Contemporary Issues in Civilized Colonialism Pocahontas as Neocolonial Rhetoric by Derek T. Buescher and Kent A. Ono
While reading Civilized Colonialism Pocahontas as Neocolonial Rhetoric by Derek T. Buescher and Kent A. Ono, we closely observed Pocahontas as a rhetorical artifact that had a great impact on the perception of Christopher’s Columbus’s assumed discovery story of the Americas. During this time, new stories of Columbus and colonialism surfaced. The film’s release in 1992 was significant because it had a magnificent impact on our perception, making us question the rhetorical perspective of the story as well as our own ethical, moral, and political choices that were passed down by our ancestors. The film served as an explanation to why we colonized Native Americans in the first place. However, Disney romanticized Pocahontas and John Smiths encounter by transforming it into a romance, white washing the true events by turning the slaughter of Native Americans into a harmonious encounter with the colonizers, essentially authorizing the audience to relearn the story of the colonization of the Americas.
Neocolonialism refers to a hegemonic group controlling or influencing another group through means of political or economic superiority. While a neocolonialist text refers to the attempt to create stories that serve to marginalize colonialism’s existence in modern day. Neocolonialist text are often presented as movies, music, television shows, quite subtlety and utilize “forgetfulness” to their advantage often accompanied by important “contemporary ideolog[ies] and economic excuses as strategical plan to demonstrate that racism, sexism, genocide, [were] necessary.” For example, through Pocahontas we see colonialism unravel into something benevolent and ultimately holding an ideology of good intentions. Pocahontas intertwines “present-day colonialist relations inherited from the past and appropriates contemporary social issues” all while neglecting to admit that colonialism is very well present in present day United States. Usually the hegemonic group manufactures narratives about their effective conquests and portray the colonized as savages and themselves as good willed people simply looking out for the colonized people’s best interest ergo justifying colonialism as necessary to help the native people.
A Contemporary example of a neocolonialist text that came to mind was of course the attacks on the trade center on September 11, 2001 and although this was over ten years ago I drew a parallel with the movie Avatar (2009), which possess a strong resemblance to the United States presence in foreign countries such as Iraq. As a millennial I was too young to know any better yet, to question what I had been reminded of every September 11 was of the horrible tragedy when the United States was under attack by terrorists. Now that I’m much older and can think for myself and question authority I’ve learned that our reasons for attacking Iraq surpassed our “fears” or rather “retaliation” but were for political and economical reasons. The U.S invasion of Iraq’s primary motivation was the oil reserves.
Big media painted the United States as a victim and only doing what was necessary for the safety of the country by feeding on our fears. Just as in Avatar, we see a country trying to overrun and infiltrate in this third world (Pandora) with the excuse of studying them as well as educate them, towards the end of the movie we see that their true intentions were to strip Pandora of it’s natural resources by using military force, quite similarly as the United States does in other foreign countries. Another great example would be Black Panther (2018) this marvel superhero film alludes to the African American community, portraying a technologically advanced world in which of course once again the hegemonic group tries to exploit it’s natural resources. Run by wealthy, power hungry elites much like the world we live in today referring to the Europeans taking over Africa but of course in a romanticized Hollywood superhero film. The media sets the agenda and in these two examples we were able to see the impact the news and pop culture films influence on our perceptions of the world around us. We too often overlook the very clear messages that are presented to us through many media platforms.
Most cartoons and movies pose a contemporary form of neocolonialism if we look close enough. Although they are catered specifically for children they repeatedly hide behind a subtle message reflecting neocolonialism. Often containing messages entangled within the narratives around racism, patriarchy, and capitalism. If we deconstruct these stories we can uncover that they attempt to alter narratives about history to encourage our actions and reinforce beliefs of racism, patriarchy, etc. These stories cannot be detached from the hegemonic group that develops them because they are developed with the sole purpose to present us with “newly told old story”. I believe that as Americans or simply from any stand point of a hegemonic group, we have a biased view about ourselves.
We are too used to things being romanticized for us, sugar coded if you will and always white wash events or things by downplaying it’s true effects by throwing in some tropes about feminism and contemporary issues that affect us today. Such as in pop culture, like movies, music, art, to the text books we create about history always portraying ourselves as the saviors or victims, never admitting our faults. I strongly believe that we should look closer into what the newer generations are exposed to, what may seem liberal and progressive may not be so, such as The Princess and the Frog (2009) where we finally have an African American princess yet she’s mostly portrayed as a frog throughout the entirety of the movie. There are many things we should be looking into to examine the effects pop culture play on our views that render academic study.