Why Jasmine’s biggest threat isn’t Jafar but white supremacy.
Prediction Sep 12, 2017: The Live Action Adaption of Aladdin will squander a once in a generation moment to elevate characters of colour: instead pandering to whiteness with an insertion of a European Prince that doesn’t belong in Agrabah.
I will never forget the moment I first fell in love: 25 years ago.
I lay in my bed, unable to sleep after watching Aladdin in the move theater. No after living through Aladdin.
Jasmine, was fierce, intelligent, beautiful, and strong. It was hard not be in love with her.
I remember writing my very first ever story the next day in class. It was basically Aladdin and Jasmine’s story just written out. Now 34, I mark it as the point that inspired my own desire to tell stories years on.
My favourite part in the movie. When Aladdin tries to impress Jasmine with his whole Prince Ali grandiose, and he, her father and Jafar argue over her as if she wasn’t there. Then she blows them all off.
Jasmine cannot be bought, or impressed with trinkets and titles. Just honesty… okay maybe a magic carpet helps (you have to have some game as a man right?)
Jasmine isn’t some prop for Aladdin, nor Jafar nor any Prince. And certainly not a white one who only exists because White Disney Executives seem to fear how white audiences will deal with a lack of white people…in a world where white people don’t actually exist… What the fuck?
But we have Prince Anders, who from reports will be a rival for Jasmine’s hand.
Some say hey what’s the big deal?
It is a big deal.
For decades white audiences and people of colour audiences have been so programmed to infer whiteness as normalcy that we don’t even understand the extent of the triggering we experience and are just starting to rehab.
(Don’t believe me when I started working on my own series, I couldn’t make sense of the characters of colour my animation and concept team came up with and I ASKED for them. Neither could my ex-wife a woman of colour herself who inspired the female protagonist along with Jasmine.)
So when you insert a white character into any part of narrative it becomes like a white whole sucking attention, privilege, and dissonance towards it.
Ask yourself this question, why a white Prince of European dissent, why not an African Prince, A Chinese Prince, another Arab Prince, heck why not another Princess of colour…Why this guy?
Many of us hope that the live action adaptation would avoid the racist tropes of the original animated film we unpacked over years of the crazy wild arabesque. We also demand that Jasmine be an even stronger feminist while we are at it and no Damsel in distress shit (My 4 year old brown skinned daughter needs to see that you don’t need a man to save you). But yes we also want to see them kiss okay? Sorry contrary I know but she is Bae…
So we were overjoyed with castings of people of colour. Now in fairness there are legitimate critiques that Arabs and South Asians are not interchangeable so that Jasmine should have been cast as an Arab woman (she’s half white half gujrati), and I can’t really argue there either but my South Asianness may be guilty of appropriating an Arab story too. Mea culpa.
But still… a white guy.
In the fucking desert.
Because it’s too much of a shock to audiences used to seeing Aladdin and Jasmine played by a white guy or girl at theme parks and live shows. That they somehow saw the brown skin in animation and inferred them as white (Jasmine is always attempted to be “lightened” up in toys, because …shadeism). But they know that we would boycott the film if Aladdin and Jasmine were whitewashed completely, so they did the next best thing created a role out of nothing to stand in the main with Jasmine.
Inserting a white prince out of nowhere is even a bigger slap in the face, because Aladdin HAS NOTHING to do with whiteness, but is a legend from the very Arab culture whiteness demonizes to this day, but conveniently “bleaches,sanitizes, and washes” when it needs to make money or appropriate it.
It doesn’t matter whether Prince Anders is there for a bit or for the whole movie, nor if he wins Jasmine’s hand or she shows him why he is her superior (she is)and kicks him to the curb.
It matters because it’s more than a movie to some of us.
A generation of millennial people have grown up in a post 9/11 era where their south asian/middle eastern/persian heritage and Islamic faith/culture is tied to terrorism, extremism and violence. If you don’t understand what this means to us, take a look at Black audiences ready to explode when Black Panther comes out. It’s not just a movie, it’s an act of healing and resistance…
….It is 20 years of always feeling like second class characters in fantasy, sci-fi, and epic stories and being treated like that as a result in REAL life. Art begets life begets art. It is for once seeing some of us who looked like us as the mains. That as the characters went from animated to real life they would become real for the world and elevate us in ways we need to be.
That we could finally have something for us where we are FIRST. But they couldn’t let us have it.
Whiteness never will.
No matter how many wishes the genie (Will Smith I guess?) grants us…