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February 29, 1996 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 1996-02-29

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The Michigan Daily - W/UWe4 a. - Thursday, February 29, 1996 - 3B

Disney's'Pocahontas' exploits Native Americans

EAN BAKOPOULOS
Sound and Fury
P~ d
K, now we can be afraid. We can
be very afraid. Pat Buchanan is for real.
This week he said he can break "the
winnability barrier" and go "all the
way" for the Republican nomination.
He's vowed to put Bob Dole's
campaign "on life support."
I'd never thought I'd say it, but I'm
rooting for Bob Dole. You almost have
to, because even the possibility of
(Buchanan becoming the next president
is enough to send you north to Canada.
Imagine what this nation could become
under a Buchanan regime ...
Pcture a crisp February morning in
l,9%,President Pat Buchanan looks out
qI(M snow-covered White House
la; Nice," he thinks, "very white
and1 very straight."
1 , e aschoolhouse in Kansas, Little
Jofniy is leaming that Darwin is
h1jash, and that woman was made out
Am's rib, and that means she is
ed to cook and clean all day. In
ehcago, Bill has been sentenced to a
leor camp for actually enjoying sex. His
n Carol, has been duly warned.
galng the Tex-Mex border,
Ulanan has employed the
iCorps cadets, surprisingly
Tfluing former President Clinton's
p . The cadets are building a 30-
f wall between the United States and
eico. Meanwhile, up north,
elopers are looking into a giant
cro&dile moat between the United
:Stnis and Canada.
Back on Capitol Hill, Buchanan
announces the Constitution has been
',misplaced." Until it is found, he
declares himself King. Meanwhile, the
National Association for the Advance-
ment of White People, which has been
linked to the Buchanan camp, decrees
t it definitely is not a racist organiza-
'Tn. Says a spokesperson, "We let
minorities stay in the United States.
They just have to pick Alaska."
Am I being a bit paranoid? I don't
know. After all, ultra-nationalist and ultra-
racist Russian presidential candidate
Vladimir Zhirinovsky called Buchanan a
I ether in arms' against Jews. According
to the Interfax news service, Zhirinovsky
actually expressed hope that a Buchanan
*ministration would join him in an anti-
Semitic drive to "use portions of the
United States and Russia for the settle-
ment ofthis small but troublesome tribe."
That's sick. Although Buchanan
inimediately distanced himself from it, it's
truly scary that a foreign leader would
speak of him like that. Whether he likes
the Russian reactionary or not, Buchanan
cannot say he never gave Zhirinovsky
reason to call him a "comrade." This is the
e old Pat who referred to Congress as
a li-occupied territory."
Yes, and it's the same old Pat who
vows to exclude homosexuals from the
executive branch, who once praised racist
leaders in South Africa, who strives to
keep immigrants out and who would love
to see an all-out cultural war in America.
eo you can be very afraid, but not
because Buchanan is running for
president. This country has managed to
ore idiots like this before (see David
dke). The scary part is that support for
Buchanan is so strong; many people
buy into his message of intolerance and
paranoid nationalism. Buchananites are
crawling out of the woodwork, and they

are brandishing their swords of hate and
divisiveness.
Now, Republicans are creepy, but in a
nice way. You kind of wanna give Bob
Dole a hug;I mean the poorold guy just
ly wants to be president. Steve Forbes?
W's like a clown in a parade, harmless.
Lamar Alexander? He knows he's a long
Shot, and is probably just in this thing for
the coffee and donuts. Maybe the
Republican field is a bit misguided and
elitist, but they're well-intentioned.
But Pat Buchanan is really creepy. He
is a figurehead of anti-intellectualism. A
sealer on closed minds. A skewer of
reality. Twister of morality. Justifier of
People can defend Buchanan until
15 are blue in the face, call him a
morally upright leader. But go back and
read some of his old syndicated columns,
watch some of his old talk shows and
count the number of avowed racists on his'
campaign. His own work, his own words.
atid his own workers back up my claims.

