Growing up there was no other Disney character I looked up to more than Pocahontas. I was a mere 5-years-old when I first saw the film, but I remember being amazed. Back then, there weren’t many Disney characters of color. Aladdin had been released 3 years prior, but I don’t believe I had seen it yet.
Pocahontas was the first Disney character I related to. She had darker skin, long dark hair, and she was independent and strong. As a matter of fact, my mother and I lived in a small apartment complex and the other kids in the area actually called me Pocahontas because of my long dark hair. I didn’t object. It was the coolest thing ever to me to be compared to her.
I imagine other young girls at the time felt just as I did. Over the years, Disney has begun to represent princesses of color more often, but back then, it was such a big deal. It made me believe that I could make a difference. I felt like I could be strong. After watching the movie, I was determined to always stick up for what I knew was right, even if it was difficult. Pocahontas was where I learned that judging people just because they didn’t look like you wasn’t a nice thing to do. Although my mother had already taught me this, Pocahontas allowed me to see it in action. I was so pressed for Pocahontas and me to share a kinship, once when I had gotten a hair trim that was a little more than I expected, I became quite upset. Pocahontas and I didn’t look alike anymore. I had a semi-life-sized Pocahontas doll and, to ensure we would continue to look alike, trimmed her hair, too. Only, Pocahontas’ hair didn’t grow back like mine did. That was a sad realization to come to.
I remember the beautiful bright colors of the leaves as they floated around Pocahontas, enveloping her and blowing her long locks about in perfect ripples. I remember how Pocahontas held strong and tight to her dreams, never giving up on them, no matter how difficult. Pocahontas questioned whether she should simply choose the smoothest course or continue to follow her dreams. Ultimately, Pocahontas chooses to do what she believes is right and chooses her own path, not the one laid out for her.
I truly believe that the foundation of being a strong young girl can be found within Disney’s story of Pocahontas. Even in comparison to the men who travel all the way to Virginia to dig for gold, Pocahontas’ spirit and intelligence is far superior. I mean, as they sail over they sing, “For the New World is like heaven, and we’ll all be rich and free. Or so we have been told by the Virginia Company.” These men have sailed around the world based on falsities that aren’t accurate whatsoever. They blindly follow the mere word of mouth of other men, many of whom most likely had never even traveled to the “New World” themselves. On the other hand, there’s Pocahontas. She sticks up for her people. She rationalizes and determines right and wrong. She does not judge the men and their strange customs as soon as they arrive. However, these men intrude upon the land Pocahontas and her people have always inhabited and plan to disrupt it entirely and kill anyone who gets in their way. Pocahontas searched for a solution. She did not let differences keep her from doing what was right, nor did she let them keep her from finding a way to diffuse the situation.
It pained me as I got older and learned the true story of Pocahontas. I won’t ruin it for you in case you would like to continue to believe in the Disney version of events that are always coated in more sugar than were actually present in the real stories they recreate.
However, even though the true story is far sadder, Pocahontas was still a heroine. I find her even more inspiring after reading the true story. Even to this day when I hear some of the songs from the film, I remember the feeling I felt back when I used to watch it every day. I will always remember Pocahontas fondly. I can’t wait until my 2-month-old daughter is old enough to watch films, so we can experience Pocahontas’ story together. I hope that, like Pocahontas, I can raise my daughter to be a strong, intelligent, brave, spirited, dreamer.
Featured image credit: Disney