What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Disney’s Aladdin? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s film:
Stars: Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman, Gilbert Gottfried
Director: Ron Clements and John Musker
Production Co: Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Feature Animation
Written by: Ben Steiner
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey (http://www.ryanhaileydotcom.com/)
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Produced by: Jacob S. Salamon
Aladdin’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is Aladdin, a classic Disney hit responsible for the barefoot / shirtless vest / tiny hat craze that became the defining look for a generation. The film takes place in the land of Agrabah, home to Earth’s booming population of primarily English-speaking Muslims, and ruled with a cuddly fist by Sultan, the sultan. Jafar, the vice sultan, is a power-hungry sociopath who only cares about magic lamps inside very exclusive caves. Using science, he determines that a homeless peasant named Aladdin is the man for him. To get the lamp, not to date. Although he does have a pretty nice bod… No! It would never work.
Meanwhile, Aladdin meets and instantaneously falls in love with Princess Jasmine, who is doing an undercover boss thing to root out unfair labor practices in the market square. Jafar has Aladdin arrested for owning and operating a monkey without a permit, and then, pretending to be a fellow prisoner, frees Aladdin so they can finally go on that date. Once inside the Cave of Oneders, Aladdin’s monkey Abu touches a monkey egg, causing the cave to trap them like a monkey inside an egg. Aladdin rubs the lamp and a Genie pops out and does some cocaine-fueled stand-up before granting him three wishes. So he wishes to be a prince, which I guess means the Genie creates an entire kingdom for him somewhere else? But not one for him to rule, since he’s only a prince, so does the Genie make him a fake mom and dad to be king and queen? Unconcerned with the semantics, Aladdin parades into town as Prince Ali A-barbara to force Jasmine on a magic carpet ride for what must be weeks based on the amount of ground they cover. And just like that, they’re back in love city, population them.
Unfortunately, Jafar, who is clearly just making it up as he goes along, has now decided he wants to become sultan by marrying Jasmine. So he sends Prince Ali to sleep with the fishes, with the hope that Jasmine will break up with him when she finds out he f*cked a bunch of fish but the Genie uses wish #2 to keep his buddy’s dick safely in his parachute pants. To keep things moving, Jafar steals the lamp from Aladdin and starts wishing up a storm. He turns into a giant snake, and using rudimentary shape association, Aladdin figures it’s time to use the old noodle. He tricks Jafar into wishing to become a genie, which seems like it should be against the rules, but whatever, it traps him. Aladdin uses his final wish to free the original Genie, whose name is Kevin, and tells Jasmine the truth about his homelessness. She gives him some spare change and sends him on his way.
Aladdin explores the concept of freedom, which Earthlings were obsessed with because they were trapped in only three dimensions. Many characters in the film feel inhibited in some way. Jafar hates serving the Sultan, Aladdin is frustrated that everyone he knows is a monkey, the Genie wants to be able to wear Hawaiian shirts, and Jasmine’s got her whole deal. The film illustrates Jasmine’s plight using the metaphor of a caged bird . This recurring trope appears in literature and film to symbolize literal or metaphorical imprisonment, usually of a young woman. Or bird. The characters believe they are limited by who they are; thus, they constantly change their identities. Aladdin disguises himself as a prince in order to win Jasmine some free concert tickets. Conversely, Jasmine dresses as a commoner to get away from all the concerts they’re always having at the palace. But it is Jafar who has truly mastered the art of obfuscation. By naming his parrot Iago, the film equates him to one of the great manipulators in literary history: Shakespeare’s Iago, the sneaky lieutenant who deceives Shakespeare’s Othello into murdering his own wife, Shakespeare’s Othello’s wife.
However, any success gained through subterfuge is just a temporary tattoo on the soul. Jafar can’t hang onto the lamp he acquired under false pretences, and Jasmine sees through Aladdin’s inability to alter his face or voice in any way. The film suggests that masquerade will produce unsatisfactory results because it’s what’s on the inside of the human body that counts. The Cave of Oneders demonstrates this early in the film, when it rejects the murderous thief with liver failure but accepts Aladdin, whose organs are perfectly functional.
Even as the film attempts to show that money can’t buy me love, it ultimately reinforces the distinction between the haves and the haven’t-anys. The film seems to suggest money is a trap, either literally, as it is in the Cave of Oneders, or figuratively, as demonstrated by Aladdin’s failure to impress Jasmine with his expensive hat feather. Therefore we aren’t really on board with Jafar’s capitalist philosophy. But, in a sense, he’s right. While Aladdin’s street rat cunning enables him to defeat Jafar, he and the princess wind up in the same predicament as before: separated by status. Aladdin may be a “diamond in the rough,” but that basically just makes him a lump of coal. It’s only when the sultan changes the law that he and Jasmine are truly equalized, so as long as we can count on our leaders to admit when they’re wrong, everything will be A-ok.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. As-Salaam-Alaikum.