Netflix has altered a film description for the 1995 Disney hit Pocahontas after the company was accused of perpetuating negative stereotypes about women and Native Americans.
On Monday, The Guardian reported that a blurb for the film on the site read, “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.”
That was until Dr. Adrienne Keene, author of Native Appropriations, saw it.
— Dr. Adrienne K. (@NativeApprops) September 1, 2015
Keene wrote in a blog for Native Appropriations, saying the Netflix description,“reads like a porn or a bad romance novel… The use of “woman” and “yearns” is so… gross.”
The self-described Cherokee Indian on Twitter said the blurb overly sexualized the film and “only positions Pocahontas in relation to her romantic options, not as a human being, you know, doing things.”
Keened added: “I also want to make explicit the colonial white supremacy embedded in this description as well – 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. Of course. It’s perpetuating the idea that white colonizers are better, more than, and the solution to Native savagery.”
Netflix saw Keene’s response and emailed her to apologize, while also revealing a new synopsis for Pocahontas.
— Dr. Adrienne K. (@NativeApprops) September 9, 2015
“We do our best to accurately portray the plot and tone of the content we’re presenting, and in this case 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,” said Netflix.
The new Pocahontas 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.”
Keene later said her intention was not to criticize the film but to “draw attention to the importance of the words we use, and the ways that insidious stereotypes and harmful representations sneak into our everyday lives.”