Tuesday, May 15, 2012

#33: Pocahontas? Puh-lease.

Pocahontas, 1995
watched April 29, 2012

As a self-proclaimed Disnerd, I have a pretty high threshold for unbelievability. Talking animals and magical creatures run rampant through these films. It's no question that I am very willing to suspend belief for the sake of a good story.

So despite the fact that Pocahontas features neither talking animals nor magical creatures, the movie really bothers me. Sure, there's the whole historically-inaccurate-there's-no-way-she-was-that-well-endowed thing. There was no romance between John Smith and her. And I'm pretty certain Governor Ratcliffe never wore that awful purple suit.

But I'm not even talking about that.

As an InterVarsity staff, I've become familiar with the "approaching differences diagram," which emphasizes that one must take an open, learning approach when encountering a culture different from one's own. And in Pocahontas, the clash between Pochahontas' native people and the ignorant Englishmen provides the core of the story. We're dealing with major cross cultural stuff.  

In light of all this, I absolutely cannot stand the way that Pocahontas learns to speak English by "listening to her heart." It makes me want to pull my hair out! (Though, that would probably be counterproductive as one of my new life goals is to have hair just like Pocahontas. I mean, it's gorgeous, really.)

I digress. This "listen to your heart" plot device (remember I warned us about this before?) says nothing about the hard, often awkward process it is to engage across cultures. We're not dealing with a fire-from-heaven-Holy-Spirit-anointing kind of situation where people miraculously speak other languages. No, this was a quick and dirty way to move the story along and I just can't get over it! Furthermore, there is little effort on the Englishman's part to learn Pocahontas' native tongue. What's that about?

This is worse than Tinkerbell's pantslessness.

Despite my harsh criticism, I will admit the film still sends a truthful message: ethnocentrism leads to deep prejudice and hatred, which can result in violence and destruction. The solution? Learn to appreciate and understand that which is different from you. The movie's one saving aspect, the beautifully animated and sung "Colors of the Wind," sums it up: "You think the only people who are people / are the people who look and think like you. / But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, / you'll learn things you never knew you never knew."

Pocahontas had a lot of potential, but it's overly serious and weepy (thank God for Meeko, Flit and Percy!), and it cuts some corners that I find unforgivable. Add to that some embarrassingly lame pickup lines from John Smith (voiced by Mel Gibson), and it's all over. I have high standards for these Renaissance films, and even with its gorgeous background landscapes, Pocahontas is by far my least favorite.

My recommendation? Listen to "Colors of the Wind" on repeat and you're probably good to go.


  1. no magical creatures...but what about your favorite talking grandma tree? ;)

  2. I really can't stand John Smith in this movie. He just reminds me of Prince Charming in Shrek 2.