(Author’s note: The blog is returning after a hiatus that involved moving, finishing a semester of graduate school, and camping. Sorry for the radio silence, I am very much still alive and well.)
What did I just watch? WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST WATCH?
I know that until now I’ve made it a policy NOT to pick on children’s movies for historical inaccuracies but…this is so LUDICROUS that I have to, I have to, write this down. It kills me that there are little kids that would watch this and think that this has any sort of historical bearing in fact.
And before anyone starts bitching about “what do you expect from a CHILDREN’S FILM, did you even SEE Pocahontas, what were you expecting?” my answer to you is…something more than THAT.
The Wikipedia page for Pocahontas II describes it as “a 1998 straight-to-video sequel to the 1995 Disney film Pocahontas. The film is inspired by true events in the life of Pocahontas which took place several years after her encounter with John Smith and the founders of Jamestown. While the original film dealt with her romance with John Smith, this film deals with her romance with the Englishman she married in real life, John Rolfe.”
I’ll pause for hysterical laughter at the idea that either Pocahontas or Pocahontas II has any basis in historical fact. There is a reason why the first film is described as a “travesty of historical accuracy” by the UK Guardian.
I watched Pocahontas II with my friends Jess and Drea. I took notes as I went along. For the sake of sparing your brains the lengthy descriptions of what the producers refer to as a ‘plot’, I’ll keep my descriptions down to just my notes.
Anachronistic garb. (This is my first complaint of many). The film opens in London, England, where English soldiers are attempting to arrest John Smith in the dead of night. Or should I say, the dead of knight? Because these fucks are dressed in medieval jousting armor, to arrest someone. What the everloving shit. Anyway, Smith tries to escape but is unceremoniously thrown from his balcony into the Thames (I think it’s the Thames?) by Ratcliffe, the villain from film one. Okay.
Ratcliffe goes before King James I. OMG WHAT THE FUCK DID THEY DO TO KING JAMES I.
So many questions. Why is he wearing medieval garb in 1616? Why is he wearing an anachronistic crown? What the fuck is up with those pants? Why is he a whiny child? WHAT THE FUCK DID THEY DO.
Anyway. Ratcliffe tells James I that John Smith is dead, and he apparently has been feeding James I all of these lies about how he was framed and John Smith was conspiring with the Native Americans to hoard all the gold and keep it from James I. James I is on the verge of sending Ratcliffe back to Virginia with an army to pretty much exterminate the natives and get “his” gold. But first he’ll send an envoy there to bring back Chief Powhatan to “chat”. I see this ending well.
Cut to Jamestown, Virginia, circa 1616 (if we’re being accurate, which is the year that Pocahontas did go to England). Nothing really has changed. The settlers and the Native American’s live in a tentative peace, but the minute that the slightest altercation occurs, there’s a huge fucking folderol and Pocahontas has to intervene in order to save everyone from killing each other. Also, I’m so glad to see that, even though it is the dead of winter, the animators still have Pocahontas in a tastefully sexy buckskin miniskirt. Because that’s what REAL Native Americans wore.
Pocahontas has recently heard of John Smith’s death and she’s still pining for him, but after some well-timed words from Nakoma, she buries his compass in the snow, ironically just as another ship comes from England, this time bearing the English envoy to the New World, John Rolfe:
John Rolfe apparently always had a dream of being in the Swiss Guards.
John Rolfe stumbles into an altercation between the natives and the white folks, which prompts Pocahontas to dive into yet another rescue (Powhatan and whoever the fuck is in control of the white people need to get a grip on these asshats before they all shoot each other to death). And then she gets into a snit for no good reason at Rolfe. Because it isn’t a Disney movie unless the love interests (whoops, spoiler) start off by bitching at each other. Long and short of it, Rolfe asks Powhatan to come with him to England to meet with James I. Powhatan says go fuck yourself, Pocahontas offers instead. Rolfe says something along the lines of ‘women belong in the kitchen’ and Pocahontas’ goodwill mission to England basically turns into a big fuck-you to misogyny. I can’t with this movie.
Pocahontas and John Rolfe go off to England. Pocahontas is accompanied by Utami, one of her father’s warriors, who sits and never ever smiles, just glares at everyone. He is pretty much one of the more racist depictions of Native American’s, but he does provide the audience with laugh. Before leaving Powahatan gives him a staff and instructs him to carve a notch into it for every white man he sees. Before sending him to England. You can imagine the size of that stick at the end.
In England, Pocahontas is greeted by a song-and-dance number, in a crowd of people wearing garb from every fucking era in England. Some medieval, some 18th century. Oh, and Shakespeare is there, too. Except Shakespeare died before Pocahontas arrived in England (f’real, check the Wikipedia page). But NBD guys. Pocahontas gets all bent out of shape because Rolfe won’t let her go see King James herself (also, I’m not buying that John Rolfe is straight. Loving the little hip thrust when he tells her off. He also sounds like fucking Gregory from the South Park movie. I keep waiting for him to spout off about how he attended Yardale and had a 4.0 grade point average.)
