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This long review/response to criticisms of Pocahontas was written for the rec.arts.disney newsgroup by 16-year-old Mark Wang, who did such a thorough job--especially of noting symbolism and humanitarian themes, character development--etc. that I'm putting it on this page as an inspiration to Indian youth as well as a chance for dialog.

Mark uses Golden Dragon as his net handle. Dragons are beautiful creatures of power, art, help, and danger in Chinese traditional cultural thought. But he uses a stylized ASCII Mickey Mouse as his own email signature logo, or clan totem. Mark may be one of the greatest Disney buffs of all time. He names his own "tribe" as Disnoid.

You might wish to tackle some of the points he discusses here. He welcomes "intelligent rebuttals", which is itself the sign of an intelligent mind. I'd intended not to see Pocahontas until I read what he had to say about it. It's a lot more interesting than anything else I've come across. Worth a couple days of migraines that attending a movie for me usually means.

Date: 1995/07/10
newsgroups: rec.arts.disney

It has occurred to me that some people just won't give Pocahontas a chance. Many of these people haven't seen Pocahontas, are just plain ignorant, or just need something to flame. So, in order to defend a great film from a death of a thousand flames, I decided to respond to the most major nitpicks in _one_ comprehensive rebuttal. I hope you find it useful. (BTW, in case you care, I have seen Pocahontas four times, and have decided that it is most likely number one and BatB (Beauty and the Beast) a close second.)

Nitpick #1: Duuh...the character development sucked...(Actually, some intelligent people nitpick this also...amazing)

This is one thing that really ticks me off. How can some people argue this point? Character development was very prominently displayed in the film. For example, John Smith had the predetermined notion that all Indians were "savages". In the film, he was known as an Indian fighter.

However, as the movie progressed, he discovered that his attitude was the wrong way to approach an entire culture. He learns understanding the other side is more important than assimilating. His entire attitude and way of life changes, and it is all clearly shown.

Pocahontas's character development was also shown in detail. In "Just Around the River Bend" her song, we learn that she has the choice of following the beating of the steady drum (marry Kocoum and follow tradition) or breaking forth and doing something extraordinary. We also learn that she is the adventure type and her spirit definitely embodies her nickname, Pocahontas which means, "Little Mischief". As all Disney heroines, she is wishing for something more than she presently has. Hence, she looks for adventure, "Just around the river bend" (often referred to here as JatRB).

This shows a large amount of who she is and what she feels. At the beginning of the movie, she was free of responsibilities and care. However, during the movie, it is clear that she sees a need to preserve the peace at all costs. Thus, she is given a purpose: To save the English, help her people, and help John Smith.

Meeko (her pet racoon) and Percy (Governor Ratcliffe's bulldog) are representative of the Indian and English culture. So, at the end, when they switched roles, it showed that they finally accepted each other's culture. Kocoum...well...died. Not much to say about him.

Powhatan learned John Smith's lesson: Better peace than war. Nakoma remained a good best friend until the end...Ratcliffe's character was shown in-depth (greedy, dominating, dangerous) and (thankfully) didn't change at all.

Nitpick #2: Pocahontas was too short!

If it can get the point of the movie across and do it effectively, it doesn't NEED to be a long movie. I, along with the audience in all four showings, was completely absorbed in the story, and left with a satisfied feeling. It wasn't until someone told me did I notice that the length wasn't very long. If it's a good and short movie, it's probably better than a long and drawn out movie.

Nitpick #3: It was too formulatic/It wasn't enough like other Disney movies!

Huh? When faced with totally conflicting criticism, it's a sign that both can't be right, and most likely none are. Disney does something old, response: "It was just like all other Disney movies!" (Which isn't a bad thing)

Disney does something new, "It wasn't enough like other Disney movies!" I think that Pocahontas was a correct blend of something old, (Love story) and something new (Historical twist, multi-cultural understanding). To those who don't agree, pick one argument and stick with it! :)

Nitpick #4: It lacked symbolisms and other meaningful stuff! (The story is too shallow!) Actually, I've heard this quite a lot.

