Why "Pocahontas" (1995) is Probably My Favorite Disney Movie
Pocahontas is a Disney film that was released in 1995 to an inevitable rush of controversy.
I recall the incident with Vanessa Williams, as well as adults being angry that Pocahontas was shaped like a fashion model. Personally, even as a child I thought she was a step up from those chibi models like Princess Jasmine and Ariel, with their giant heads and minuscule waists.
Pocahontas at least looked like a real human being.
Given the fact that I've mocked the film in my other articles here, it probably comes as a surprise that I would announce Pocahontas to be my favorite Disney film, but it is.To the point that I had a Pocahontas backpack when I was nine that the kids at school mocked me for.
I still stand by my (lighthearted) criticisms of the film's absurd historical inaccuracies, but I also know that the point of this film wasn't to be historically accurate. In fact, being accurate would have given several children endless nightmares . . .
No, the point of the film was to teach children about racism and how overcoming it with love and tolerance is a choice we can all make very easily. We just have to want to.
If I Never Knew You
That was the message of this film, and nothing symbolizes it more than the interracial love between John Smith and Pocahontas.
Or at least, that was Disney's intention.
I'm not naive. I know that two people from different races shacking up isn't going to end racism. Otherwise, racism would have been over eons ago.
No, I'm simply pointing out that Disney was trying to make a film about anti-racism and used an interracial couple (sigh) to do it.
On a more personal note, I think the largest reason I loved Pocahontas so much was because she was the only Disney princess I could relate to.
When I was growing up, there was no black Disney princess, and even if Tiana from The Princess and the Frog had come out during the Disney Renaissance, I doubt I would have related to Tiana.
The reason being that I'm multiracial and thus, not as welcome or accepted by the black community. So how could I identify with Tiana, who is part of a community that has basically rejected me my entire life?
My father's side is half black and half Native American (I don't feel like mentioning which tribe), which is probably another reason why I might identify with Pocahontas more than Tiana. . . .I kinda of looked like her.
When I was a kid, I had really long hair. My skin is also close to Pocahontas' tone. These factors make her relatable to me, in the same way that little dark skin black girls probably find Tiana very relatable.
In the same way that white little girls could happily pretend to be Ariel or Sleeping Beauty or Rapunzel . . .I had Pocahontas.
There was also the fact that we had similar personalities.
"Pocahontas" was actually a nickname given the to real Pocohontas which meant "playful one." (Her real name was Matoaka.)
I was a very playful child, always sneaking up on people and splashing them and tickling them, knocking the back of their knees out with my knee, silly stuff like that.
I'm still like that. A person who dates me can expect some tickling matches every now and then, and if they go swimming with me, prepare to be splashed.
Then there was the fact that Pocahontas was so spiritual and connected to nature. I realize that this could be viewed as Native American stereotyping, but because I was the same way, I didn't see it that way.
Like Pocahontas, I was always running around, climbing trees, enjoying nature, playing with animals, and I believed that everything had a spirit.
Pocahontas had a wild, adventurous heart. She took the road less traveled by, and it was thrilling.
I saw myself in her. I was always exploring, and I always took the harder, more challenging paths because the easy paths were boring.
To see a Disney princess like me was . . . pretty great. I don't know how to describe it, and somehow, I doubt many people would understand.
Or maybe I feel that way because I still remember those (black) kids mocking me at school.
The animation in this film was also just so colorful and beautiful (like a gorgeous painting) that my sensitive, artist soul cries whenever I see it.
Like all Disney Renaissance films, the music in this film was also pretty phenomenal. I loved it. So much heart and energy went into this era of Disney.
My two favorite songs are probably "Just Around the River Bend" and "Colors of the Wind" but "Mine, Mine, Mine" is a great diddy as well.
As a side note, Radcliffe was another purple-swathed, feminine Disney villain, but I thought he made a pretty great adversary. It was nice to see the sneering racist gagged and packed off at the end of the film. It's just a shame that the sequel ruined the movie's perfect ending by having Radcliffe get off and John Smith exiled.
And of course, the movie's bittersweet ending is probably one of the best things about it.
Instead of a fairy tale ending, Pocahontas and John Smith part ways. Pocahontas chooses her people and her duty to them over her personal feelings, and since our choices show who we really are, it says a great deal about the loyalty she actually had to her own -- a loyalty that is questioned again and again throughout the film due to her love for John Smith and her rejection of Kocoum.
Pocahontas made the right choice for herself and her people. John Smith wasn't the center focus of her life and her decisions didn't revolve around him -- and that's the way it should be.
Because life isn't solely about romance and relationships can't always magically work out.
So that's why I love this Disney film the most. But even with all that being said, please, please don't let them make a live action version of it.
Maybe I shouldn't be so cynical, but I seriously doubt Disney could pull it off with any sort of sensitivity.
© 2019 Ash