she pulled off the feminist agenda of the Disney Renaissance the best: She wasn't reckless or selfish like Ariel, she wasn't pretentious like Belle (the whole "reads books" thing has been discussed at length by Disney fans as a bit overrated—not to mention, Belle is more of a "goody-goody"/"PC" feminist character if you think about it: she's barely presented with any flaws!). Jasmine was just a whiner (I can't stand her—she was one of the worst feminist examples of that Disney era). Esmeralda, as we discussed here, is just too over-the-top and shrill in some ways—they tried way too had to make her "tough". Megara always seemed like the cousin once removed of Esmeralda in that sense too—although I like her overall, in the context of the Disney Renaissance female leads, she was overkill at that point haha! And then we have Mulan, whom I do like. But like Belle: is overrated for her feminist "progressiveness".
That is a very good point. She's arguably the only Disney princess who doesn't totally contradict her feminist qualities in one way or another. Ariel is strong-willed and free-spirited, but, like you said, also irresponsible and the only modern DP to fall in love with a guy she's never even met; Belle sacrifices some of her kindness in the name of being a supposed intellectual (even though we're not supposed to think that and it just comes off that way with her "Little people" attitude. That's what makes it even more annoying), and that's not even getting into whether her relationship with the beast has anti-feminist undertones, which many believe; Jasmine is strong and unconventional, but still shown as completely naive (though I guess you can't help that if you've never left the palace walls your entire life) and is a bit of a feisty/sexy caricature like Esmeralda; Mulan literally had to pretend to be a man to get anything honorable done; and yeah, Meg is another character I like, but who has some pretty serious writing flaws -- too one-dimensionally fearless and tough (I mean, she repeatedly talked back to the devil, for crying out loud), as well as a femme fatale who didn't give a crap about Hercules even though he was smitten with her from day one (I hate that sexist trope). But I do like that, unlike Esmeralda, she's at least shown to be vulnerable later on.
Pocahontas may have been PC, but at least they were pretty consistent in making her a strong, smart and kind woman without being overly sexualized or de-sexualized. She cares about her people and animals, even trees, stands up for her beliefs when John is subtly judging them (I made the point on another thread that, for some reason, I really can't see Ariel doing that with Eric, for example), but isn't so self-righteous as to write him off for that (or even Thomas, for that matter, whom she eventually forgave for shooting Kokoum -- so we know it's not just because she had feelings for John). She's not overly sexual, but also not too innocently cute like some of the modern princesses (has more of a mature, subtle sensuality).
I think the closest someone could get to finding a sexist trait in Pocahontas is that she is shown to be a bit of a flake ("You know Pocahontas; she goes where the wind takes her," as she's missing her father's return from war). Still, that's one incident that's never brought up again, not a general personality trait.
She may be practically perfect in every way, but at least she does, in my opinion, have a genuinely admirable personality (unlike Belle, whom the writers seem so in love with, but they accidentally made pretentious and kind of devoid of personality).
Good points. I also agree with the argument that Mulan had to become a man in order to be herself, which negates the whole feminist agenda. I read that somewhere else, too.
I think the complaints that could be argued against Pocahontas are mostly PC-based. Like I said, they didn't make her "human" enough: i.e. a bit immature, whiny, or hotheaded. I know, we're criticizing the other DP's for those very traits. Maybe Disney intentionally made them flawed like that? Ha. Well, Ariel for example: I never bought the argument her detractors claim: that she's "shallow/immature" with her singular pursuit of a man. I think it's just very emblematic of any sixteen year old girl, frankly. She's only "human"/mermaid! She has plenty of admirable traits otherwise like courage and spunkiness. That leads back to playing devil's advocate against Pocahontas: she lacked some genuine authenticity, like Ariel's spunk. But if you think about it: weren't some of the classic DP's like Cinderella and Aurora pretty "flawless" too? They weren't exactly imbued with high personality either. You can argue that was the sign of their times when those films were released, but they're still very popular characters.
Pocahontas wasn't much fun as a character, or a movie—which is why it hasn't fared well in the Disney lexicon. She DID do fun things like diving, running, and exploring new people and things. But her actual personality, I can see, isn't fun per se. The way she spoke and behaved was too well-behaved—again, prolly cuz Disney was terrified of offending Native Americans.