By Christopher Corbett
Daily Arts Writer
Disney gambled last summer with
"Pocahontas." They hoped it would at-
tract just as many adults as young chil-
dren -given that the film had a slightly
different formulathan traditional animated
features. Considering the movie raked in
more than $150 million, Disney didn't do
too badly.
"Pocahontas" appealed to the 9-year-
old-and-under crowd because of its ani-
mation. The film looks great. Whether
Pocahontas is paddling in a canoe down
the river or is running through the forest
between towering gray trees, the visuals
become a feast for the eyes. The com-
puter-generated animation makes the rain,
the river and even the dancing sequences
look fantastic. And leave it to a dazzling,
colorful cartoon to spark the fancy of any
kid.
Aside from the animation, the storyline
of "Pocahontas" aims for realism - the
gamble for Disney. The film, based on the
colonial (or, more bluntly, "European-
invasion")period, stresses that it not only
deals with real events in America's his-
tory, but also places its characters in spe-
cific places in the country.
One of the musical numbers makes
many references to Virginia.
"Pocahontas," then, grounding itself in
realism, eschews the more imaginative
formulas ofthe past few Disney animated
films, which took place at the bottom of
the ocean ("The Little Mermaid"), or in
magical, buried caverns in the middle of
the desert ("Aladdin").

the main characters were animals, orwere
at least subhuman (the Genie or the Mer-
maid). "Pocahontas" allows for an adult
audience as well.
In fact, the film deals with a rather
sophisticated theme: an interracial love
story. Pocahontas, a member ofa Native
American tribe, falls in love with John
Smith, an English "Indian" hunter; in the
tale, Smith travels to Pocahontas' home-
land to help in the plundering and ma-
rauding of the countryside. The film be-
comes a romantic tragedy in the spirit of
"West Side Story"(with the Native Ameri-
cans as the Sharks and the English as the
Jets-andthe couple's relationshipbring-
ing the two sides into conflict). The film
treats Pocahontas and Smith as mature
characters.
With all its surprising attempts at real-
ism, "Pocahontas" shamelessly stereo-
types and exoticizes Native American
beliefs and spirituality. Many Native
American people consider the Earth sa-
cred, as "Mother Earth." But the film
stereotypes the Native Americans' belief
in living close to nature when it portrays
Pocahontas' dead grandmother's soul as
inhabiting awillow tree. Pocahontas talks
to the tree, which sprouts a ridiculous,
comically pudgy face. The film skirts the
details of Pocahontas' spiritual connec-
tion to "Mother Earth" and only gives us
the preposterous "Grandmother Willow"
as an explanation.
One realizes, then, that "Pocahontas"
actually shares a similar "cartoon" qual-
ity with its three successful predecessors
- the Native American characters' ex-

otic (as the film presents them) beliefs
and medicine gives them the mystical,
"superhuman" feel of the genie in the
lamp or the-mermaid who can breathe
underwater.
When one Native American character
winds upshot, a medicine man burnssage
and waves it over his body in ominous
silence. The film never explains what the
purpose of the sage is, or what the man
might be doing. Is he healing the
character's wounds, offeringhim last rites,
or helping to dull the pain? Because it
skims over the moment, it gives the medi-
cine man's action a kind of supernatural,
otherworldly quality.
The makers of "Pocahontas" did not
step around other important issues, such
as the destruction of the environment;
they embellish such issues. The English
colonists dig into the Virginia landscape
with their picks and shovels, searching
for gold. The leader of the group, during
one musical number, says often that the
gold will be "mine" - giving us a pun.
He and his outfit are"mining" the hell out
of the earth. "Pocahontas" appeals to its
audience by addressing one of today's
most pressing concerns -protecting the
planet.
The fact that the filmmakers neglected
to take time to develop the Native Ameri-
can experience in a realistic (and respect-
ful) manner shows amanipulative -and
perhaps greedy - side of Disney. They
wanted more to have another blockbuster
film to bring in the dough than they did to
inform others about and do justice to the
Native American people's perspective.

Crisp animation might have attracted youth, but Disney sidestepped around many
Important issues in "Pocahontas."

