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John Ratcliffe

Former Title: Governor of Virginia
Premiered in: Pocahontas (1995)
Voiced By: David Ogden Stiers

With the film Pocahontas, we begin what I would call the “toeing the line” of Disney Renaissance films. This film and the two following it are not bad by any means but more that their respected subject matter is either a wee bit too grim for the likes of children or are, for the most part, largely inaccurate in terms of facts. Pocahontas falls under that category and let me point out from the very start that I am by no means a historian. The most that I know of the actual Pocahontas was that her real name was Matoaka but later changed it to Rebecca when she converted to Christianity and that she was all of ten years old when she met and saved the life of Captain John Smith. That being said, let’s get to the true crux of this review shall we?

Governor John Ratcliffe is the epitome of greed to a point that even Prince John does not compare. Whereas Prince John was openly abhorred and mocked by the people, Ratcliffe at least had the kind of charisma to keep his men in line and believing him to be a true representative of the crown of England, completely unaware that the gold that they were being ordered to dig for would be filling his pockets and not the vaults of King James I. Funnily enough though, Ratcliffe has a very low opinion of himself to the point where he outright admits to being a rather unpopular man and that his attempt at colonizing Virginia and finding gold is his last true chance of making a name for himself amongst the courts of England.

That’s not to say that Ratcliffe is a sympathetic villain by any means. I hold more sympathy for the Horned King than I do for Ratcliffe for the sole reason that Ratcliffe is a xenophobic racist, even for the time period of the film. He is all for shooting any Native American down and hanging his men for treason if they don’t. He honestly believed them to not only be nothing more than savage heathens but they had the very gold he had been searching for.

As to Ratcliffe’s minion… Excusing Percy for what he is, a pet pug people, there’s Wiggins who’s voiced by the same man as Ratcliffe though the two could be nothing at all alike. Wiggins is a bright bundle of energy the likes of which is almost nauseating to see. Not to say that he’s a bad character it’s just… he’s so chipper about everything that he does that I doubt that I couldn’t resist the urge to chuck an apple at his head or something in the wee hours of the morning where such attitudes are not necessary or wanted. Honestly, he’s great at what he does as far as being a manservant is concerned but as to actual villainy… Well, there’s a reason why he wept with regret at Ratcliffe’s fate at the end of the film.

Speaking of his fate, Ratcliffe’s is one of the most unique amongst Disney Villains in that he didn’t die in a horrific fashion, which considering the last few is quite the accomplishment, but that it was left rather ambiguous. Though Pocahontas had managed to talk down the two sides of the conflict, she did not succeed in doing so to Ratcliffe who tried to take the opportunity to shoot Chief Powhatan only for John Smith to save the man via dramatic leap. The settlers, finally seeing Ratcliffe for the man that he is, not only bound him in irons but they had him gagged too!

Overall, Ratcliffe is a villain of his age, one that would never be able to succeed as he had in this day and age. He is an example of how the sin of avarice can make a true villain out of a person but it is not this sin that truly makes him a monster. No, there’s a whole other sin for an entirely different character that made a monster out of a man and nearly brought a city of beauty and love to ruin…