On Thursday, October 16, 2014, Danielle, Sam, and I watched the television special, “Scooby Doo! in Arabian Nights.” It began with Shaggy and Scooby up to their usual shenanigans. They accepted jobs as royal food-testers when a young Caliph offered. After they eat all the food in the palace, the guards chased them until Shaggy disguised himself as a young woman. The prince is enchanted by the “girl’s” beauty and immediately proposed to her. Hoping to make the Caliph fall asleep, Shaggy began telling two “classic” Arabian Nights stories. This is similar to Shahrazad’s storytelling that frames The Arabian Nights.
The first story was about Aliyah-Din (basically a female Aladdin) and her magic lamp in her quest to marry the prince of the land. Aliyah-Din had enormous purple eyes and extremely fair skin, thus making her features noticeably Caucasian. Her name as well sounds extremely similar to the American name, “Ali,” to make her more relatable to American audiences. When the town was depicted, a crowd of gossiping women was shown in see-through veils; they had extremely thick, voluminous lips that would stereotypically be associated with gossiping women. Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo Bear played the genie and his genie-in-training to make the concept less exotic and more relatable. When Aliyah-Din asked for the prince’s (the villain in disguise at this point) hand in marriage, she presented herself with a large dowry to make her candidacy more appealing in comparison to the other suitable females. After being thrown in the dungeon with the real prince, Aliyah-Din prayed to “our lord” in an extremely Christian prayer that begged for salvation; it contained no mention of Allah or anything vaguely Islamic. This was again to make the plot more relatable for an American audience. In a poor attempt to prove the legitimacy of the story, a mention of falafel is included. Aliyah-Din and the prince’s meeting/longing search with a scarf was vaguely reminiscent to that of Cinderella, another noticeable European element. In the end, the rich boy and poor girl fell in love and married despite all odds; this plot structure is extremely American in origin and embodies American ideals of freedom and choice.
The second tale was a parody of Sinbad the Sailor who was played by Magilla Gorilla to again make the story more relatable. The mention and importance of the “runk’s” egg (relating back to the original story’s “roc’s” egg) added some much-needed legitimacy to the elaborate tale. The jewels Sinbad and the captain discovered were football-shaped; this is again to make the story much more relatable for the American audience. Also worth noting, it was slightly confusing to include American tourists from the 21st century in the background of an ancient story, but this was probably to make the story more present-day and not as dry as Americans would’ve expected. The inclusion of modern technology such as doorbells, autoqueues, and toothbrushes furthered the attempt to make the story more contemporarily Western. The supremacy roles of the West and East were touched upon when the obviously classy European (French? English?) cyclops had Middle Eastern servants. Finally, towards the end of the story, Sinbad and the captain mistook the back of a fish to be an island, which was almost directly taken from the original story.
At the conclusion of the Sinbad story, Shaggy and Scooby tried to sneak out of the palace, but before they could, they were caught and recognized by the prince’s guards. However, the prince liked Shaggy’s stories so much that they are asked to become the royal storytellers (as well as food-tasters).
I don’t believe that this rendition of The Arabian Nights was attempting to be accurate, but blatant cultural inaccuracies due to ignorance and typecasts can be the most visible in the entertainment meant for the youth of the “other” culture. The ingraining of the stereotypes into the minds of our youth is one of the most powerful ways of propagating the archaic judgment that we place upon other cultures.
*The bolded elements were made so because they were mentioned in class discussions.