What can I say about Disney’s 33rd animated feature, the seventh Disney Princess film, and Disney’s first princess based on a historical figure rather than a fairy tale?
I was about eight years old when I first saw this film. I liked it – it had awesome music and a heroine that although I couldn’t identify with, I did admire. I saw it in the movie theatre with my dad and my older brother. My brother had asked my dad if we could go and see the movie ‘about the Indian.’ He meant The Indian In The Cupboard. He was pretty pissed off when we rocked up at the theatre and saw this instead. My poor dad.
Not Your Typical Princess
Let’s face it: Pocahontas isn’t really a princess. She doesn’t get to wear big poofy ball gowns and a tiara and marry a prince. She doesn’t sit around waiting to be rescued. And she sure as hell doesn’t have that slim girlish body: she’s undeniably woman-shaped. I mean, and I know this sounds quite pervy, but she has this magnificent bosom and bum. Quite frankly, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She’s an absolute babe! This has nothing to do with her skin colour or that fact that’s she’s Native American: in fact, her body shape is the most drastically different of all the princesses, excluding the non-whites. Jasmine’s costume emphasised her unhealthily tiny waist and bigger hips, while Mulan, our other non-white princess (I can’t comment on Tiana yet because I haven’t ever seen The Princess and the Frog) has her boyish figure emphasised in an attempt to disguise her femininity.
Pocahontas shows a love for life and adventure. The first time we meet her, she jumps off a cliff, which, according to SMeyer more than ten years later, is a pretty common pastime for Native Americans. #Imjustsayin. Later in the film, as she sings a song about choosing her own path, she decides on the one that is going to lead to adventure. Now, I don’t mean to rat out on one of the Renaissance princesses because let’s face it, these girls are the girls I grew up with: but at the end of the film, Pocahontas seems to have learned her lesson or something. She opts out of adventure and for the simple life of living with her village, rather than going with John back to England. That would have been a remarkable adventure in itself (and apparently was, as Disney did end up making a direct-to-video sequel).
Now that I’m older, I can appreciate Pocahontas for what she brings to the Disney Princess line up. It’s a lot of typical Princess attributes:
Spunk. Courage. Loyalty. Totally awesome songs (two Oscars, one for best original score and the other for best original song, ‘Colours of the Wind’ – yes I WILL spell ‘colour’ with a U because I am Australian, damn it!) Ahem. And a very healthy respect for nature.
Sometimes Pocahontas makes me feel bad for being white.
When I was watching The Little Mermaid with the fiancée, he asked me what kind of message was Ursula telling little girls when she said,
“The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore!
Yes on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word
And after all dear, what is idle babble for?
…It’s she who holds her tongue who gets her man.”
I managed to explain to him that even as a little girl, you just know Ursula is a bad guy, and bad guys are not to be trusted. It’s the same with Radcliffe’s racism towards the Native Americans. When Radcliffe says,
“What can you expect from filthy little heathens?
Their whole disgusting race is like a curse
Their skin’s a hellish red, they’re only good when dead…
They’re savages! Savages! Barely even human…
They’re not like you and me, which means they must be evil!”
Quite frankly it’s impossible to agree with him. After all, the Native Americans aren’t digging up the land, chopping down all the trees and shooting everything that moves. Pocahontas shows us that her tribe has a healthy respect for nature, which is just wonderful. The use of wind and water as a recurring themes in the film make you feel as if nature really is sentient – I am of course not referring to Grandmother Willow, who is a sentient tree.
Pocahontas’ Un-Happily Ever After Romance
The other thing about Pocahontas is that she’s the first ‘Princess’ (and I use the term loosely – Disney market her as one of the 10 but she’s not a princess, she’s the daughter of a chieftain) – who doesn’t end up marrying her ‘prince.’ The awesome thing about that is it’s a bittersweet ending. He sails off back to England for medical treatment, and she watches him (although I often yell at her to swim out to the ship) with the promise that she’d be happier making peace between the settlers and the natives in her homeland. She’s the first princess not to choose her man. How’s that for a role model! She even turned down local hunk Kocoum because he was too ‘serious’.
It’s a surprise ending, one that doesn’t end with a wedding or with the promise of one. That’s what makes Pocahontas different. She embodies the typical attributes of the Disney princesses while still managing her very own strong personality, storyline, and destiny.
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