I remember, as a child, sitting on the floor of our ratty old apartment and watching Disney movies on VHS tapes. They were a huge part of my childhood and taught me, and so many other children, that dreams do come true and true love exists. But, recently, I’ve been re-watching old movies from my childhood, specifically, Disney’s Aladdin. And, honestly, I was a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I still love that movie. But, now that I’m more informed as an adult, I started to notice all the racist and misogynist things in the movie.
(photo from The FW)
The Disney movie, Aladdin, is centered in a place known as Agrabah and was released in theaters on November 25, 1992. There was much praise for it but there was also a lot of criticism coming from the Arab community.
In the opening scene of the movie, an Arab merchant comes in, singing a cutesy song called “Arabian Nights“. As a child, I loved singing a lot to the catchy song but, now, as someone who I’d like to think of as having their stuff together; I was cringing a bit. I mean, the lyrics itself were not the best sounding: “..where they cut off your ears, if they don’t like your face. its barbaric but hey, it’s home.”
Yeah, I know. Racism written all over it.
Fortunately, Disney later apologized for those lyrics and changed them to something else.
But that’s not the end of the stereotypes. There’s a whole list of stereotypes, including the over sexualization of women. In the movie, women are portrayed as these seductive dancers. This also includes Princess Jasmine. The way she’s dressed is way off from the cultural norm.
Disney has this tendency to paint the heroines in the story as someone who needs saving. Princess Jasmine, for example, is saved from her rich, sheltered life by a simple thief. And it’s seen in other classic Disney movies as well. There’s Cinderella being saved from a life of toil by her Prince Charming. There’s both Sleeping Beauty and Snow White being saved by their princes with a single kiss.
Come on, Disney. I can save my own ass.
What we don’t see is the effect these stereotypes being portrayed in Aladdin have on children. Everything seen in media has an effect. I know for sure, when I was a kid, I thought all girls, including me, were going to be rescued by their true love. It’s the same thing with the gender and race stereotypes in Aladdin. They’re teaching kids that this particular race is only this way. And that’s just not true.