Disney’s Aladdin

Nowadays media produce a significant impact on the audience to the extent that it is even possible to estimate that currently it is media that form mass culture and social consciousness. In such a situation media target at children and young audience are particularly important, notably the message they send to the audience since willingly or not they affect dramatically education and cultural development of the younger generations. One of such medium is “Aladdin” which may be viewed as an example of an animated feature made in the Disney’s canon. Moreover, it is even possible to state that it is a typical example of Disney’s style.
First of all, it is necessary to briefly dwell upon the film itself in order to properly evaluate it and find out whether there are some stereotypes, biases, or prejudices referring to different aspects within “Aladdin” or probably it is free of them. Actually, the film is just another version of a story from “The Book of One Thousand and One Nights” but the interpretation and presentation of this old story is quite different from the original and may be viewed as an adaptation for traditional Disney’s audience. Basically this is a story of a street urchin Aladdin who occasionally meets a princess named Jasmine and they fall desperately in love. The reason for such a presumable impossible encounter is the unwillingness of the princess to marry. This is why she escapes from the sultan’s palace leaving his father, who, in his turn, is unconscious of the intrigues of his grand vizier Jafar who is scheming to become a sultan and the most powerful man in the whole world due to the help of magic.
Naturally, the escaped princess is caught, along with Aladdin who helped her to hide, and returned to the palace while Aladdin becomes a tool in the hands of Jafar in his plans to get a magic lamp from the cave. However, Aladdin and his friends a monkey Abu and Carpet escape from a treacherous vizier and with the help of Genie the ex-street urchin becomes a prince and regains the love of the princess who believed he was executed. In the result of a series of adventures the story rounds up in a traditional way. To put it more precisely, the viewers enjoy the happy end when the evil grand vizier Jafar is punished for his treachery by the main character, Aladdin who tricked him forcing him become a genie that made him a slave of the magic lamp. In stark contrast, positive characters enjoy the life: Aladdin and Jasmine get married and live happily with their friends, and Genie is freed by the last wish of Aladdin.
Obviously, such a story conveyed in a traditional way is mainly concerned about the American audience and probably European one. Unquestionably, this story may contribute significantly to the development of the concept of multiculturalism, especially taking into account the fact that the target audience is children. At the same time, it should be said that “Alladin” may be a perfect source of information about Oriental culture and lifestyle, notably those of the Middle East. However, it is rather hypothetical possibility since in actuality the Disney’s version of the story from “The Book of One Thousand and One Nights” is quite different and not only in the plot but what is more important in the presentation of the story, main characters and their lifestyle and behavior. In this respect, it is possible to estimate that “Aladdin” is rather the film of lost opportunities than a successful film that gets the audience acquainted with the culture and traditions of the Middle East. In stark contrast, the film rather imposes Western lifestyle and culture to the viewer than inform the audience about the lifestyle and culture of the Middle East.
Naturally, in the context of multiculturalism, such interpretation and presentation of the famous story may be interpreted in different ways. On the one hand, the differences between the original version and adaptation of the main characters to Western culture may be explained by the intention of the creators of the film to show that there are little difference between people living in different parts of the world and representing different cultures. On the other hand, it is quite obvious that such unification of culture and lifestyle rather resembles an attempt to unify all cultures making the all alike.

In fact, it is really hard to skip the idea that the traditional American or western lifestyle and behavior are imposed on the main characters who originally should be absolutely different from westerners. However, the main characters are practically typical representatives of Western culture. Actually, there are some controversies that are totally unacceptable for the culture of the Middle East, especially taking into consideration the epoch when the story takes place. For instance, the princess Jasmine is unveiled throughout the whole movie that is totally unacceptable for the traditional Middle Eastern culture and even her actions and behavior is too Western to the extent that her free and independent way of thinking and acting is hardly possible for an average woman in the Middle East even at the present moment. The same may be said about male characters, including Aladdin who is supposed to wear beard that is a norm in the Middle East, or else all the men who wear turbans in the film all appear to be bald as well.
On analyzing such controversies between the original version and traditional Middle Eastern culture and traditions, on the one hand, and Westernized interpretation of the story and the lifestyle of the main characters, on the other hand, indicate at the lack of understanding of the local cultural peculiarities and traditions, or unwillingness to depict them truthfully and close to real life. In this respect, it is hardly possible to believe that such one-sided and extremely subjective interpretation and presentation of the story may really contribute to the better understanding the concept of multiculturalism by the younger generation as well as by the audience that watches the film at large.
The reason for this statement is quite simple. It is evident that the film does not promote the idea of cultural diversity because the characters are westernized and it seems as if it is one of the traditional American stories but simply the characters live in some strange houses and wear some strange clothes and some of them have even stranger names. It seems as if these three aspects have been changed for more traditional for American audience one would hardly guess that the story was non-originally American. Basically, such narrow interpretation and presentation of the original characters reveals the domination of the traditional American culture shaped according to the standards of the white community of the country.
Thus, it is possible to conclude, that such a one-sided way of presentation of the story, which character are extremely distanced from the original ones, contributes only to the strong conviction of the dominance of western culture worldwide making American lifestyle, culture, way of actions and behavior, really universal and typical for all peoples while national peculiarities and traditions of different cultures are simply getting lost. As a result, instead of the great possibility to develop the concept of multiculturalism emphasizing the variety and diversity of cultures that exist in different parts of the world, the creators of the film, instead, creates another adapted story quite comprehensible and matching the expectations of American and European audience without any regard to traditional culture of the Middle East. In such a way, it is possible to estimate that the concept of multiculturalism is practically annihilated by the creators of such a popular film as “Aladdin”.

1. Clements, R. and Musker, J. (Producers and Directors). Aladdin [Videocassette]. Boston MA: WBGH Educational Foundation, 1992.
2. Chomsky, Naom. “What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream”, Z Magazine, June, 1997.
3. Parker, Derek. Mass Media in the Contemporary World, Online Journal, 12 November 2002.
4. Prestage, Jon. Mainstream Journalism: Shredding the First Amendment, Online Journal, 7 November 2002.

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