Monday, July 25, 2011

'Pocahontas' Is a Fairly Decent Movie If You Are a Naturalist, Not a Historian...Or a Feminist

Last Friday I had the pleasure of staying home with my kids. We had nothing special planned, I took Thing 1 to school, made a short run downtown with Thing 2 and managed to still observe our Nanny's beloved 'Pizza Fridays'. You know, a normal weekday.

As a working parent I love being home for these normal days. I don't like the idea of disrupting my kids lives just because I get a day off work. I rather like the idea of coming in and doing exactly what they would expect on a Thursday or a Monday. I often (when needed) stay home when our nanny is sick or when we are snowed in and I don't try to schedule in trips to cool stores or museum visits all the time. Sometimes we do that kind of stuff, but mostly I like to stay around the neighborhood and hang out at the playgrounds and run into the friends that they would have seen anyway. I guess it makes me feel closer to them knowing all the things that are familiar about their day.

Last Friday however it was 103 degrees!!!! Jesus, Mary and Joseph it was the hottest day I can remember not being in air conditioning in all of my adult life. We have AC in our apartment, but I was out running errands, etc. Before around 11 it was still in the nineties and we actually felt okay. But by Noon it had definitely cracked 100 and I said to Thing 2 "We should take the bus to pick up your brother, rather than walk the 10 blocks there and 10 blocks back.' Thing 2 was SO excited. He pratically ran to the bus stop saying 'Dus, dus, dus, dus, dus" the whole way. This kid loves transportation.

The ride there was lovely, 4 minutes long, awesome. Going home was a different matter. We waited for the bus in 103 degree (or more) heat for 25 minutes!! I wish numbers came with capital letters, because I want to be more emphatic than that. TWENTY FIVE MINUTES!!! The kids were freaking (so was I) and by the time I got on the bus we all three of us were red faced, dehydrated and ready for a nap. It is funny how only one of us actually got a nap though.

Since the heat was so harrowing I decided to forgo any trips out of the house in the afternoon and I hatched a plan to watch a movie. Now I know many parents who wouldn't find this such a revolutionary idea. But DH works in the film and TV industry (trust me, it isn't a glamourous job at all, it is more of a 5am to 10pm, dealing with angry teamsters kind of a job) and he would like nothing more than to watch a full length animated feature with his two sons. But after 20 minutes Thing 1 is taking the cushions off the couch and building a trampoline while Thing 2 is screaming nonsensical jibberish at his trains because he cannot hook them up and get them to stay hooked up. While the kids have been successful in watching one 70 minute animated movie (once), it isn't like we just pop in a DVD all the time and let the boob tube babysit them. If my kids would sit still on the couch and drool while watching TV it is likely that I would just keep the idiot box on for like 6 hours in a row. But they don't. They climb the bookshelves and hit each other and scream at us, so we use it for short(ish) intervals only. Though folks I fully admit that they do get more than the 2 recommended hours a day, virtually every day. We just break it up throughout the day.

But given the heat I thought a movie might be in order. Though Thing 1 protested, I selected 'Pochahontas'. I noticed that there was a preview option. I played the 90 second scene amidst many protests. It was some John Smith and Pocahantas scene designed to hook a five year old little girl, and afterwards Thing 1 was begging to watch the movie. And we did. Well, all except for a pivitol scene when the kids got interested in their toys. Thing 1 and I were both very confused about why he returned to London injured as we didn't remember a battle scene. Anyhow, we loved the movie. But the take home for me was different than I had expected.

I had never seen the movie all the way through. I think I was in junior high maybe when Pocahontas came out? I was definitely not young enough to have been motivated to see it in the theatres but that damn Vanessa Williams song still played on all the radio stations. When I was younger the phrase "You can own the earth and still all you own is earth until, you can paint with all the colors of the wind' stirred up images of walking through the woods and being in tune with nature, respecting wilderness, seeing animals. I imagined wild places where humans don't live, as though there was a difference between these preserved places and the streets and suburbs where humanity reigns. Today I hear this phrase and it is clear to me that the Earth all around us, wherever we are, is alive. The dirt is a mix of microscopic animals and bacteria and tiny plants and fungus that all contribute to the life which grows from it, both the plants directly and indirectly the animlas that eat the plants. Even in the completely tamed city and the mostly tamed suburbs, we are so much more a part of the life cycle than we know. Being in tune with nature isn't about cleaning up your campsite and making sure you don't smoke in a forest (though both of those things are good ideas). It is aabout understanding the connection that we all have with the Earth. And I also believe it is about eating plants and animals raised in a natural, ethical way with farming that focuses on zero waste. The health of the land is paramount.

The whole movie just struck me. The White people were painted as such savages, tearing down trees and uprooting the land, not to mention killing first. And while the natives were clearly mroe adapted to the land (for obvious reasons), Disney also made them out to be looking for a battle, so I didn't feel like the story was set up to shame white people while being inaccurate. The dipiction of the conflict seemed fairly accurate. I found it an easy way to start to talk to Thing 1 about race and to introduce the phrase 'white people'. While I have started to talk to him about race, I am admittedly uncomfortable with the color terminology. While in my "enlightened mind" I think he should identify himself as Irish of German or American, really on every form he will ever fill out, Thing 1 is just 'white'. He might as well hear the phrase from me, right?

But what points Pocahontas wins in art style it loses in overall historical accuracy and female objectification. Seriously? Pocahontas is a brick house! She looks like a ridiculously good looking barbie doll and completely and bizarrely mismatched with her more normal looking relatives and friends. Pocahontas's breasts are in fact so large (with cleavage showing out of her one shoulder dress) that I questioned did her look offend the modern day Powhatan Tribe? My guess is yes. And with the terribly short hem to her dress and seams cut up the sides, the effect was much like she was wearing a men's shirt for a dress. She is drawn to be very sexy, but I am uncomfortable by this tiresome image of female sexuality. I beat myself up over weighing 142 pounds yet even our f*#@ing kids movies show us that all the females of value to society are 36-24-36. Our four year olds, both boys and girls, are programmed to think this is what adult women look like. Sorry, most models are freaks of natures. They are beautiful genetic abnormalities that are airbrushed like crazy while the rest of us suck down diet pills and run on treadmills until we pass out to emulate their looks.

And the real story of Pocahontas is completely different. In this article published on the website of the Powhatan tribe, they claim the the story that Pocahontas saved John Smith from being beaten to death by her own people was a complete false hood. In fact she married a different, John Rolfe. And she married him only as a condition of her RELEASE. You see she was being held captive in the Jamestown colony. in 1616 she traveled to London and served as propaganda to support the colony's interests at home. But she became ill on the voyage and died in Gravesend. Her grave was destroyed when the church where she was buried was reconstructed.

So you see, I have some issues with the movie. But I was happy to avoid the heat last week. Maybe next time I will pop on The Secret of NIMH (a personal favorite) or The Wizard of Oz (an ALL TIME personal favorite). I don't think I am going to be pushing Pocahontas as a repeated favorite.

1 comment:

  1. I think she was drawn that way so they could use the Barbie mold to make a doll.

    It is a shame that realistic dolls don't sell (or haven't in the past, I haven't heard of any being made recently) and so we are stuck with the Barbie image for the dolls and merchandising for movies.

    aaahhh.. The Secret of NIMH.. haven't read that book in years.. and you know, I don't think I've ever seen the movie... will have to fix that.