Riva/Presents Extra author Heidi Rice revisits her favourite Disney Princess, and dicusses why when it comes to romance sometimes it's better not to pay too much attention to the truth!
So when it comes to little girls (and some little boys too) and their princess fantasies, Disney have a lot to answer for. There's Walt's very sweet but almost indecently child-like Snow White, his sappy Cinderella (and all those annoying mice!) and the completely vaccuous Sleeping Beauty (who I'm reliably informed only appears in about 17 minutes of the film). All beautifully animated of course, but not really women most modern mums would want their daughters to have as role models. That said, these princesses are all very much of their time, and frankly their plank-like princes are even less enchanting!
Moving swiftly on to Disney's modern era, when they gave their princesses a decidedly modern twist. And while Ariel and Belle, Mulan and Tiana all have their moments... By far my favourite is Pocahontas. Not only is she a real woman — being a full-figured Amazonian-style chief's daughter who dives off cliffs — she also has a 'prince' — in the form of brave, handsome and misguided adventurer John Smith — who is worthy of her.
Making this movie by far the most grown-up of Disney's princess yarns.
Now, of course, this isn't the real story of the Native Virginian girl who stepped in to save the life of a settler, Disney having taken a fair few liberties with that. But frankly, it doesn't pretend to be, so I'm not too concerned about that.
Rather this is a lavishly told and defiantly dramatic Romeo and Juliet-style romantic adventure yarn complete with epic New World scenery, a playlist of terrific songs, a match-making willow tree, action, spectacle and drama aplenty, two engaging central characters and Mel Gibson proving he can sing! And at it's centre is that compelling culture-clash romance as the smart, independent and stunningly beautiful Pocahontas falls for a man who has come to her land to tame her savage people and instead discovers that the only real savages are him and his men.
What's perhaps most rewarding about this film for me, is that Disney have taken a few risks with their material. One man dies, the lovers have a proper snog at the end, and there are even scenes here which have a striking (if innocent) sexual tension.
Check out this first meeting between Pocahontas and John Smith (it's certainly the hottest Mel Gibson has ever been IMHO!):
I went to see Pocahontas again recently with my two teenage sons, who are now a lot older and more distainful than they used to be. But as the lights went up, they both admitted (in a moment of weakness) to having been thoroughly blown away by this movie. Result!!
Heidi is currently busy preparing for her mentoring duties in Mills and Boon's New Voices competition. Watch out for her latest story, On the First Night of Christmas... which is coming out as a Harlequin Presents Extra in the US in Dec and a Riva in the UK next month. Contact her on her blog, Facebook and Twitter (@HeidiRomRice), she loves to natter with readers and writers alike!