Pocahontas is a movie about the early colonization of the New World, yet it shows a lot about Post Colonialist problems from the start. This movie within the start shows the colonial roots with the protagonist, Pocahontas, who is depicted as a “voluptuous young woman”(Hunter 87) with exotic and attractive features such as Asian eyes, hourglass figure, and sex appeal. This does not reflect the real Pocahontas as she was really a “ten to twelve-year old girl”(Hunter 87). To go further, the European hero, John Smith is depicted as strong, brave and Nordic rather than the real John Smith being a “thirty-something mercenary”(Hunter 87). This is done to portray Pocahontas as sexualized and exotic, while portraying the mercenary who is hired to kill natives as dreamy, charismatic, and overall a good man. The grandiose dream of the West is seen as Pocahontas “desperately falls in love with the first white man she sees”(Hunter 87).
Pocahontas is willing to sacrifice her life for him, saying that the colonizers have more influence on the natives than the colonized do. Pocahontas is also a prime example of split loyalty, as she forfeits her loyalty to her people, for the first white man she met; the intent of the directors is clear, as they give the colonizers a better image and more authority showing their power of assimilation. Additionally the natives in the movie have no voice while the colonizers have a prominent voice. There are many scenes with the colonizers bickering about compared to the few vocal native characters. Pocahontas already is in the process of assimilation as she placed more trust in a stranger than her people. Pocahontas’ animal friends, Meeko and Flit, have more personality and a voice than the natives. The animals themselves are interpretations of native attitude as Meeko, is open to the colonizer is rewarded, while Flit, rejects the colonizer and as a result is punished and humiliated until he finally accepts the colonizer. This shows that anti-colonialist resistance is futile.
This is also seen when the native named Kocoum resists colonial authority and is killed while attacking Smith, furthering the movie’s theme about the futility that comes with anti-colonialist resistance. The natives are portrayed as very irrational as people like Kocoum easily attack Smith after seeing him with Pocahontas, and Pocahontas disobeys her father for a little relationship; while the colonizers are diverse as some are tolerant and brave, like John Smith, or violent and oppressive such as the governor of the colony. The movie also has cultural appropriation as the culture of natives is presented as protecting nature and considering it friend. This is seen with Pocahontas and grandmother Willow as Pocahontas goes to her for advice, making the natives seem as exotic and perpetuating myths of native cultures, building them up as one culture, when in reality it is just as diverse as European culture. This bastardized the cultures of natives in exchange for the colonizers interpretation and romanticisation versions of Pocahontas, showing how this film is mostly the portrayal of colonizer’s supremacy. This is seen as any natives, such as Kocoum, who resist the colonizers is punished, while people such as Pocahontas easily hybridizes. The one who hybridizes lives, the other dies. The movie is the colonizers work and interpretation of native culture, showing assimilation, hybridity and colonizer supremacy.
The visual aspect shows much more about Pocahontas and how intrigued she is with Smith. The colours are dark, which help amplify the feeling of mystery as she sees a white man for the first time and is following him around. The colour is more light around Smith showing Smith as divine as the light converges towards him; which is no doubt how the directors viewed him as he is the colonizer who successfully made a native love him.
Pocahontas on the other hand is overly sexualized as she has a more developed body than what a young woman would have. While Pocahontas falls deeper in love with Smith, more light is present on her face, showing that she is in a sense becoming divinely Western. On to the book 1984, which is about a man named Winston Smith, as he begins to question Big Brother, Oceania’s figure head.
Winston Smith is the colonized and his government is the colonizer. This is evident from a major factor, that of language, which is called Newspeak in Oceania. The language is designed in such a way that barely any thought can be transmitted. This results in the destruction of culture entirely, as things such as songs are fragmented, such as the song about churches that Winston sings.
Language is a major tool of the colonizers as it is used to help colonizing forces to assimilate natives. Suppressing native languages suppress’ thought as people can not communicate easily without the colonizer’s language that might not hold the same meanings as the native’s language. This is the predicament that Winston is in as he is being suppressed, commiting arbregration, the refusal to use colonizer’s language, by writing, singing songs from the old world, and thinking, which Winston is ultimately punished for. The old world values are also thrown out for Oceanic values, such as two plus two equals four being replaced with two plus two equalling five. Winston’s insistence on questioning that two plus two equals five and statements of two plus two equals four show an attempt in which colonized peoples try to “articulate their identity”(Some Issues in Postcolonial Theory). This is Winston trying to hold on to his values in the face of a colonizing force. Postcolonial theory is built around the “concept of resistance”(Some Issues in Postcolonial Theory), and this is shown in 1984 as Winston advocates for rebellion against the government saying things such as “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER”(Orwell 20) and talks to Julia, his lover, about openly fighting against the government but is ultimately assimilated into the colonizer’s society after his encounter in Room 101, where he learns to accept Oceanic values.
