Oh Aladdin, you were ever girls dream boyfriend with your dreamy oversized eyes and your kind heart. Your compassion towards women and children in your community gave us, the viewers, a Peter Pan of Agrabah feel. Although Aladdin captured our hearts, every brown girl who watched really feel in love with Jasmines strong, independent personality. Her passion to advocate for her peoples rights and her fearless approach to adversity.
A little over two weeks ago, I rubbed my genie lamp and begged my hubby for one wish on my birthday, to go see Aladdin on opening night. His love of Disney movies are pretty much non existent, but he granted me my 1 wish. As we sat in Landmark theatres love-seat recliner couches, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t indulged in their movie experience before. The simple fact I was able to purchase my ticket ahead of time, pick my seat and enjoy a reclining seat set the tone for an amazing experience.
As the movie started my heart fluttered, I couldn’t contain my excitement. The new Aladdin, Mena Massoud, flashed his smile captured my heart in the first 5 minutes of the movie, Jafar was his typical diabolical dark self and the scene with the lion cave was spectacular. Needless to say the movie started off great.
As we continued through the movie, I sang along to the Will Smiths remake of the genies rap, and held my husbands hand as they sang a whole new world, cheesy yes, but I’m a hopeless Disney romantic.
I can’t be anymore proud of Disneys casting selections of the main characters and extras. All of ethnic origins represented fit the picture of Agrabah in my head. The updated custom designed for the Genie, Aladdin and Princess Jasmines outfits were all welcomed. However there was 1 character, two weeks later I still can’t help but be a little disappointed with. Naomi G Scott is a fabulous actress and even better singer, she played the part seamlessly, and her chemistry with Aladdins, Mena Massoud, was flawless. Unfortunately for this West Indian Disney fanatic, it didn’t fit.
Growing up I had 1 princess to look up to. She had dark hair, big eyes, and a pointy nose just like me. Her skin was a true brown, and she even wore Indian clothes, just like me. She was luxurious, independent, strong willed and never backed down from anyone. I loved her and saw glimmers of me in her.
Naomi G Scott is of Indian decent however her facial features are much more European than mine. I couldn’t connect with her. She lacked the kajal around her eyelids, and looked like she walked off of UK Vogues next cover in an Indian outfit. This brought me back to when I was 16 and went to Disney World for the first time with my mom. We were walking through Magic Kingdom, and this massive parade was coming down the street. I saw all the Disney characters in their most authentic version. Off in the distance I could see the Aladdin float, eek Princess Jasmine was in sight. Very quickly my high dropped to an extreme low when I realized Jasmine was caucasian. She was dipped in make up and sprayed with bronzer. My teenage self turned into the 6 year old girl that didn’t fit in with her white peers.
When Aladdin came out to the big screen the first time, I was a 6 year old girl that had about 20 blond barbies and every Disney princess available. Even though their skin didn’t match mine, their eyes were blue and their hair was long and straight I still loved them. They looked like all my friends at school, as I was the only coloured girl in a school of 500 people. But when Aladdin came to theatres, and all of my friends loved her. Her clothes, jewellery, big eyes, her dark hair and clothes were all new to them. I could finally breathe because they loved her and she looked like me.
I’m 32 and all of this may sound silly now, but that little girl is so sad that Princess Jasmine was culturally appropriated to look more like my friends but dressed in beautiful Indian clothing. How is it fair that the 1 princess us brown girls had, we can no longer identify with. Would a brown girl be Cinderella one day? Would Arielle have black hair instead of red? Would Belle be played by an Asian girl? Would Tiana be white in her live remake? I highly doubt it.
Dear Disney, I know us brown girls don’t make up a lot of your fandom or viewership but for what it’s worth please keep our wishes alive. Give us the chance to be seen on the big screen. Give little brown girls the opportunity to walk into Walmart and see a brown doll that looks just like them.
Naomi G Scott you played the part, you gave Jasmine a fierce independence, and a story line for young girls to know that they can lead their people equal, or even better than their male counterparts. I wish the make up artist who came up with you look played up your Indian features and gave you an over exaggerated eye and high cheek bones to represent Jasmine in her authentic self.
Until next time Disney…