Netflix Changes 'Racist' Summary for Pocahontas

Writer pointed out sexism and stereotypes against Native Americans
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2015 2:24 PM CDT
Netflix Changes 'Racist' Summary for Pocahontas
Screenshot from Netflix description for 'Pocahontas.'   (Netflix)

Until recently, the Netflix description for the 1995 animated Disney film Pocahontas read like the back cover of a Harlequin novel—and was sexist and racist to boot, a Native American writer asserts, per the Guardian. The original description, seen in a screenshot Adrienne Keene posted on the Native Appropriations website, read as follows: "An American Indian woman is supposed to marry the village's best warrior, but she yearns for something more—and soon meets Capt. John Smith." Keene's reaction: "The use of 'woman' and 'yearns' is so … gross. Shudder. … It overly sexualizes the film, and only positions Pocahontas in relation to her romantic options, not as a human being, you know, doing things." She also pointed out the "colonial white supremacy embedded ... of course Pocahontas wouldn't be content with her backwards Native ways with her Native man … she yearns for something more. SPOILER ALERT: It's a white dude."

After noticing the description last month, Keene went on a self-described "mini Twitter rant," and Netflix responded via email, telling Keene "you were right to point out that we could do better. The synopsis has been updated to better reflect Pocahontas' active role and to remove the suggestion that John Smith was her ultimate goal." The new wording: "A young American Indian girl tries to follow her heart and protect her tribe when settlers arrive and threaten the land she loves." Not everyone on social media appreciated Keene's cultural intervention—she tweeted that "this weekend I took all the hate-tweets I received, put them in a spreadsheet, & am currently coding them for a journal article"—but she also had plenty of support, and she's pleased with Netflix's effort and her own. "Sometimes I'm still amazed by the power of the internet," she wrote in a more recent post. (Read why Native American actors walked off the set of an Adam Sandler movie.)

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