Throughout American culture, racism and stereotypes have been prevalent, yet the Disney movie Pocahontas is an attempt to better understand racial intolerance towards Native Americans. Though the movie is not completely historically accurate, the context of it portrays a more truthful story of the first European and Native American encounters which were mostly hostile ones, contrary to the modern American belief of “Thanksgiving” like events. However, there were attempts of understanding each other’s cultures and beliefs which can be displayed in the Disney movie through the interactions of characters, Captain John Smith and Pocahontas.
While symbolism is present throughout the movie, Disney uses combinations of music, colors, and lighting along with metaphorical character interaction, to play on viewers emotions in order to better understand the struggles and hardships felt by both Europeans and Native Americans during their early encounters. The history between Native Americans and Europeans has not always been a positive one. As seen in the movie the British settlers voyage off towards the new world in search of large amounts of gold, but in reality the British desired the vast amounts of “untouched” land.
Since most children do not understand the value of land, Disney uses the rewards of gold and riches in order to explain the British motives for coming to the Americas to the children audience. When the British arrive in the movie they are shown eager to seek to destroy anything that comes in their path that is not valuable, with minimal care for the land or the people that inhabit it, those being the Native Americans. During these scenes there are very dark colors and lights along with intense music to show the British mindset during these times. This is where the difference between the two cultures seems to become prevalent.
The Europeans were at a point in their culture where conquering and colonizing is all they desired, and natives were mere obstacles in their way. They used destructive ways and tactics to scare the Native American people. While the British were on a path of destruction, the Native Americans are shown living a very peaceful and spiritual life, not only living off the land but using it to its full capacity. This harmonious relationship between Natives and the land is shown during the “Colors of the Wind” scene where Pocahontas takes John Smith on a romantic and spiritual ourney of the land while singing a very passionate song describing the Natives relationship with nature.
The use of a very colorful but yet organic spectrum of colors and lights along with the peaceful and loving music serve to help convey the Natives beliefs to the audience. This also shows how the Natives lived with nature and felt that they are no more important to it than the plants and organisms that also lived there. The native’s efficient use of the land and its resources are the reason why the land in the Americas looked untouched to the European settlers.
These two extremely different views of life along with a communication barrier (which is partially displayed in the movie) are the reason why it was so difficult for the two sides to lived The movie attempts to ease racial tensions by presenting both main characters in an omniscient light. When John Smith (who can be seen as a metaphor for European beliefs at the time) and Pocahontas (who can be seen as representation of the native’s beliefs and lifestyle) first encounter one another they do not know what to think.
When she sees him behind the waterfall she slowly moves towards him being as precautious as possible knowing that they come from very different background. As the movie goes on you see them slowly start to fall in love with each which shows an understanding of each other and their different beliefs and morals, which would allow for a possibility of a peaceful coexistence of both sides. The love between John Smith and Pocahontas invokes the viewer to wonder what it would be like presently if Europeans and Native Americans were welcoming of each other instead of hostile.
However, this fantasy is inevitably destroyed by reality, when the extremes on both sides clash in violence and death is the result. This plays on the viewer’s emotions creating a hatred towards both extremes for destroying something that could have been beautiful. By doing this Disney is able to manipulate the audience’s emotions by making them feel regretful for what had happened in the past. Disney’s attempt to help youth understand the basic Native American culture and their morals by making the movie Pocahontas, in my opinion was a success.
Although it’s not entirely historically accurate the movie is able to get a broad sense of how events unfolded during early European-Native American encounters to its intended audience of children. By using different colors, music, and lighting in combination with the metaphorical character interaction, Disney is able to take it a step further than just understanding what happened, by leaving the viewer with a sense of sorrow toward the past and dreaming about what could have been.