When She Saw 'Pocahontas' On Netflix, She Was Shocked — And She Spoke Up

You go, girl.

Pocahontas was Disney's first real animated foray into a princess-led film where romance was a subplot, not the crux of the story. Ariel gave up her voice for a chance to dance with a prince in 1989. Six years later, Pocahontas saved both her people and the people of Jamestown by bravely (and literally) inserting herself between them.


It was a complicated film, but it was one brimming with 1990s girl power. So when writer and activist Adrienne Keene saw online streaming service Netflix's original description for Pocahontas, she knew she had to say something.

Netflix's description, she suggested, made it sound like a completely different movie. And not a particularly empowering one.

"[It] reads like a porn or a bad romance novel," Keene wrote on her blog. "It overly sexualizes the film, and only positions Pocahontas in relation to her romantic options, not as a human being, you know, doing things."

Pocahontas, described by Sophie Gilbert in The Atlantic as a "radical story about female agency and empathy disguised as a rather sappy romance," had become the latter in Netflix's description, and in doing so betrayed all the little girls who had once felt stronger for watching it. Particularly the little girls of color.

A 2012 study of 400 Illinois students found that children's self-esteem can be negatively affected by poor (or prejudiced) portrayals of both their gender and ethnicity in fiction. So when strong and fearless Pocahontas, one of Disney's few heroines of color, is recast as a woman just "yearning" for a colonist, it has serious implications.

Thankfully, Netflix saw Keene's tweets and rewrote the film's summary.

The new description reads: "A young American Indian girl tries to follow her heart and protect her tribe when settlers arrive and threaten the land she loves."

With the tiniest of tweaks and a single sentence, the company seemingly remade Pocahontas into a whole new movie — the one it always was in the first place. The one that's inspired little girls (and former little girls) for more than 20 years.

"From an angry tweet to an actual change ... Sometimes I’m still amazed by the power of the internet,” Keene wrote in an update on her blog.

So are we. 


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