Ah, Thanksgiving, a time when people stuff endless amounts of poultry and fixings into their faces while imagining picturesque scenes of pilgrims with buckle hats passing the gravy to a Native American as depicted in elementary history books. In reality, Thanksgiving is a celebration in thanks of the native Americans helping the useless colonials through the harsh winter. The story of Pocahontas takes place 14 years prior to what is thought to be the first Thanksgiving feast and presents some of the hostile views of both sides upon the intrusion on American soil. Today, I’d like to talk about the greedy jerk known as Governor John Ratcliffe, both in real life and in fiction.
John Ratcliffe, John Sicklemore, Governor Ratcliffe
Governor, Commander of the Discovery, councilor of Jamestown colony
In Pocahontas, the Governor is portrayed as a rich, pompous, and vicious. He is not willing to negotiate with the natives and prefers to be aggressive and orders the men to kill on site. His main motive is gold and fame and to eventually surpass the king in wealth. He orders John Smith to kill the natives, but as we all know, he falls in love with Pocahontas instead. This results in a war between Powhatan and the Governor. He aims to kill Powhatan but John Smith jumps into the way, takes the bullet, and the Governor is wrapped up and shipped back to England.
In the sequel, he has turned the king on John Smith and sets up Pocahontas and John Rolfe during a royal ball by setting up a bear-baiting. Ratcliffe declares war on the native Americans and begins to send a fleet to fight them. Of course, Pocahontas and Rolfe, alongside the somehow still alive John Smith bring down Ratcliffe after an attempt on Pocahontas’ life. He is arrested and sentenced to….well life in prison we can assume. Fun fact, “He is the second villain from the Disney Renaissance who has not die at the end of his debut film, the first being (though Ratcliffe did not die in the sequel either), and the third being Hades (though only because he is a god and is immortal). He is also the second Disney Princess villain not to be killed, the first being Lady Tremaine and the third and, to date, last, being Hans. Jafar did not die in the first Aladdin, but did in the sequel.”
Ratcliffe was actually the commander of the Discovery expedition and an elected official who used John Smith’s help to dispose of the previous corrupted Governor, Edward Wingfield, in September of 1607. It’s even said that he was a “wise and insightful president, but he fell out of favour with many colonists after enlisting men to build a governor's house.” Ratcliffe actually encouraged trade with the Native Americans, so much that he actually began to over trade and caused upset in the colonists. He had John Smith in charge of the communications with them rather than the attacking them. He also ordered that the surviving 40 colonists, mostly ill, construct a capitol in the woods, which you can see in the sequel. This caused much more upset as he was also accused of stealing and hoarding rations. Of course, he did invade land and most likely brought over one of many deadly diseases that killed millions. So, let’s take a look at what the movie and real life guy did combined!
Since John Smith was revealed to be alive in the sequel, no one directly dies due to Ratcliffe in the movies. In fact, the only death shown is caused by Thomas, who may very well be an allusion to Thomas Gate, a Governor who came two years later. In reality, there are no records of deaths caused by Ratcliffe, but colonization as a whole caused death of up to 95% of the indigenous population as well as numerous colonists due to sickness, starvation, etc. If Ratcliffe did hoard food, he might have assisted in starvation, but there is nothing specific so we have to say 0 for now.
In the movie, he had John Smith set as an enemy of the state. That’s about it so 1.
Harm to Protagonists and Co:
Nearly fatally wounding John Smith, the near murder of Pocahontas, and a near full out war against Powhatan and his people. In the movie, a lot of harm. In real life, he did not even see Pocahontas and John Rolfe marry and most likely never saw them in England, so I doubt he caused much harm.
It may actually be true that the movie representation is a much more malicious and greedy incarnation of an already corrupt official as seen through the skewed lenses of history. My verdict will be based upon each version. So, for the crimes of horrible racism, greed, near murder and genocide, I give Governor Ratcliffe from the movie a
However, the real life Ratcliffe would receive a lower score around 4/10. You can judge for yourself based on the numbers here.
This is where it gets gruesome. In the movie, Ratcliffe is simply arrested and imprisoned. However in real life….well… “In December 1609, Ratcliffe and 14 fellow colonists were invited to a gathering with the a tribe of Powhatan Indians. The Powhatans promised the starving colonists would be given corn, but it was a trap. The colonists were ambushed. Ratcliffe suffered a particular gruesome fate: Ratcliffe was tied to a stake in front of a fire. Women removed the skin from his face with mussel shells and tossed the pieces into the flame as he watched. Finally, he was burned at the stake.” So…here’s the clip from the movie instead!!!!!
I still love the Pocahontas movies. I love the music and although many people think it is racist, I think the point was to show how racism on both sides caused damage and warns against it rather than promotes it. I personally will always love the movie, but if you would like to know more about what was wrong in the movie, check out this link here to have your childhood ruined.
I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving! I'd love to know your thoughts on the subject so please leave a comment.
Also, I'd like to say I'm Thankful for you all. You all have been great, coming and reading this little blog of mine. You all have given me something to think about, spend time on, and focus on. You've helped me to feel needed in a world that seems pointless sometimes. I feel like if I don't write, I'm letting people down. Perhaps it is just me having an ego and thinking I'm more important than I am, but I hope I make a few people happy at the very least. I wish that I could know how many of you are really reading all this by following my blog or Google+. I hope you guys all have a fantastic day and happy holidays!