Disney had been riding a tidal wave of
threeimmenselypopular films. "The Little
Mermaid" (1990), "Aladdin" (1992) and
"The Lion King" (1994) grossed a com-
bined $600-plus million at the box office
-enoughgreenbacks to fill Space Moun-

tain.
The animals in "Pocahontas" though,
don't talk. They don't even sing. Their
rather ordinary, mundane roles in the film
seem (at first glance) to set "Pocahontas"
apart from the last three movies - where

Roberts' spotty career means 'Mary Reilly' doesn't look too good

By Prashant Tamaskar
Daily Arts Writer
Julia Roberts is one of those rare
performers in the motion picture indus-
try who is not remarkably talented, has
not made many good movies, but still
receives an enormous amount of pub-
licity.
Unfortunately for Roberts, as one of
Hollywood's most prominent actresses,
she cannot seem to escape the lime-
light. Every movie in which she ap-
pears becomes a huge event. Conse-
quently, she is in a no-win situation;
Roberts' films, regardless of whether
or not they are good, never seem to
meet the expectations we place on her.
Although she had already been
nominated for an Academy Award
for her work in "Steel Magnolias,"
the actress made her mark in Holly-
wood by later playing the hooker with
a heart of gold in "Pretty Woman." It
was her role in this film that will
forever define her career. Like all
prostitutes in similar movies, her char-
acter was beautiful, tough and vulner-
able; Roberts' portrayal, however, was
especially sincere. The extremely en-'
tertaining film not only scored well at
the box office and earned Roberts
another Oscar nomination, but it also
created a superstar.
Roberts' next film, "Sleeping With
the Enemy," served as the perfect
follow up to "Pretty Woman." The
credible suspense-thriller provided the
actress with an opportunity to carry a
film by herself, which she proved she
was able to do. Her decision to star in
"Sleeping" was a wise and safe career
move; this time, the spotlight was
solely on Roberts.
However, the downward spiral for
the actress began shortly after -with
"Dying Young." In the movie, Rob-
erts plays a nurse who falls in love
with a cancer patient. Neither critics
nor audiences were able to tolerate
the artificial emotions of this barely
mediocre film. Lucky for Roberts,
though, this film only minimally af-
fected her power as a superstar.
Yet what made Roberts especially
vulnerable to the sting of criticism
were her decisions to play roles in
only a small number of movies. While
this may have prevented the kind of
overexposure that has ruined the ca-
reers of many stars, it also made her
every new release a majorevent. And
unfortunately for her, all of these
films, or her performances in them,
would inevitably be compared to
"Pretty Woman."
For some reason, the only press
Roberts received for any of her subse-
quent movies was negative. No one
seemed to pay much attention to her
part in Robert Altman's "The Player,"
a superb picture that boasted an en-
semble cast. Instead, the press was
too busy bashing "The Pelican Brief,"
an underrated film that simply could
not escape the immense shadow of
the novel it was based upon.
In the movie, Roberts plays a law
stridentw~ho gets caught in aogint cn-

It was her role
in ("Pretty
Woman") that will
forever define her
career.
lacking; as a result, the film was not
received well by its audiences.
Sadly enough, Roberts' difficulties
continued with Robert Altman's di-
saster, "Ready-to-Wear." The much-
anticipated film made "I Love
Trouble" look successful. Even the
film press, who adore Altman, could
not help but trash the film.
Undeservingly, Roberts received a lot
of negative attention for the movie,
despite the fact that she barely spent
any time on screen.
For us to truly understand the ter-

rible situation confronting Roberts,
we must look back at last summer's
"Something to Talk About." In her
most low-key role in a long time, the
actress stars as the wife of an unfaith-
ful husband, played by Dennis Quaid.
The film did relatively well at the box
office and received good reviews.
Roberts, however, seemed to be lost
in the shuffle - which was a shame,
considering it was her most persua-
sive performance in years.
A recent appearance on America's
favorite TV show "Friends" may not
be enough to divert attention from her
latest project, the extremely troubled
production "Mary Reilly." The film
examines the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
story from the perspective of his cham-
bermaid. It has already been classi-
fied as a bomb, which is unfair to
everyone involved with it.
Yet, for Roberts, receiving criti-
cism shouldn't be an unusual experi-
ence. She is used to being judged on a
rather unjust scale.

Julia Roberts from the movie "Dying Young," released In 1991.

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