In the business of princesses, Pocahontas is definitely a forgotten gem. You rarely see toys, costumes or birthday parties about her. Why?
Probably because she is strong, independent, humorous, spiritual but also political. You cannot leave Pocahontas without some deep thinking on how the world is structured today and the attrocities humans have caused in the past The movie is not heavy though. In fact, it is quite musical, magical and if you don’t want to look at the real life facts, you can watch as a pretty modern romance where her will is stronger than anything.
Pocahontas was released in 1995 and yet, the values of diversity and tolerance could never be more current. If you are searching on how to teach kids about diversity and inclusion, look no further, Pocahontas is a great way to do it in an entertaining way and no preaching.
If that is not enough for you to watch yet, keep reading and discover why you should watch it and talk about it with your children, may they be boys, girls or nonbinary. You can check out the making of the movie on two parts (click for link on part 1 and part 2).
- Pocahotas is based on a true story.
Pocahontas is probably the first true american hero, or heroin. She fought the english during colonization and faced the shame of her own people. A story that must be told and although it is adapted to children’s like, the movie doesn’t leave much to desire. Pocahontas is the only Disney Princess based on a true story, all other stories are based on fairy tales and invented characters. What about Mulan, you say? Mulan is also based on a true person but she wasn’t a princess.
- It is a great opportunity to engage in critical thinking and history
Pocahontas is the only movie for children that talks without lecturing about colonisation, culture and exploitation of people and nature. In the case of Pocahontas, it is particular to the North American Indians but the European way of thinking of themselves and how they thought of the world is the same for any other colonised country or continent (Africa, India or the Pacific Islands including Australia). If you are not used to these topics, you should read the list of questions and topics below to research a bit. It will widen your eyes too!
- It shows the two sides of the story
It is a story that it doesn’t favour one culture over the other. The english colonizer, Ratcliffe, is evil and greedy but Pocahontas Dad, Powhatan, is also in favour of war and violence against intruders. Why is that so good? Because immediately the child gets an understanding that every story has two sides and no one is perfect. We are all able to be seen as evil to the other person. It also, doesn’t romanticise the indians to be this wise and never wrong people whilst showing that not all colonises are completely ignorant and violent such as John Smith
- You can change the world by being kind and just
Pocahontas leads two groups of armed men (thousands of them) to peace by being kind and just. Showing, through words and actions, that violence is not the answer and that violence only causes more violence.
- You and your child learn you are part of nature
Very little to explain on this one as it is pretty straightforward and clear to anyone who listens to Colours of the Wind and watch the movie.
- Pocahontas is the strongest heroin in the Disney movies
Besides being a true person, Pocahontas is depicted as athletic, independent, kind, family oriented, spiritual, powerful, young and highly political. An activist that – spoiler alert – choses her community and work in her tribe instead of the prince charming. A role model for young male and females.
- It has a wide range of emotions and personalities
It shows Pocahontas dad acknowledging his daughter’s wisdom in using kindness to stop the circle of violence. So here we have the big guy being able to remove his ego out of the way and give the power (of voice and action) to the young woman. He is also forgiving of the English people as they set off back home. If only more people were like this.
You have John Smith, a different type of colonizer who doesn’t really want to exploit the land but better to discover although Pocahontas was able to elevate his view of nature to be even more caring and respectful.
There are a lot of friendship types in the movie from the classical comedy relief in cute and smart animals that are the best friends and supporting roles of the main characters to Pocahontas best friend and John Smith’s travel companion. There’s treason, arranged marriage, murderer, cure, jealousy, love, anger, greed, sadness and the list continues…a much better option then the typical “I’m always happy, and we can do it all” feel good type. Pocahontas makes you feel empowered, not simply excited about funny and happy things.
- It is super entertaining with the coolest songs
If it all sounds a bit hectic, don’t worry. All of the topics and critical thinking above is delivered through really cool songs, a quick movie of 81min only ( so great for those sluggish hours between 3 and 5pm!)
- The animation and art is outstanding
Pocahontas was done by hand. Yes, you read it right. By hand, so it’s also good to show your children that art also happens on pen, paper and paint, not only on computers. The art is marvelous. It is nothing like we have seen again in the history of movies – super unique! – but it has set the beginning of a new aesthetic, the squared edges of characters. So if your child is a bit of an artist, rush to get the popcorn!
- A point of conversation about non binary acceptance
If you explore the subject of indians further, you can help your nonbinary child by initiating a conversation that some of the native-american tribes had accepted that some very special people in their tribe were considered neither male or female. Traditionally, Native American two spirit people were male, female, and sometimes intersexed individuals who combined activities of both men and women with traits unique to their status as two spirit people. In most tribes, they were considered neither men nor women; they occupied a distinct, alternative gender status (see the reference here)
What age can you start watching with your kids? I would say from the age of 4 or 5, depending on their verbal development and attention span but it is a short movie of 1hr21min.
Have a look at these questions to engage your child in conversations following up the movie night and if you have any other reason to watch Pocahontas, please let us know!