Rolfe goes and see King James, and predictably, Ratcliffe is there to spoil all his plans. Ratcliffe convinces King James to invite Pocahontas to the Hunt Ball, which is going to be her trial run to convince the King that the Native Americans are civilized. If she can, the Armada (why would you commission an Armada to fight an army that has no ships?) won’t sale and destroy everyone. COME ON, DISNEY. Can we have one fucking film that doesn’t involve a fucking BALL? Rolfe acts pretty disgusted, but I bet he’s loving this chance to go all Henry Higgins on Pocahontas and pass her off as a lady.
So now we have the obligatory “dressing up Pocahontas” scene. Can we talk about her undergarments? For one thing, LOVING the pantalettes, which weren’t invented until the 19th century. She also wears a hoop skirt, which is anachronistic as well — there were no hoop skirts in the 17th century. The Spanish farthingale went out of style in the 16th century, and hoops wouldn’t make another appearance until the panniers in the 18th century. C for effort, Disney. Also, why does John Rolfe have a stock pile of women’s clothes in his house? Pocahontas finally emerges wearing white face makeup (accurate, but offensive), and an ensemble that fits into 18th century France, not 17th century England.
But hey, that’s okay, because now Pocahontas is more marketable as a Barbie doll. At least they didn’t make the doll’s face white.
As predicted, the Hunt Ball is a disaster. Ratcliffe brings in a bunch of medieval minstrels (wtf) to initiate a bear baiting. Which you can imagine goes over like a lead balloon as far as Pocahontas is concerned. James I and Pocahontas get into a bitchfight over whose people are less civilized, and James I has Pocahontas and Utemi thrown into the Tower.
Somewhere in a tavern, a caped and hooded man (GAWSH I WONDER WHO) overhears some people talking about Pocahontas’ imprisonment, and he rides off, somehow figuring out that she’s staying at John Rolfe’s (a plothole you can drive a tank through, Disney), and reveals himself to be JOHN SMITH, STILL ALIVE (WHO KNEW?). The two of them decide to sneak into the Tower by pretending that Rolfe has made a citizens arrest. The guards just let them through the portcullis. Really? It’s that easy? Next time my ex-husband pisses me off I’ll just drive him up to the nearby prison and say that I’ve made a citizen’s arrest. Holy smokes.
Pocahontas is understandably shocked to find John Smith alive, and the four of them make a daring escape. But wait! Which should she pick? Somewhere between America and England she has begun to fall in love with John Rolfe. But she loved John Smith once! What to do? And now the story of Pocahontas is relegated to a Twilight love triangle.
Smith and Rolfe both get into a hissy fit over Pocahontas wanting to go back to James I and tell him not to send the Armada. Rolfe wants her to follow her heart and save her people. Smith wants her to save her own ass. GUESS WHO’S ADVICE SHE FOLLOWS?
Pocahontas goes back before the king wearing her old familiar buckskin one-shoulder mini-dress, to try and convince him. All seems lost until John Smith strolls in, very much alive, which convinces the King that Ratcliffe is a lying liar who lies. But OH NO! The Armada has already been sent and wtf do we do??? Fortunately, the Armada is only 10 ships (dafuq?) and Pocahontas et.al. stop them from leaving port. Ratcliffe tries to murder Pocahontas but is stopped and slapped in chains. All’s well that ends well.
Pocahontas is ready to tell Rolfe that she loves him, but Smith pulls off an epic cockblock by running in and telling her that he’s been granted his own ship and he can now sail the world with her by his side. Rolfe slinks away, all dejected, too soon to hear Pocahontas tell Smith that it’s too late, and she needs to go her separate way. Smith takes it about as well as someone can, basically says “The best man won” and goes on his merry little way. But Rolfe is nowhere to be found. Pocahontas laments not telling Rolfe that she loved him, as she boards the ship back home, but surprise! Rolfe is there. He’s leaving England to go back to America with her. Roll end credits and corny Disney song about following your heart.
F’real. This film rated a 1 on the 1-10 scale. It really is that fucking terrible. There are no just redeeming qualities to it. I know a lot of people bitched about the historical accuracy and idiocy that was Pocahontas, but this makes that film look like a Discovery Channel documentary.
IN REAL LIFE: Pocahontas did travel to England in 1616. But at that point, she was already married to John Rolfe, had converted to Christianity, and had taken the English name “Rebecca.” She also had a son, Thomas. Her tour of England was more a gesture of goodwill than a frantic attempt to stop the white man from mass genocide of the Native Americans. Her status in her father’s tribe has been greatly inflated — the phrase “Indian princess” is inaccurate. Also, as one of many of Powhatan’s children, she would have stood to inherit nothing. And, as has been beaten to death many times, she was certainly not of an age to have had a relationship with John Smith; she was probably only about 12 when she rescued him years earlier. When she DID meet up with him in England, far from being happy to see him, she was angered that he had broken his alliance with her father’s people and rescinded his promises.
Well, I guess that’s it. No Gold Stars, this film is total shit and I can’t believe I sat through it. At least it was good for a few laughs.