Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ethnic Stereotypes within Disney's Pocahontas

Pocahontas, a film produced by Disney in 1995, tells the story of a young Native American woman in the 1600’s who falls in love with British colonizer, John Smith. The film is supposedly based off of real historical events, however, the film’s depiction of these events is extremely inaccurate, and reinforces a broader trend of ethnic stereotypes toward Native American people.

Many other films and stories today contribute to the stereotypes of Native American people in the 1600’s, such as the DreamWorks production of Spirit, and the American Girl Doll “Kaya” series. Disney’s Pocahontas perpetuates these stereotypes while presenting a both conventional and comfortable, yet inaccurate, version of the early colonization of the Americas.

One example of the stereotypes depicted in Pocahontas is that all Native American people were “one with nature” and were entirely unsupportive of the manipulation of their environment. The movie’s iconic song “Colors of the Wind” is about how important it is to preserve nature: “How high will the sycamore grow? If you cut it down, then you'll never know.” However, prior to Columbus’s “discovery” of the Americas, the land was already thoroughly dominated by mankind-- much of the land had already been manipulated and changed by the people living in it in order to improve living conditions. For example, forests were cut down into plains in order to make hunting easier. Also within the film, the Native American tribe is portrayed as a small, nomadic group living in small huts in the wilderness. However, research has shown that the Native American people had actually developed large and highly advanced cities prior to European colonization.

Pocahontas is not the only work of culture that perpetuates racist stereotypes; these types of generalizations are made often throughout American culture, and it is important for them to be noticed in order to help pave the way towards a deeper understanding of the role that people of color play in American history.


  1. I like how you bring outside examples to back up your point. I've always just thought of this movie as another Disney movie and have never put much thought into the racist elements of the story. Thanks for bring that to light, and great job.

  2. You were very thorough, especially how you support your thesis of Disney reinforcing stereotypes with hard facts of Native American history. I also like how go one step further with how people of color in history won't be acknowledged the way they should be if these stereotypes are continuing to be enforced.