Aladdin: Arab Stereotypes
As a kid, I was obsessed with Disney Movies, captivated by the Disney heroines. I was even Princess Jasmine for Halloween one year. Never did it occur to me that while watching these enchanting tales, that I could be participating in Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory as well the Schema Theory. After watching re-watching Aladdin, I started to see where Gerbner’s theory makes a lot of sense. Children, after watching movies such as Aladdin start to share the same views as what they see in the movies. The Schema theory comes into the equation when people start to associate certain stereotypes with Arabs after watching Aladdin.
A child’s mind is open. It absorbs information like a sponge. The media captivate their attention in mediums such as movies and tells them what them “what the world is like.” So what are gonna they gonna believe about Arabs when they watch Aladdin? Barbaric, thieves, treacherous, belly dancers are just a few of the stereotypes depicted of them in the movie. Disney used most all of the stereotypes when making the movie.
As I re-watched Aladdin with new eyes, I picked up on the stereotypes. Things I didn’t really care about as a kid, but had given me an idea of how Arabs supposedly act and look. I noticed that most of the woman were either belly dancers or heavily clothed. The men wear turbans. Not to mention Aladdin and Princess Jasmine have been “americanized” because they are the heroes. They have american accents and lighter skin then than the villains, such as Jafar, who is darker skinned and treacherous looking.
In the very beginning of the movie, the song “Arabian Nights” is played.
Oh I come from a land a faraway place
Where the caravan camels roam
Where they cut off your ear
If they don’t like your face
It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home
Above is the first verse of the song. As you can see it is already painting a mental picture of Arabia. It stereotypes Arabia as a hot desert place with camels. It is described as Barbaric. Only about two minutes into the movie, and the stereotyping has already begun.
Below, in the table, are some of the things I picked up on while watching:
|Jafar turns into a snake to reveal his true personality||The guardsman almost always have their swords drawn||Jafar is perceived as manipulative throughout the whole movie||Many scenes of woman clad in belly dancer outfits||The heroes, Aladdin and Jasmine are Americanized with lighter skin color and American accents|
|“street rats” is used a few times throughout the movie to describe the poor||The opening song of the movie calls their home “barbaric”||He believes he is better than everyone else and there should be sultan, and then as powerful as genie||Jasmine is always wearing revealing and midriff showing
|Villains such as Jafar, thieves, and guards are darker and have accents|
Some other things not listed in the chart include untrue generalizations associated with Arabs such as men wear turbans and woman are either fully covered or belly dancers. Some others are the people have exotic pets, such monkeys and snakes and only ride camels or elephants. The woman are given poor perceptions such as when the sultan “says heaven forbid you ever have a daughter,” giving the idea that they are difficult to deal with. The sultan also tells Jasmine he just wants to find a husband that “will provide for her and take care of her,” insinuating she can’t do it on her own. It is sad that even a company such as Disney plays on the stereotypes of Arabians. Hopefully as children grow older, they realize that many of the stereotypes and generalizations in movies are untrue and used just for entertainment.