The (not quite) Ultimate Disney Villain Countdown #3 — Governor Ratcliffe

Greed and racism all wrapped up in one colonizing package.  Meet Governor John Ratcliffe, the third worst villain of the Disney animated features.  He rates the number three spot in volume if nothing else.  He is not content to target just the protagonists, Pocahontas & John Smith, he has to go after an entire race of people.  As an added bonus he has the manpower to make it work as well as the support of the English crown.

Ratcliffe wants money and power in that order and doesn’t care what he has to do in order to get it.  Keep a farming settlement from farming?  Easy.  Sow discontent between groups of people.  No problem.  Genocide?  All in a day’s work.  Convinced that Virginia is full of gold that is his for the taking, Ratcliffe will stop at nothing.  Eventually is it only the wisdom and good sense of the people around him that stops his evil.  While he is imprisoned and sent back to England, it is implied in the sequel that he received no punishment for his crimes.

Ratcliffe is a conglomeration of historical characters that represent the hatred and violence of European settlers to the native Peoples not only on this continent, but on every continent they claimed.  He is everything I hate about my own history.  He is entitled, empowered, and completely convinced he is right.  The sad thing is, in the world he lived in he was right.  It great that Disney can spin this story for us to give it a happy-ish ending, but we know in the long-term that Ratcliffe and those like him won.  The natives were robbed, pushed out, and slaughtered in the name of greed, racism, and ‘progress’ and no award-winning soundtracks can change that fact.  Once again one of Disney’s most frightening villains scares us, because he is real.  His motivations and power are around us every day and we must live with the consequences.


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