Anyone who has seen Pokie enough times knows that this is totally false. As mentioned before, when the term, "Steady as the Beating Drum" is used, it represents Indian tradition, or how things have always been. Thus, the lyrics,

       "O Great Spirit, hear our song
        Help us keep the ancient ways
        Keep the sacred fire strong
        Walk in balance all our days
        Seasons go and seasons come,
        Steady as the beating drum
        Plum to seed to bud to plum
        (Hega hega ya-hi-ye hega)
        Steady as the beating drum"  

It never ceases to amaze me that people actually miss this. This contrasts totally with Pocahontas's non-traditional view of excitement at what's "Just around the river bend" wishfulness and how she breaks from her society as she wishes for something new, rather than a traditional life. The conflict between the two is quite riveting.

"But father, I think my dream is pointing me down another path!"

Another huge symbolism is the wind. The wind represents a combination of Pocahontas's and her mother's spirit. This is shown when the wind blows towards Pocahontas in the beginning as she looks down at Nakoma. Kekata: "She has her mother's spirit: She goes wherever the WIND takes her."

The wind was a symbol of peace and coexistence. This was shown in the way it bridged the language barrier between JS and Pokie. You'll notice the wind billowing when they hold hands, along with Grandmother Willow singing, "Listen with your heart, you will UNDERSTAND." Yes, the wind is more than just a pretty optical effect they used to make the movie look nicer. ALSO, when Powhatan was burning with rage and about to kill JS, when Pocahontas appealed to him, the wind blew towards him. The spirit of coexistence soothed his soul.

Thus, it can be shown that Pocahontas's mother was a peaceful woman. (Powhatan: "Whenever the wind blows, I can feel your mother's presence") And in the end,when John Smith left Pocahontas Pocahontas's mother's spirit, helps fill the sails to speed his way home, with Pocahontas using the INDIAN (important symbol) way of saying goodbye: Anon. Thus, the wind is the pacifying entity in the movie, the spirit of multi-culturalism, and an important symbol in the movie.

Nitpick #5: Ratcliffe wasn't a good villain!

I thoroughly disagree. Unlike the other settlers who were motivated by mostly ignorance, he remained thoroughly evil throughout the film. If you don't believe me, (ROGER EBERT!) watch the film more careful- ly.

"We will eliminate these savages"" <--evil

"This is my land! I can do whatever I want!" <- -evil

"Whoever looks at a savage without killing him on sight will be tried for treason, and HANGED!" <--evil

"I'd help you to dig, boys, but I've got this crick in me spine." (Mine, mine mine) hehe

"They're skin's a hellish red, they're only good when dead, they're vermin, as I said, and worse!"" (savages, pt.1) EVIL!!!

Yes, he was motivated by greed, but so was Jafar. (He wanted to be sultan) So was Gaston. (He coveted Belle) So was Scar. (He wanted to be king)

He was CLEARLY a bad guy, not just a misinformed good guy.

Nitpick #6: The animation wasn't very good! (Rarely heard nit- pick)

If you say this, people will say you haven't seen the film. (which is probably true!) My advice to you it!

Nitpick #7: The songs were too complex!

Yes, the songs were much more complex (I.e. JatRB) than other films, (BatB). Does that mean that they're bad? Of course not! Perhaps it was a bad move to release Colors of the Wind with the TLK (The Lion King) video, because that's like divulging your trump card. Bonk the people at Disney Marketing.

However, songs like JatRB really gave a "flowing" feel to her personality. It sounds "like a river" which is quite fitting. So, yes, the songs are complex, but are WONDERFUL. BTW, Vanessa Williams sucks. Judy Kuhn will rule forever.

(Opinion: I think that the instrumental was much better done in Pokie than TLK (The Lion King). They convey so much emotion (Pocahontas's theme song) and seems so much more expressive. (TLK FANS: FLAMETHROWERS OFF! I loved TLK, TLK's soundtrack, and Rhythms of the Pridelands. I just like Pocahontas's`better. Hats off to Alan Menken, my condolences to Hans Zimmer.))

Kind of fitting under this category was lack of a love song. Yes, I agree with this one. However, this CAN BE FIXED! Send your vote in to Eisner's office (posted previously on RAD). Let's hear "If I Never Knew you" the way it was meant to be heard!

Nitpick #8: Historical inaccuracy! (BIG NITPICK!!!)

