I) The lesson of the movie “Pocahontas”1 is, if you listen and follow your heart, your dreams will come true. This lesson comes from the perspective of the main character, Pocahantas, in which she is trying to understand what her dreams and visions mean – in the beginning of the movie she does not understand the meaning of her dreams. This theme plays out throughout the movie, and the visions she had been having start to make sense – she chooses a road that leads her to see clouds, which are the sails of the English boat, she follows Capt. John Smith, but allows herself to listen to her heart so she allows herself to speak to him, and the spinning arrow is Capt. Smith’s compass. She learns that if she just listens to what her heart is telling her, what she desires in life is right before her eyes.
The directors probably chose this historical moment because it makes for a great story, whether it was true or not. It is a story about a romance between two entirely different people – one a Native American girl and the other an English invader, which is the storyline for most Disney movies. It is also a simple story about a time period that hadn’t yet been explored by Disney – the 17th century. It was a chance to introduce a subject matter in a way that can be understood by a younger audience, but it is not a movie that offers any great amount of rich description of the historical moment in time. Most young audience members who watch the film probably don’t really know about the early relationship between the Native Americans and the English colonists, but this movie shows that the relationship was not friendly in the beginning, and it did so in a way that can be understood by grade school children.
II) Some of the most important moments of the film about the historical context of the time period came through the conversations between Pocahontas and Capt. Smith. We see the differences between their peoples when they are talking to each other. We get a sense of how each of them views each other, which history tells us the relationship was not friendly in the beginning. For instance, the English soldiers call the Native Americans “savages,” while the soldiers are called “beasts” by the Native Americans. Also, Capt. Smith explained to Pocahontas that he wanted to show her how to properly take care of the land by building up a city, a city like London where he is from, but Pocahontas wants Smith to see that her people already know how to respect the land and the animals and are not savages. Even in the way they show each other how to say “hello” shows viewers just how different they are. Because it is a Disney film, the most detrimental aspect of the movie is time. The storyline moves too quickly based on the research. For example, we see the soldiers building a fort in a matter of minutes, we see only one a few frames of interaction between soldiers and Native Americans in which a tribe member is shot, so there is never any real depth to the historical time period in the movie. The movie is more about Pocahontas and the lesson of following your heart rather than a historical piece on the 17th century, which makes the movie feel more like an interpretation of the director rather than facts. Also, rather than focus on the historical nature of the time period, the directors chose to make this movie more of a love story.
III) According to the research, the Disney depiction of Pocahontas is both true and false.