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“Pocahontas” by Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg Essay

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Updated: May 7th, 2019

The animated film Pocahontas (1995) is based on the topic of miscegenation by Walt Disney Company. The protagonist is an Indian girl who is welcomed and later married to an English settler. Pocahontas is, consequently, assimilated into the English culture, and as the legend goes, she was the first native Indian to become a Christian.

Pocahontas has been described as a good Indian by numerous studies; the 17th century writers celebrated her marriage as a success by Britons to civilize the natives in their colonial mission (Edwards 146). This paper seeks to look at the contribution of various Indians in the Pocahontas movie.

Further, the significance of the good and bad Indians to the story and to its ideas about Indians is going to be analyzed. This paper will negate the common misconception that native Indians were savages and the fact that they were not influenced by English settlers.

Pocahontas symbolizes a native protector of the whites in the Anglo-American culture. Her story suggests that she rescued Captain John Smith from the Indians, in essence, she rescued America and contributed to formation of a new nation.

Pocahontas has been described as a native who justified the positive impact of colonization of America. In addition, she symbolically redresses the America’s guilt in regards to the natives and continues suppression of the Native cultures. The mythic representation of Pocahontas as America’s Indian Princess not only depicts her as a good Indian in colonial America, but also it has a lasting cultural impact (Edwards 147).

Although the story is told to depict the colonial America, it is not entirely about colonization. It is a miscegenation story with a strong theme of racial diversity and multiculturalism. It depicts the good side of Indians and their transferred and changed understanding such issues as culture, gender and race.

Pocahontas is the first interracial and multi-ethnicity love story of America. Although the film prevented interracial mixing from happening, the body of Pocahontas is explicitly displayed as an animated figure which is visually multi-ethnic. The film associates the gender roles and cultural behaviors with racial characteristics (Edwards 147).

Pocahontas’s character has been used to depict racialized gender roles as a cultural mediator in the film. She is the embodiment of both races. Her character figure is eroticized, for instance, the animated shot where she stands on a cliff as the camera affectionately pans examining her body.

Her hair is blown by wind, and her face is turned up with closed eyes showing her as a beautiful woman. In the shot where Smith sees her for the first time, he aims his gun at her but is suddenly mesmerized by her beauty. Her black hair helps to reveal the legendary qualities of an Indian princess (Edwards 148).

Pocahontas’s beauty performs a significant gender role; she is the native sexual object of the white males from Europe which epitomizes her role. She takes the role of cultural mediator and educates the British settlers as well as the native Indians that the opposing culture is not a threat.

She works hard to demonstrate that the natives and the settlers can co-exist as friends and not enemies. As a good Indian, she welcomed the settlers and appreciated their positive contribution to the changing environment of the natives. To the Britons, she is a sign of racial and cultural assimilation which is important in the contemporary world.

She begins to change the negative misconception that was widely acknowledged by Britons about interracial marriages. Her story had the impact on changing the understanding of the European colonial ideology of miscegenation. Racial intermarriage has been used to build alliances for assimilation of natives in the colonial era (Edwards 148).

Pocahontas is the change that was imminent to native Indians and their culture. In some instances, she disobeys her father’s will to get married to a tribal leader, which her father considered to be her destiny. She falls in love with a European settler and contemplates marriage.

As a rescuer and a peace maker, she rescues Smith when he is captured and mediates the impending war. The message of cultural tolerance is communicated through Pocahontas in the movie. Other good Indians depicted in the film are Pocahontas’ mother and grandmother who encouraged her to continue her cultural mediation.

The grandmother Willow instructs her to become the peace maker while her mother’s spirit appears to bring harmony and assist Pocahontas to succeed (Edwards 149).

The spirit of Pocahontas’ mother represents the good Indians in the film. In the scene where she meets Smith for the first time, it is her mother who helps her to understand English. The climactic rescue scene shows the significant role of her mother as a peace maker.

As Powhatan is about to execute Smith with his club, Pocahontas comes in the way, and the spirit of her mother is heard urging his husband to listen to Pocahontas. Her spirit establishes a matrilineal culture of accountability for enforcing racial harmony and cultural peace. Pocahontas role and character in the film serve to change the general perception of the native Indians as savages.


Edwards, Leigh H. The United Colors of Pocahontas: Synthetic Miscegenation and Disney’s Multiculturalism, Columbus, Ohio: The Ohio State University Press, 2010. Print.

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