My advice to you is: Take Pocahontas with a grain of salt. It was not meant to be FACT. In fact, the movie poster says: "An American Legend Comes to Life" Note the word LEGEND. Some people think that Pocahontas is corrupting the minds of our young kids into little zombies. HOWEVER, by being not historically accurate, it may motivate kids to find out the real story of Pocahontas, thus having a positive influence.

Yes, she was 12, yes JS was 30 or 40. Yes, if this were a love story in real life, it would be material worthy of those "interesting" specialized newsgroups for pedophiles. Yes, they probably weren't in love. However, as previously noted by other people, little girls wore NO CLOTHING in that time period. So, if it were true, it wouldn't be a family film. It's just a movie, folks, not a textbook.

Compared with other movies with Indians, it's actually much better. It's for ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY, and if you want to watch a movie for historical content only, my advice is to write to your local PBS affiliate and order their entire list of documentaries on WWII. Do not watch Pocahontas for a` history lesson. What are you doing in the movie theatre if you wanted something other than entertainment, hmm?

Nitpick #9: It lacked the magic of TLK! (Listen up San Jose Mercury News)

Yes, Pocahontas did not have a wildebeast stampede in the middle of Virginia. However, the magic of a great Disney film is in there if you actually make an attempt to look. For example, not many people can watch Savages, Part 2 and be totally unaffected by the powerful images. When JS and Pocahontas first hold hands, and the wind blows the sparkles in a circle around them, that's Disney Magic! Ditto with all "wind" sequences. Another nice Disney touch that was added that wasn't there before was Pocahontas's hair. It flowed smoothly and naturally, and appeared totally real. Now, THAT is art! They tried new panoramic angles (SatBD--Steady as the Beating Drum). Yet the romantic Beauty and the Beast/Aladdin feel was there.

At first, there was an animosity between JS and Pocahontas when JS called her people savages. Soon, when she realized that he was learning, her opinion changed. Remember in BatB (Beauty and the Beast), her (Belle's, that heroine's) first impulse was revulsion. However, as time went on, she realized that Beast was trying to learn. Then, Belle's opinion changed. The sweeping vistas and natural beauty of the film were spectacular. It tried to send a message (cultural tolerance, anti-oppression).

Yes, TLK (the Lion King) was a very good film but when I try to think of sent messages, I'm at a loss for words. Perhaps responsibility, but that was subtlely played.

In short, Pocahontas had the beauty and great animation of a wonderful film. The "magic" was definitely there.

Yes, Pocahontas was knocked out of #1 by Apollo 13. This was probably due to VERY poor marketing by Disney. They got all the merchandise ready, they got the promotions ready, they got HUGE Central Park premiere ready, but they neglected one part: The TV ads. I've never seen so many Power Ranger ads, so many Batman ads, so many Apollo 13 ads. Yet, Pocahontas's ads were noticably sparse. On top of the fact that they were hard to come by, the ads STUNK. Why were they playing that song from "Angels in the Outfield"?

Why were they playing "Belle's theme" (from Beauty and the Beast)? What were they trying to say?????

That Pocahontas's music wasn't good enough? What happened to JatRB (Just around the River Bend)? What happened to CotW (Color of the Wind)? What happened to ads that acclaimed what the critics said?

Recently, the ONLY TV ads that relate to Pocahontas is Burger King. When Disney's marketing relies on a fast food restaurant to promote their movie, it's time to fire bad ones and hire new ones. If I just had some raw footage of Pocahontas, I could have done some capturing, editing, and output a great preview. (Or at least better than the one's shown).

Pocahontas had phenomenol potential, but it was totally undermined by Disney. In fact, a couple days ago, I was at a friend's house who had a little sister. I asked her if she saw Pocahontas and she stared at me blankly. <sigh>

I hope you have found this rebuttal to be useful and insightful. Intelligent rebuttals to my rebuttal are welcome, flames deleted and ignored. Thank you for reading this...I worked hard to make it!


()_()  Marc Wang   Age: 16  Disnoid and proud of it!
 (_)    Pocahontas will live forever in my heart!!!!!
"Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?"
"Que que na-to-ra, You will understand.  Listen with your heart."

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Page prepared by Paula Giese. Copyright 1995 Mark Wang

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 21, 1996 - 5:49:01 PM