So this is a post where I get to admit I was wrong, but then it’s ok, because we actually have a win to celebrate! Quick recap, I was on netflix last week and saw that Pocahontas is on the site now. I clicked on the description, and found this:
— Dr. Adrienne K. (@NativeApprops) September 1, 2015
I then went on a bit of a twitter ranty-rant, and later wrote a blog post to clarify and more deeply explain my issues with the description (no, it wasn’t that they used “American Indian”…), and to give some examples of the way netflix wrote about male-led Disney films. Here’s part of that post:
..the description reads like a porn or a bad romance novel–“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.” The use of “woman” and “yearns” is so…gross. Shudder. The problem? It overly sexualizes the film, and only positions Pocahontas in relation to her romantic options, not as a human being, you know, doing things.
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. To quote Deray Mckesson, whose retweet was responsible for this getting so much visibility: watch whiteness work.
So at the end of the post, I went to get a new (non-mobile) screenshot to add to the text, and found that the description was different. I celebrated. But then I started getting emails and texts that, no, in fact the original description was still showing. I did my own investigation and found to my disappointment that the “new” description was actually just a shorter, secondary description that all the films have. I was sad, and added an addendum to the bottom of the post. Then I felt silly for celebrating what was, in fact, a misunderstanding of technology. I thought we were done.
BUT WAIT! What do I find in my inbox last night? An email from netflix!
“Dear Dr. Keene,
Thanks for bringing attention to this synopsis. 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.
And the new description?
“A young American Indian girl tries to follow her heart and protect her tribe when settlers arrive and threaten the land she loves.”
Not bad, right?? Look at that. From an angry tweet to an actual change in the description. Sometimes I’m still amazed by the power of the internet.
The earlier post: “A deep read of netflix descriptions: Pocahontas edition”