Monday, November 24, 2008

The Aladdin example

(In response to watching this video clip, something that a classmate put up during an online discussion of racial representation for Media Studies: Ideas.)

If one thinks about the fact that Aladdin was such a beloved film, it's kind of frightening to know that children (and I put myself in this category, for I was only 8 when this film came out) are running around singing the songs from this film, especially the one that introduces the story to the audience: "O I come from a land, from 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."

What I find interesting is that when the film came out on VHS, Disney retracted its former statements of racism and changed the lyrics to "Where it's flat and immense and the heat is intense/ It's barbaric but hey it's home." Maybe an initial revision would have been more effective; to me, this is just a major corporation saving it's own ass. And, they still include the idea that living in the desert is somehow barbaric and inhuman, that the desert is not the natural place in which one should live. Nice try, Disney, but this film, as the clip from "Reel Bad Arabs" put it, is still so chock full of recycled racial stereotypes that are completely unnecessary to the telling of the story that the revision of one line of lyrics is not going to suddenly undo the offenses that have been done.

1 comment:

Princess Leah said...

Talk to Nana some time about how completely and effectively Hollywood managed to villify the Japanese during her childhood...

I remember the controversy over those Aladdin lyrics at the time the movie was released. I can't help but wonder whether the involvement of Howard Ashman (who died in 1991--his last Disney film was Beauty & The Beast) would have tempered some of the more unsavory aspects of the film's treatment of Arabs. Ashman had such a lovely touch and enlightened voice. It is hard for me to see the song 'Kill the Beast' from Beauty & The Beast as anything but an indictment of intolerance.