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I wanted to save this song for last, but I couldn’t hold out any longer!!!
With practically every Disney film ever made, there comes a point where events spiral out of control and everything is on the verge of disaster!! “Savages, Part I” begins at such a moment: Kocuom is dead at the hands of Thomas, but only Pocahontas and John Smith know that. The warriors who capture Smith assume that, as the only white man present, that HE fired the shot, and even if Pocahontas told them the truth, they wouldn’t believe her. Chief Powhatan is beyond disappointed in his daughter and he also blames her for Kocuom’s death (“because of YOUR foolishness, Kocuom is dead!”)
But the turmoil in the village is nothing compared to what’s brewing in the English camp. Thomas has gone racing back to report Smith’s capture, rousing everyone in the process. Ratcliffe is secretly delighted by this turn of events; he’s been itching for any excuse for an all out attack on the “savages” and this provides the perfect opportunity.
“Savages” begins with Ratcliffe stirring the settlers into a frenzy, reminding them that these “savages” are no good, they deserve to die because they’re different, etc.For example:
What can you expect/from filthy little heathens/here’s what you get when races are diverse!
Their skin’s a hellish red/they’re only good when dead/they’re vermin as I’ve said and worse!!
Actually, the soundtrack version of the song is much nastier, the opening line goes: …from filthy little heathens/their whole disgusting race is like a curse! (I think they realized when they developed this song, that they were going a step too far and they adjusted the line for the actual film.)
Theses opening verses are so openly racist that in the years since its release, this song in particular has gotten a lot of flak, with critics saying the song’s sentiments are completely inappropriate.While is is true that “Savages” expresses racist sentiments, that’s also the point of the entire song!! This song is fully exposing Ratcliffe as the evil, racist villain he’s always been, and the settlers are fully caught up in the wake of his ranting (except for Thomas, who has his own doubts).
With the English settlers ramped up to go to war, the song switches to Powhatan’s village, where the villagers are making preparations of their own. While the English consider the Indians to be “savages”, the natives consider the white men to be “demons” who must be wiped out before anyone else can die.
This is what we feared/the pale-face is a demon/the only thing they feel at all is greed.
Beneath that milky hide/there’s emptiness inside/I wonder if they even bleed??
John Smith can only watch as the war preparations continue, with the Indians planning to execute him before the battle. The camera cuts back and forth to show how alike the two sides really are: both are arming for war, both are really angry and both are beating “the drums of war” (no matter how different they look, a drum is a drum.)
The truth is, both sides are blinded by hatred. Neither can see that they are equally human because one looks different from the other. It’s interesting how, in the song, each side is color-coded and made to look increasingly not-human (the English are colored orange/crimson and the Indians are colored indigo with war paint added on top of it).
Things are definitely out of control, and if the two sides meet, it’s going to be bad (mostly for the Indians, because the English settlers have a lot of muskets and cannons and arrows and spears will have practically zero effect on that kind of firepower.) What’s going to happen? Will John Smith die at sunrise? We’ll find out in “Savages, Part II” !!!!
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