Pocahontas

Pocahontas - Marc Rumilly World Cultures: Empires and...

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Marc Rumilly World Cultures: Empires and Political Imagination Karen Weber Using Colonialism to take down Colonialism “Their whole disgusting race is like a curse, their skin's a hellish red they're only good when dead”. To hear that the preceding words come straight out of a Disney film may not come as a surprise to many; the Disney Corporation has a long history of being accused of racism in movies, and there are certainly enough examples in existence to support such an argument. “Peter pan”, Disney’s 1953 cartoon of the classic tale, features bright red, misshapen Native American Indians, who either speak in single syllables (i.e., “Ug”) or in phrases such as “Hulu-hulu wala-wala”. More recently, in “Aladdin” (1992), the title character sings of his Islamic homeland with the line “Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face…it’s barbaric, but hey it’s home!” In “Pocahontas”, Disney’s 1995 film about the Native American princess and her relationship with American colonizer John Smith, the racial slurs and comments take a new turn for the media empire—they are only spoken by someone about another group; in other words, there is no self-incrimination. Disney’s version of the events that took place in Jamestown in 1607 is a very elaborated and stretched tale of a history of conflict between colonial settlers of England’s empire and the native Indians of the Powhatan tribe. Some of the factors that contribute to the filmmakers’ imagination of history are their intended audience, the imagination of the Disney Corporation’s own history (in of itself and concerning past world colonial history), and relating to this, the establishment and growth of the corporation as an empire itself, in the media world. In its simplest form, the plot of “Pocahontas” can be described as a free-spirited, earth-loving young (approximately 20) Indian princess whose heart is won over by an American colonist. Delving a bit deeper, the tale is actually the age-old Romeo and Juliet story, which in literary, theatrical, and cinematic landscapes, has been transplanted into almost every conceivable setting: Side A and Side B don’t get along and are fighting each other; important person from A falls in love with important person from B; the rivalry strengthens; the love strengthens; the love is discovered; someone important, but without whom we can still live, ceases to do so (is killed); both sides realize their mistakes and decide to live in peace, and everyone (except the dead one) lives
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happily ever after. “Happily ever after” is a term usually reserved for fairytales; and in this case, it is fair to say that “Pocahontas” is a “fairytale-ization”, so to speak, of actual historical events. In fact, it is quite historically inaccurate. The Disney version of the story is as follows: in 1607, a ship arrives from England in what later becomes Virginia. The group of settlers, led by Captain Ratcliffe (who also proclaims himself governor of their
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This note was uploaded on 04/27/2008 for the course MAP Quantitati taught by Professor Burbank/cooper during the Fall '07 term at NYU.

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Pocahontas - Marc Rumilly World Cultures: Empires and...

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