Here's Why A Cherokee Scholar Urged Netflix To Change Its Problematic 'Pocahontas' Description
If you're a fan of Disney, then the tale of "Pocahontas" is nothing new to you. It's an empowering tale of following your heart and figuring out your path in even the most difficult of times. The movie features a very powerful storyline heralded by an even stronger main character, which is why when the movie began streaming on Netflix, one Netflix viewer was a little upset at the movie's chosen description.
The description read: "An American Indian woman is supposed to marry the village’s best warrior, but she yearns for something more -- and soon meets Capt. John Smith." This felt a bit trivial and sexist to Dr. Adrienne Keene, a Cherokee scholar who authors the blog Native Appropriations.
Dr. Keene took to Twitter to voice her aversion to the description.
She went on to further explain in a blog post that in comparison to other Disney movie descriptions on Netflix, the one for "Pocahontas" focuses solely on the romance aspect of the film.
Other Disney films that contain romantic subplots describe the "bigger picture" and the capabilities of the male protagonists -- like "a lone child...is destined to become lord of the jungle" for "Tarzan" and "heavenly Hercules is stripped of his immortality...forced to take on Hades and assorted monsters" for "Hercules."
"The problem? It overly sexualizes the film, and only positions Pocahontas in relation to her romantic options, not as a human being, you know, doing things," Keene wrote. "I also want to make explicit the colonial white supremacy embedded in this description as well -- of course, Pocahontas wouldn’t be content with her backward Native ways with her Native man...she yearns for something more. SPOILER ALERT: It’s a white dude."
Thankfully, as opposed to ignoring Keene's qualms, Netflix emailed her an apology and edited the movie's description to better suit the Pocahontas story line.
The new description now reads: "A young American Indian girl tries to follow her heart and protect her tribe when settlers arrive and threaten the land she loves." A much more appropriate description befitting Pocahontas! The power of the internet has once again proven itself and though it's a small change, it will no doubt have a very profound impact.
Even if Keene herself is a bit surprised at the coverage.