“Pocahontas”: a study of Disney’s approach to english colonialism
San José Montón, Leire
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Pocahontas is one of the most renowned animated films Disney has ever produced. The brave and adventurous spirit of Pocahontas has reached every Disney fan’s heart. Moreover, it was the first colored character the company had ever introduced as a protagonist in their films. Thus, at first glance, one can say Disney created a feminist and inclusive film. Yet, little attention has been paid to the manner in which historical events have been represented in the film and the hidden messages it might contain. This paper explores Disney’s approach to a historical passage through the analysis of the chronicle of events on the basis of the real history, the stereotypes that have been unconsciously implied, and the subliminal messages conveyed both in the script and character portrayals. The analysis shows various historical alterations regarding age or their physical depiction, which give way to a romantic affair between the Native American Pocahontas and the English Colonizer John Smith. In addition, numerous derogatory stereotypes can be identified which convey a disrespectful image of natives implying the classic uncivilized representation that this society has been given throughout centuries in the cinematic industry. These historical alterations and derogatory stereotypes result in an attempt of conveying a justification of English colonialism. This idea will be developed through the analysis of John Smith’s character and his relationship with the natives in comparison to the rest of the colonists, focusing particularly in Governor Ratcliffe. Moreover, we will analyze the character development of certain Native Americans under colonization circumstances, in this case of Kocoum and Chief Powhatan, which will bring to light Disney’s characterization of the Amerindian society. Through the study of the behavior development and the actions the different characters carry out, we will be shown who the real enemy of colonialism is in the eyes of Disney.