Pocahantas was Disney’s first ethnic princess. A native American chief’s daughter, Pocahantas is a rebel and independent. Hers adds a different dimension to the typical Disney princess so far. First of all she is not white and second of all she is not as helpless as her counterparts. This is a nice and refreshing shift to what Disney was telling us for all those years. However one thing remains the same; there is a white man. Yet the twist is that he is the one who needs saving from her. Once again this is quite refreshing. Yet once one looks deeper, the underpinnings of patriarchy remain. Pocahantas is still subject to needing to marry some guy she does not want to and needing to adhere to her father’s rule.
One very interesting aspect about this movie is that there is no “happily ever after”. All the previous princesses end up with their prince and live a perfect life until the end of their days. Pocahantas, however, does not actually end up with John Smith. While “happily ever after” itself is problematic, why did Pocahantas not get hers? Now I really like that she gets to “keep” her independence and we assue she goes back to her normal life before John Smith ever arrived. Yet, it seems something is amiss. First of all, how come the ethnic girl does not end up with the guy? Is this Disney sending the message that interracial couples should not happen? I’d like to think not. But with Disney’s track record I would not be surprised. Secondly, isn’t it problematic to think that after the British come, don’t find their gold, and leave that Pocahantas’s life remains the same? Of course not. History has obviously shown that the Brits did not leave and in fact decimated the Native American populations with small pox.
I read an interesting article about disney princesses and found out that Pocahantas was not in fact marketed as part of the original disney princess line. She was considered a disney heroine. It was originally Cinderella, Jasmine, Snow, Belle, Ariel, and Sleeping Beauty. Is Disney saying that only ethnic girls could be independent/rebelious in some sense of preserving the white woman’s “purity” who embodies all the qualities of a perfect woman? Is Disney saying that only white women can be princesses and the rest are irrelevant? We’ll see with Mulan and Jasmine.