first time I kinda turned to my friend and said, "So…When are the imperialist foreigners showing up?"

  39. Bruh the idea that theres foreigners who are like 'irish culture is deep and beautiful and worth studying' makes me so happy like bruh

  40. being 3/4 ajachemem (orange county southern california tribe in san juan capistrano) it's nice to know people are starting to find out what happened to us. More people need to be educated on the differences between tribal cultures like our tribe being matriarchal and we didn't wear headdresses over here, we make baskets. What is sad is most people don't even know what real natives look like unless they themselves are native, for some reason we can point each other regardless of the region. They assume we all look like those in the movies and we are all darker skinned (not the case). you did a great job on this! maybe someone will learn something!

  41. When anglo-saxon thinks he was like french guy under king Louis XVI. This guy was so a liberty lover he said all the chefs of Indianamerican nations are brother of king and under god protection. He helped Benjamin Franklin to make America because he was the people be free and not under the money slavery. When the bankers came and asked France this guy Said you will only get my head never my heart.

  42. and some might argue "but a white story with brown people won't help to humanize brown people in front of racists assholes?" The answer is no, look at Trump after all those Disney stories. It is all about the buck, all about the dreadful vampire called Capitalism.

  43. And about your comment on cultural appropriation, even if you did a DNA test and you discover you are 100% Irish, it would stilly be cultural appropriation because your culture is USA's not Ireland's.

    I'm Mexican and i hate latinamerican-americans like mitú bullying actual Latin American publications on how we should use our identity, motherfuckers. I call that, Tacobelling. They said Vogue Mexico, which yes it is Vogue a foreign brand but the journalists are mexican, educated in Mexican Universities bashing them for saying a Spanish singer born in Catalonia is latina.

    This pisses me quite a lot, as well as the "latinx" word, hate it and will explain why.

    The word isn't latina/o, the word is latinamerican and is a compound word, a toponym of someone who is from America (the continent) & Latino. Because this thing is a triple pissing thing, ok, in América Latina we use the name América for the continent and US for the USA, because that is how it was called and how we have called it even before the 13 British colonies existed, so it really is quite annoying you have stolen the name America for your country. And this dudes from mitú, can't understand it, don't even see it, so they cut down the compound word they just call themselves latinos, influencing how general population in América Latina without education call themselves, they are taking advantage and don't even see it.

    And is pissing because the singer from Catalonia is latina but is not latinamerican and if you undo the composition you create a huge confusion, because the cradle of Latin culture in Europe, and they have been latinos for 2000 years, latinamericans have been latinos for 500+ years And they don't even know this and this goes against the latin culture because we care about our history, every teacher even from the purest schools will tell their students "we have to know our history to know where we have been so we can know where we are going" Also frustrates me because they don't even know who are the other latinos, like the Africa latina, Portugal & France had their colonies there in Africa and those people are also latinos, even if they don't claim the identity, they are Latinos by historical facts. So to me the latinamerican-americans ignoring all of this historical facts is they being gringos not latinos.

    And latino is not a homogeneous culture, non culture emerged from colonialism or imperialism is, there is always a underlaying base culture that mixes with the culture of the empire.

    so why latinamerican-american is the right term as i said latinamerican is the right term even if its very long, this first -american means of the american continent, and the second -american is for the country USA, so Latinamerican-american is an American citizen from Latin America.

  44. As a woc the extra sexualization we face kinda makes me uncomfortable tbh :/ like I'm made fun of for being flat and everyone who comes as a tourist always says "where are her curves? Latinas have curves." They think I don't understand their english but i do and I'm fed up with it.

  45. You say we need to do better like 10 times in this video, wtf are you talking about, the "indigenous people" couldn't be portrayed any better, & the white people couldn't be portrayed any worse, they're all bad but one, who still needs to learn a lesson. It is stereotypical nonsense but in the opposite way your suggesting. Like you complain when they're having fun & dancing playing with coconuts, that's a problem to you but you think they're religious portrayal is fine? How tragic they lost Hawaii, so instead of human sacrifices in the name of they're volcano/fish/weather gods we have a theme park & it's a tourist destination, how terrible!

