March 22nd, 2022 Last Updated on: March 22nd, 2022
But many are questioning whether the decision is too little too late.
The character, previously named Princess Matoaka, was portrayed as a scantily clad—almost nude—femme fatale, who sought to seduce the protagonist, Conan the Barbarian, on an island on which they were both trapped.
The name may ring a bell, as Matoaka is the birth name for Pocahontas. While the writers don’t directly refer to Princess Matoaka as Pocahontas, her backstory and character in “King Conan” correlate with the actual Powhatan princess’s life. She's essentially a knockoff version of Pocahontas.
The glaring issue, however, is that the story shows illustrations of sensual scenes where Conan and the princess become intimate. Had this story fallen in the erotica genre and not depicted an underaged girl, as Pocahontas was, this might not even be newsworthy.
But it's a Marvel Comics creation and it does depict an underage girl.
Some who have spoken out about this comic are worried that this blatant disrespect to girls and women only perpetuates violence. Kayla Shaggy, a comic book artist, wrote to CNN:
“The fact that they depict an Indigenous woman as this nubile prize to be won by non-natives in stereotypical, fetish-y clothing contributes to the current, ongoing harm and ignorance of missing and murdered Indigenous women.”
On a recent episode of her late-night talk show, “The Amber Ruffin Show,” Ruffin issued a callout to Marvel over the Princess Matoaka debacle.
Other weighed in on Twitter:
disgusted isn't even close to a word for it. how?? how is this okay?? she was a REAL LITTLE GIRL – to do this her, to us, over and over again… i am just at a loss. disgusting. does she not deserve rest? reclamation? honor? you colonizers make me vom 🤬 https://t.co/AKunXYAUHs
— Kelly Lynne D'Angelo ✨ (@kellylynnedang) February 28, 2022
Marvel created a character named Princess Matoaka. I've seen tweets don't believe it's offensive and that people are just fake woke. But if you actually educate yourself and understand why this is harmful to native American women. pic.twitter.com/RCawNpK4p2
— LOGAN ♒ (@shesaheathen) March 16, 2022
Pocahontas is not a romanticized fairytale. She didn’t fall in love with J*hn Sm*th. She was a girl. Who was abused and raped. She wasn’t a princess either. This is just Disney capitalizing on Matoaka and her story. #LeaveMatoakaAlone
— BLM (@guccirights) July 14, 2019
In reality, Pocahontas was a pre-teen girl who endured violence from adult men. Depicting the story in this way only serves as a reminder of the trauma that many girls and women have experienced. In their lifetimes, one in every three Native women is subjected to some form of sexual violence, which makes this storyline very personal for many.
While Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has been asking his writers and illustrators for more diversity and inclusion in the Marvel Universe, this wasn't what we, the indigenous community, had in mind.
Disney, the parent company of Marvel, has recently launched Stories Matter.
Stories shape how we see ourselves and everyone around us. So as storytellers, we have the power and responsibility to not only uplift and inspire, but also consciously, purposefully and relentlessly champion the spectrum of voices and perspectives in our world.
As a form of reparation, writer Jason Aaron issued an apology to Marvel’s fans and those he offended.
“This new character is a supernatural, thousand-year-old princess of a cursed island within a world of pastiche and dark fantasy and was never intended to be based on anyone from history,” he said in a statement shared by Marvel. “I should have better understood the name's true meaning and resonance and recognized it wasn't appropriate to use it. I understand the outrage expressed by those who hold the true Matoaka's legacy dear, and for all of this and the distress it's caused, I apologize.”
This might be a hard lesson for Marvel; the company could lose sales, fans, and above all, respect. Marvel made the right decision to change the name and look of Princess Matoaka, but the fact that it happened at all is deeply concerning, to put it mildly.
Thankfully, Marvel fans, Native activists, and journalists have stepped up and spoken out against the publishing of “King Conan.” Without bravery, we are silent. And silence is what sustains ignorance and violence.
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