Much of the kerfuffle surrounding Pocahontas seems to be based around the cultural depiction of the Native Indians in the 1995 feature film. I don’t know as much as I would like about Native American culture, and I think it would be insensitive of me to comment otherwise.
As a woman, Pocahontas is perhaps one of the physically toughest princesses. She runs about the forest, dives into streams, rows in a canoe. Her state of physical independence is much greater that those we have seen in the past. Like Belle, she knows her own mind, though of course being 18, it still confuses her. At the end of the film, she chooses to stay with her people instead of slavishly follow the injured John Smith back home. It’s an act of some significance in Disney Princess canon.
Of course she’s an idealistic version of a real person. I doubt the real Pocahontas had hair that perfect or a waist that tiny. She’s a glammed up Hollywood version for sure, but let us remember that these are Disney characters and no matter how much impact they have on us, it never claimed to be an accurate documentary. In terms of teaching about the autonomy and strength little girls can have, Pocahontas is a step in the right direction.
She also adds to Disney’s slowly growing roster of non-Caucasian princesses, and Disney’s (however feeble) attempt at Native American culture is reflective to that. Here there are more contentious points to raise, however. In recent polls Pocahontas and Mulan both reach the bottom, with white princeses dominating the charts until one hits Jasmine and then Tiana further down the scale. This can be attributed to many things for sure, but such things I do notice: in terms of general Disney Princess exposure, both Mulan and Pocahontas come up short. Rapunzel, a relative newcomer to the Disney Princess game, can be seen on the tops of cakes in on T-Shirts with some of the more traditional girls like Cinderella and Ariel. Where are Pocahontas and Mulan?
Sure, that can be argued t if they aren’t popular in the first place, Disney isn’t going to spend time putting them on more general merchandise. But I think this is cyclical. If they aren’t exposed more in the first place, they won’t be remembered. Two or three of the girls which I sometimes argued by fans as being part of the Disney Princess pantheon are also ethnic in some way (Kida, Megara, Esmerelda) , and Disney have a responsibility to cater to a diverse international community, being an international brand.
I think Pocahontas is a great princess, even though she isn’t as ‘accurate’ as some people might like. The race and diversity argument is a long one which did not die down with Frozen and I doubt will when Moana is released. If anything, I hope this review spurs you into watching Pocahontas again, because I think she’s a great princess, even though she’s definitely not perfect.