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Disney’s "Aladdin"

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Under the circumstances of the rapid development of science and technology, globalization processes, and tendencies towards multiculturalism, cultures are beginning to merge. Art shows the gap between actuality and the state of things that most social groups strive for. In the United States of America, the authorities have failed so far to ensure all social groups a peaceful and prosperous life. It happened so, mainly because the means that the authorities have been using so far did not prove to be effective enough, and thus, appeared to be insufficient to reconcile the parties involved in all kinds of racial and ethnic conflicts. Disney’s animated cartoon Aladdin is associated with a great deal of cultural, artistic, and ethical implications. Examination of some of them may give insight into how to bridge the gap between racial and ethnic groups under the circumstances of multiculturalism. Even though disillusionment and discontentment among the representatives of racial and ethnic minority groups is continuing to grow, art can teach people from different cultures how to co-exist peacefully and work together to make the world a happier place.

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Disney’s animated cartoon Aladdin is based on the tale of “Aladdin and Wonderful Lamp” from the Arabian Nights collection of stories. Evidently, the film and the tale differ in details including the means of setting the scene, names, character and characterization as well as the ways and the pace of developing action in both works. In this particular case, the changes are a matter of media in the first place. Most importantly, however, “Aladdin” the tale and Aladdin the film imply a great deal of differences in discourse and ideology that the story itself purports. In other words, the tale and the film that refer to the same characters and, largely, the same events, are characterized by different cultural and social implications. The plot and the themes of both works, however, are the following: both the story and the film tell the tale of a young and resilient villager who is in pursuit of a happier and more prosperous life. 

Disney’s animated cartoon incorporates the values of freedom and heroism, the latter being counted among the distinctive features of the American national character and the primary American values at the same time. That particular discourse is realized through Aladdin’s character and characterization. Apart from that, the Genie’s pursuing freedom and giving service to friends represent the aforementioned values as well. By and large, Aladdin’s heroism accords with the concept of the American Dream. As far as the female characters are concerned, it is important to admit that in Disney’s Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, whose name in the original tale is Badr-el Budr, fits in “the construct of obedient women in patriarchal culture” (Rahayu, Abdullah, & Udasmoro, 2015, p. 32). Apparently, the character’s name was changed in order to make it more English-like. All things considered, Disney’s reconsideration of the original Arabic folk tale was in a way an ideological process. It happened so, mainly because the Arabic messages of the text of the tale and the Arabic values represented in it (for instance, “family, important roles of a mother, young people’s dedication to the elder people, and young people’s hard work and submission to Allah”) were either omitted or transformed (Rahayu et al., 2015, p. 32). For example, instead of being a villager (as in the tale), Aladdin is a burglar in the film. Still, he is one of the most endearing characters on the franchise. In addition to that, the filmmakers have paid more attention to portraying the Genie who, thanks to Robin Williams’s voice and talent, has become a beloved character. 

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Nowadays, ethnical and racial conflicts are escalating under the circumstances of globalization and the ideas of multiculturalism. A heated discussion of intensifying migratory processes has ensued. Evidently, even in spite of the current globalization processes, the majority of people fail to familiarize themselves with the other cultures. The fact that nations, peoples, racial and ethnic groups are unfamiliar with each other’s cultures almost inevitably leads to social confliccts. In particular, Arabic culture in the Christian world is depicted as “dehumanizing and racist” (El‐Haj, 2002, p. 311). That fact, in its turn, is a conclusive proof that nearly all cultures have prejudices concerning the others. Furthermore, it is believed that the idea of using culture to make the ethnic and cultural groups reconcile is ineffective and even absurd (El‐Haj, 2002). Reality shows that the Arab Americans are afforded by the authorities less civil rights if compared to those granted to the other U.S. citizens (El‐Haj, 2002). Even though the majorities in the USA openly disapprove of racism, nationalism, and violence, the discourse of multiculturalism and tolerance leave the existing racial and ethnic confrontations out of account (El‐Haj, 2002). All things considered, local administrations and the state’s authorities should take more effective and more tangible actions to make the social groups feel respected, protected, and safe.

At this point, it is necessary to discuss some specific actions that the authorities take to prevent and/or eliminate the negative consequences of racial and ethnic conflicts immediately. In this respect, the message that the educational process should convey is the following: “People come in many colors and shapes”, but what makes them suffer and what them happy are basically the same (Park, 2011, p. 406). In other words, classroom environment should introduce students to cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity. Most importantly, students should be taught to respect a person’s dignity and honor other people regardless of their ethnic self-identification.  

In conclusion, Disney’s Aladdin can be viewed as a work of art that pays homage to Arabic arts. The filmmakers may have artistically reconsidered the original tale. The message it conveys, however, is still the same: every person, no matter what his/her lineage is, deserves the right to be respected and become happy. Dignity, honor, loyalty, friendship, and courage – these are the values people cherish in real life regardless of their racial/ethnic background. People should value these virtues.

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