Mar 18, 2007

Revisionist Aladdin History

I have wanted to write this goofy post for a while, but have keep putting it off. In light of the announcement by Disney that they are going to be adding to their Princess line, I decided now was indeed the time. But first, I have a few housekeeping items.
  • My last post, about the smackdown between my kids, got some interesting responses. Of course, not on this site since no one really comments here. Well, it seems that my brilliant decision to let "the kids work it out" was a temporary victory. I have still had to spend much time correcting both "annoying your sister" and "hitting your brother." Oh well, at least the specific story was funny.
  • I updated my side information - including books I'm reading. I am going to do some more in depth reviews of those books as I finish them. So try to control your anticipation.
  • A few weeks back we found out we are expecting our third child. Woo hooo. Surprise! We don't know much yet other than the fact the baby is due in October.
Now on to the article. I was reading a story for my daughter the other day out of her Disney Princess story book. It was this one about Aladdin and Princess Jasmine, and how she reached out to these homeless poor orphans. Aladdin and Jasmine were married, so the story must have taken place after the three movies and the animated television show. As I read this, my useless mental processes kicked into full gear. I began to realize that there was a heinous business at play in the Aladdin story that HAD to be uncovered.

Think back to the original movie, since that is only one many of you have seen. The basic premise is that Aladdin is this street rat, who is homeless and lives with a monkey. He has to steal to get by. On the other end of town is Princess Jasmine who lives in the palace with her father - the Sultan. He has an evil advisor, Jafar, that is secretly pushing his own agenda of taking over the world. There also is a collection of evil and vicious guards that roam the town and do all things rotten.

Now, it is readily apparent (in this movie and in subsequent ones) that the poverty is rampant. Yet the Sultan and his daughter live alone with servants in this oppulent palace - probably paid for by the poor residents. There are parties and parades to celebrate the joys of the Sultan's family. However, that is the only interaction that we see between the Royal Family and the people. And this continues throughout the series. Even after Jasmine and Aladdin are in a position to change things, they do not institute sweeping changes that would benefit their people. There are still poor orphans running around, stealing fruit to survive.

In addition, the Sultan is the one who hired Jafar, and who never even wised up to his villainy. Now, we have seen this a lot through the movies, so we can sort of write it off I guess. But the entire guard system is corrupt and cruel. Even after Jafar is gone, the Sultan does not cleanse that group. Aladdin, who has numerous run ins with these guys, also does nothing about the guards. We see them pop up time and again - even after Aladdin should have been able to get rid of them. This is ignoring the fact that Apu the monkey and Iago the parrot and Carpet the flying carpet are given access to the rulers - and offer much advice that is followed blindly. Oh yeah, there also is a blue, wise-cracking, shape-shifting, nearly-omnipotent genie that helps the rulers, but does not use his powers to help those outside the palace walls -- except in his expert parade-planning.

So, what do we have here? We have a royal aristocracy that lives in lavish luxury at the expense of (and while ignoring the plight of) their poverty-stricken people. The government and the law-enforcement system are thoroughly corrupt, rife with nepotism, and run by literal animals. The Princess we are supposed to admire and offer as an example to our daughters will often try to assist people of other countries (but usually ends up allowing the genie or animals to come up with the solution), while completely ignoring her own people. And Aladdin, who comes from the street and is a true rags to riches story, does not try to help his own people rise above their squallor. Instead, he worries about stuff like finding his thieving father, becoming chief advisor, and talking to beasts. Perhaps he's the most to blame.

So after reading that, it makes you look at that movie in a different light, eh? Well, either that or you are thoroughly convinced I'm a wacko.

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