Essay on Pocahontas - Cultural Anthropology

1015 Words Apr 28th, 2013 5 Pages
Writing Assignment #1: The Cultural Construction of the Idea of Progress
Film chosen: Pocahontas One of Walt Disney’s most famous films, Pocahontas, takes place in the 1600s, as the British discover parts of the “New World” that are inhabited by native Americans. In this film, we are able to contrast the primitive lifestyle and culture of the Native Americans to that of the British, and are able to see how the ideas of “progress” or social evolution play a role in the ethnocentric bias held by the Westerners during this time, causing the primitive stereotypes to be built. Disney uses the structure of the characters themselves- what they wear, how they speak, what they eat, what they believe in, etc.; and the plot line of the film, to
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You think the only people who are people, Are the people who look and think like you, But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, You'll learn things you never knew you never knew.”
For the first time John Smith begins to listen to Pocahontas and realizes how ignorant him and his crew have been to think they can claim any land they come across, treating the natives like wild beasts. All this time the Europeans have looked down upon the primitive culture of the natives, thinking that they were sub-human, and needed to be nurtured and tamed just like animals; however in this moment John Smith see’s the free spirit in Pocahontas, and he admires her connection to the nature all around her. He begins to see that the Natives are just normal human beings in their natural element, a thriving off of the world around them, with no need of technology, or any of the advancements the westerners were bringing to the New World. Overall, Disney’s film, Pocahontas, does a wonderful job contrasting the cultures of the “primitive other” and “civilized self” with Pocahontas and the Indians as the primitive other and John Smith and the Europeans as the civilized self. We are able to see through the Europeans, their ethnocentrism, and their naïve attitudes that leads them to believe they own whatever land they land on and can treat the natives however they want. Disney however

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