  46. This essay was translated for so many languages. Remembers me of the Netflix originals. Dont know if this is coincidence. Amazing anyway

  47. I don't like Pocahontas for some of the same reasons I don't like Hercules, they were both wrong. Confusing children forever with inaccuracy!!! I don't think they have learned!!

  48. I did not always know Pocahontas was innacurate, I learned of this over the years.
    The thing is, when you're brown and you're shown Beauty and the Beast, Cinderalla, Snow White… Well that movie leaves an impact.

  49. I like how you bring up Russell Means just to discredit his viewpoint when he still has a ton of followers and people who agree with him. Lololol the one native voice you choose and it's not good enough……………………. hmmm

  50. The 'can't we all just get along?' narrative is an objectively good narrative for children to hear. The "good white guy" fighting the "bad white guys" is the protagonist. He's there to show what one should do. It's not a great representative of true American history and it's not going to teach kids the complexities of race relations but it's for little KIDS. Everybody learns the truth about Pocahontas in their 7th grade social studies class, at an appropriate time, it's just not that big of a deal.
    Plus Pocahontas is like the hottest disney princess. If that's not inspirational, I don't know what is!

  51. Hard part about 'appropriation' is the fact no matter how fucking hard you try to be respectful, peoples till are going to cry out that you aren't 'doing it right'. I'm looking mostly at SJW's.
    They often get the two ideas of
    Appropriation
    and
    Exchange
    Mixed up. Everything is, or will be, a bastard child of what was the original.

    On another note, some people, are are part of said culture, can still like the movie. I mean, I crack up each time I watch an anime that portrays American like culture, it makes me laugh at how they think we are, and some of it is sadly correct lol.
    If you want to see a good anime that shows Stereotypes and teaches something, I highly recommend Hetalia.

  52. I find it weird that Americans still call Native Americans “Indians”

    In Canada that’s becoming taboo (at least among younger people)

    In my experience, if you say it around younger people you’ll probably get some weird looks and the room will become tense.

  53. PSA: Something being good in terms of entertainment, art, etc. does not mean that it is morally good or that it can't be harmful. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy it, either, (unless your enjoyment directly supports the harmful side – like if you financially support an artist that repeatedly makes sexist art) but you should at least be aware of the problematic aspects

  54. That Indian movie wasn’t doing cultural appropriation though. If the movie is allegedly taking place in NYC, why wouldn’t he depict regular american life, with breakdancers and negro spirituals? Doesn’t it make it more authentic and truthful? If you had the movie taking place in India and the whole thing commoditized, then yes it could be qualified of negative CA.

  55. I love thes way your analysis is more nuanced than "this good, this bad". And so well scripted and produced.
    I'm not even a film fan. Just interested in honest discussions of social issues.
    Subscribed.

  56. I really like your analysis of these matters but can't shake the feeling that every time some stupid entertainment medium tries being enjoyable it has to thread a thin line between being HEROES OF JUSTICE and LITERALLY HITLER.
    Yes, colonialism happened and it wasn't nice, but asking every aspect of life to be guilt ridden and apology filled to make sure nobody gets insulted or hurt (which is pretty much impossible) was hilarious at first but very destructive in the long run. You will never fix colonialism, it happened and as far as I see humanity became somewhat better than that since.
    And no, I'm not a citizen of some historically colonial superpower, I just think that harassing people for what their long gone ancestors did in the past is stupid and keeps the hatred alive and that's the only thing the anti-cultural appropriation squad has achieved so far.

  57. I made it 5 whole minutes before I actually realized this was a stupid bitch picking apart 90s idiocy. It was the 90s ya know when shit like the power rangers was the number one watched show on tv? Of course it’s offensive now! This is 2019 where our youth think their shit don’t stink just like we didn’t in the 90s we were so progressive then so what’s happened now? Now we are vilified for not doing enough. Fucking joke.

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