It’s no secret that Disney isn’t the best at portraying different cultures and races in a positive way, but why is no one talking about how racist Aladdin is?
Aladdin, which came out in 1992, is a popular movie with fun songs and an interesting plot. But it’s not as innocent as it seems. Growing up, I loved watching Aladdin, just like any other child that enjoyed Disney movies. But I’ve realized how problematic Aladdin’s character is. He’s a young Middle Eastern man and a homeless orphan that’s known for stealing and lying. Are you kidding me? How stereotypical can you get? When little Middle Eastern kids ask to see characters that look like them, this isn’t the example we should be giving. Middle Eastern kids deserve better.
Aladdin lives on the streets and survives by begging and stealing food. Later on, he lies to Princess Jasmine about how he’s a rich prince in order to impress her. Why are we showing such stereotypical behaviors to kids?
Jasmine’s character is just as problematic. A princess that runs away from her controlling father? Come on. Not to mention how sexualized Jasmine’s outfit is. Arab women are constantly sexualized in Western media, dressing like belly dancers and seducing men, which Jasmine later does in the movie.
The part which worries me the most is the song Arabian Nights. There’s a lyric which states ‘where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face it’s barbaric but hey it’s home’ Barbaric? Home? Disney is just obviously implying that Middle Eastern homes are barbaric. It’s disgusting, but not surprising.
Arabs barely get roles in Hollywood movies, but when they do, it’s constantly negative. Whether it’s a lying thief in a Disney movie or a terrorist in a action blockbuster, Middle Easterners never get the representation they deserve. Every movie based in the Middle East is almost always about war or terrorism. This shapes the way people look at Arab countries.
I understand that the movie was released in 1992, a less progressive time. And Disney probably didn’t have bad intentions by making this movie, but in a time where hate towards Arabs and Muslims is so common, positive roles in the media is exactly what we need to change the way the west’s views the Middle East.