As for your idea of what could be sexist about Pocahontas' character: not much in terms of personality, but more in terms of her actions again. People complain when a minority woman (such as a Native American woman) falls in love with a white man, which she did. They feel like she's a traitor or submissive to white oppression—or that her life revolves around a man. But that's clearly not true considering the ending of the movie, where she chooses duty to her people over running off with her man. I don't know if I'm overlooking anything, but I don't think there's much argument about anything sexist in her character other than that.
Let me know if you have more thoughts! I'm enjoying this debate!
I like TV Ariel way better than movie Ariel. On the show, she was actually a lot like Pocahontas and always reaching out to disenfranchised, lonely sea creatures who need someone to befriend them and stand up for them. So it's a shame the show is supposed to be a prequel, because then it really *does* make it seem as though she got Eric-tunnel vision later on. But I suppose we can assume she still did those things and we just didn't' see them in the movie because it was supposed to be about their love story. Maybe she got a job on land as some kind of 18th-century, ex-mermaid equivalent of a social worker, ha (though she would have been royalty, so maybe she was just a very philanthropic/Lady Diana-esque princess?).
And you're definitely right that the classic DPs were flawless, and that it speaks to the sexist time in which they were created (women had to be happy all the time, good homemakers, etc.). In terms of popularity today, though, I feel like most younger women either don't like them, or only like them because they're so iconic and nostalgic. I mean, "a Cinderella story" is a widely used idiom, not "a Belle story." Just the fact that those characters have been around so long, and for people my age, they're the ones their parents grew up on and therefore shared with them, is what I think gives them most of their advantage.
She DID do fun things like diving, running, and exploring new people and things. But her actual personality, I can see, isn't fun per se.
It's funny, because I know some people like that in real life. It seems to be a distinct personality type -- adventurous, athletic, outdoorsy, but very quiet and almost kind of boring when you actually just have to talk to the person. It's like they're almost so externally/physically oriented that there's just not a whole lot going on upstairs, or if there is, they're not good at dealing in those terms. But I do think, in Poca's case, it's just as we've been saying, that they were afraid to make her negative in any way because she was the first Native American princess (and only the second minority one, period).
I don't know if I'm overlooking anything, but I don't think there's much argument about anything sexist in her character other than that.
This doesn't have anything to do with her personality, but I will just say that, now that I'm an adult, I find it a little ridiculous that Disney made her dress one-strapped, short, tight, and with a cleavage-showing sweetheart neckline. I mean, am I missing something? Did Native American women in the fall of 1607 (judging by all the leaves in this movie) really run around in leather mini-dresses with sweetheart necklines? If you took the exact same silhouette of her dress and just made it black, she'd look like she was going clubbing.
It's funny, because I know some people like that in real life. It seems to be a distinct personality type -- adventurous, athletic, outdoorsy, but very quiet and almost kind of boring when you actually just have to talk to the person.
True. I had a friend who travelled all throughout the year for his job, literally all over the world, Europe and South America mostly. You'd think someone like that would be so hip, worldly, and cosmopolitan.... Uh, no. Actually his demeanor and personality was totally dorky, plain, and kind of socially awkward. He's not a bad guy at all, but certainly not suave or well-liked. That's just how it is... your interests and pursuits don't necessarily compensate for your personality, you know? That's all.
I agree—with Pocahontas it was just a great fear of being politically incorrect—she WAS the first major female protagonist of color for Disney.
That's just how it is... your interests and pursuits don't necessarily compensate for your personality, you know?
So true! It drives me crazy when people say you're boring if you're a homebody. Maybe the reason some people don't feel the need to seek out so much external stimulation is because they actually *are* interesting and are therefore content to just be with their thoughts? And the people who aren't happy unless someone or something really high-energy is entertaining them, are the boring ones?
Don't get me started.
Conversely, there are people who have the right "look"—i.e. a fun, engaging personality and/or trendy wardrobe that strikes others as "fun", so they must have great social lives, right? These people are often given a complete pass by observers simply because: they LOOK like they have "it". It totally chaps my ***, because many times it's completely false, and these "Fun"-looking people actually lead dull, ordinary lives.