This is a form of Colonial education and hegemony. Colonial education is the process of the colonized peoples to assimilate and get a population to view the world in the colonizer’s way. This is evident as Winston is forced to re-educate into loving Big Brother, just as the rest if the population. Hegemony is the power of the “ruling class to convince other classes that their interests are the interests of all”(Key Terms in Post-Colonial Theory). This can be through economic, political, educational, or media control. Winston was re-educated to go against his love for Julia, in exchange for love of Big Brother, which is the interest of the government as it allows them to control Winston.
Hegemony also appears in the forms of two minutes hate, Newspeak, rewriting history to fit the needs of the government, and televisions that project propaganda and watch people constantly. Two minutes hate justify the genocide and war against enemies of the government, while Newspeak, as stated before, restricts thought, forcing people to only speak what the government wants them the speak. Winston is also aware of his “social … inferiority enforced by being in a colonized state”(Key Terms in Post-Colonial Theory). This is clear when Winston says “Do the inhabitants of Oceania have the feeling that they are a colonial population ruled by a distant capital”(Orwell 217). Winston questions this because he does not have access to real coffee, cigarettes, food and only has access to the inferior kind called Victory. Winston’s home and area is filled with poverty, old cracked concrete apartments, being watched twenty-four seven while the Inner party has access to a luxurious life. The difference between the Inner party and the inferior Proles are clear. 1984 is a perfect example of Postcolonialism and the entrenched inferiority of populations that plague postcolonial societies and how the people who fight the society eventually assimilate into the society.
The cover of the book is a great visual piece as the eye of Big Brother is constantly watching over everything. This is evident with the black and barbed wire picture frame that restricts what can be seen past the eye, making people focus on the eye and only the eye. Within the eye, there are words, which shows that the eye knows what you read, and monitors your movements. The colour red is used to give anger to the reader, but to also represent Orwell’s interpretation communism, which is furthered with the crimson stars. Pocahontas, The Great Gatsby, and 1984 have many similarities, one major being that all these media pieces contain very subtle hints of the post colonial experience. Pocahontas is the first stage where colonialism has just started and the colonizer and the colonized are starting to get along. Some fall in love, while others respond with bits of violence. The overall conflict between the two groups, colonized and colonizer, are not as evident as they are in other examples.
The Great Gatsby is the second stage, where the colonized feel that they are inferior to the colonizer and starts to commit mimicry, “the means by which the colonized adapt the culture … of the colonizer”(Key Terms in Post-Colonial Theory). This is seen with Gatsby’s denial of not being able to join the aristocracy, as he failed to be an equal to the aristocracy, and the destruction of the American dream, creating an elite class that is superior to the colonized. 1984 is the last stage of postcolonialism, if all things go wrong. The complete segregation between the colonized and the colonizer, where one is inherently treated as inferior and is not even given basic human rights like thought, dehumanizing the population treated as inferior. This is seen from Winston’s treatment in Room 101, being forced to accept his position in life and the treatment of the ruling class that have all the luxuries while Winton’s peers and himself starve.
In terms of narrative elements, all the media pieces have the protagonist or major character as an outcast and the plot revolves around love. The repeating theme of love and what one would do for a loved one is important and sets the tone of the novels and film. In 1984 the tone with love is more hopeful at first as love is found in such a hopeless place, but at the end, the tone changes to a hopeless tone amplifying the villainization of the government and Big Brother showing that in totalitarian regimes, love is out matched by hate and dehumanization. In The Great Gatsby, love is used to also give hope but it does not succeed.
Once the love is broken, it gives a touch of hopeless romanticism, showing that sometimes love just is not enough to hold people together and sometimes a greater force is needed. Pocahontas uses love to also give a sense of hope but this time it succeeds, showing that a little push is enough to let love help create peace between populations. This feeling of hope and love amplifies the message of peaceful coexistence as a result. The common archetype of outcast is reflected with love in the works. In 1984, where the love was broken, Winston himself was also broken from rebellion and Room 101, discouraging outcast nature in a totalitarian society showing futility of struggling.
In The Great Gatsby the outcast nature is used to challenge society and this combined with the broken love and romanticism being destroyed, gives a message of not being too ambitious and knowing when to cut one’s losses as Gatsby loses everything. In Pocahontas, the idea of being an outcast and love gives a sense of hope and encouragement being different as great change can come from it. All the pieces of media use these two elements but present them differently to give different messages, also showing the flexibility and power of ideas and language.