This clip, taken from the Disney film Aladdin, outlines an underlying play on the evil qualities of the villains and other characters with bad intentions through the exaggeration of their physical “Arab” qualities- the thick accents, the turbans, the long noses. However, Aladdin, Jasmine, and the Sultan all appear throughout the movie as more “Western” characters- and these characters are the protagonists throughout the film. The message that this conveys to the audience is that: So long as you’re Western and appear European, then you must be a morally just person. However, if you feature more Eastern or “Arab” qualities, then you must either: A) Not be as advanced, intelligent, or fast on your feet as the other characters of the film, or B) Then that character or person MUST be evil or have bad intentions. But why would the film separate these characters, displaying a very obvious difference between the two different types of characters being portrayed by the film, when all the characters of the film are ultimately Arab? Loomba argues, “… Colonialist views of non-Western peoples… they are mysterious, superstitious, uncivilized, backward. In other words, they are like children who need to be brought in line with the rest of the country.” (1105). From a colonialist’s standpoint, it would be extremely difficult to portray a protagonist and his loved interest in a film such as Aladdin without warping some features to seem more European… for example, you could not have a popular protagonist that an audience can cheer for if he appears and acts like those around him, including the villain and the “lesser” characters of the film (those in the marketplace, non-major characters, etc…). However, this assumption alone, that the protagonist has to appear different from those around them in order to be a successful hero is just one of many examples that “… complicate the meanings of the term ‘post-colonial’.” (1103). For example, Aladdin was not set in a postcolonial time period, nor was it really the perfect example of a colonized country, but it is still very possible to critique the film using a post-colonial lens due to the way the filmmakers play on the physical features of a specific people in order to make them seem less civilized or not the “ideal” race to the audience.
The Student Theorist: An Open Handbook of Collective College Theory by Andrea Wasgatt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.