This is part of a greater dialogue that has plagued me as an adult because—I know everyone says this but: I'm not the kind of person who can be judged that easily. Because I appear "serious/quiet" in repose, I'm often unfairly written off as conservative, close-minded, and inhibited. The irony is: I'm none of those things—no more than others. Believe me, as I've gotten older I see a prevalent truth: most people are not adventurous. They stick to their comfort zone. But people like me bear the brunt of this badge disproportionately!
The truth is, I do engage in "bold" activities (e.g. Karaoke!!!!) that belie my demeanor—often to the indignation of haters, naturally. I'm always proactive about trying new things—I've never been one to complain or mistrust the unfamiliar. But do I get credit for any of it? Nope. Not at all.
It's my lot in life. It sounds so self-important to claim it but I know it's true: I'm misunderstood, and it looks like I always will be. Sometimes it gets to me so much, that I even consider changing things like: Should I dress more "flashy" so people stop assuming I'm a party pooper? Should I talk more and be more "loud" in my daily life, so people stop assuming that I'm a wet blanket who's terrified to 'rock the boat'?
UGH. I know I veered off the original topic a bit. The moral is: people shouldn't judge others so superficially. We are all capable of having varied and disparate traits. In my experience, there are just way too many people who lack the mental abilities to comprehend this rather plausible truth. No wonder I have so little faith in humanity. Seriously.
Ha! I feel very misunderstood as well. With strangers, I'm pretty quiet, to the point that people have often thought I don't like them, and I suspect many think I'm a snob (perhaps this is in conjunction with the fact that I like to dress well for completely personal reasons and could give two bleeps what anyone else wears and don't judge them for it; still, I suspect it's one of those shallow-judgment things where it's easy to assume I look down on others).
It's frustrating and even kind of makes me sad at times, but I've come to realize many or even most people are pretty much just terrible judges of character. It's odd to me, because I feel like it's been proven time and again that I tend to be right about people, whether everyone likes someone and I suspect they're secretly a jerk or the other way around. But some people just don't have that instinct and, indeed, base their assessment of others' on largely superficial characteristics ("He/she is nice." Uh, yeah! How many people do you meet who are just openly jerks to your face from the start?!).
So you're right that all of this tangential personal stuff does actually kind of tie into the Pocahontas message. Maybe that's part of the reason we're such big fans!
I wouldn't have the gall to say I'm a good judge of character, personally. I've been known to make a few flubs, and moreover I just simply know that I am human and can make mistakes. But what affects me is that many times it's those who are BAD judges of character who are the most vocal. It's like that quote: "Stupid people are always sure of themselves. Smart people doubt themselves." Unfortunately, that is a prevalent truth in this world.
Also, what separates me from other people (to my annoyance!) is that I don't go around categorizing other people to a stifling degree. I recognize the versatility that is possible in personality because–I recognize it in MYSELF. I know I cannot be judged by appearances, so I expect the same in others theoretically.
It's too bad we don't live in a world that is more like this. This has literally been one of the biggest lessons I've learned as an adult. Obviously, I knew this theory was possible even as a kid. But it's not the same thing when you grow up and experience it in real life—repeatedly! To paraphrase it, it's disheartening when you realize the limits of the world and human existence. It's a stone cold sober realization, and it can be the root of all the discord and malaise in life. How can I be content in this world when I know many, many people will mistreat me in this way?
I happen to prefer Ariel from the TV show as well. As you said, it's ironic that it's supposed to be a prequel to the movie, when in fact Ariel seemed more mature and smarter in that show (and we'll suppose that she was younger then). In fact, Ariel comes across as a superior character and shows more warmth, strength and affection towards others. Though I've ranted about Ariel in the movie, it's a pity that the movie actually never enhances her strengths other than her teenage rebellion (it's not as Ariel is a horrible as she sounds; It's just that besides her perky charm, she's mostly a self-centered, naive and utterly obsessed teenage girl who mostly shows concern about her goals and wants).