[UPDATED]: “Tell me, princess, now when did you last let your heart decide?” // Outline of Staninger’s “Disney’s Magic Carpet Ride: Aladdin and Women in Islam”


*This outline does not reflect my personal ideas or style. It is an outline of Christiane Staninger’s essay entitled “Disney’s Magic Carpet Ride: Aladdin and Women in Islam.”

1. Princess Jasmine as a character and her appeal to American audiences

o   She is a strong, independent woman

  • Not an object of desire as seen in the original story (barely any speaking, Aladdin just wants her because he saw her beauty)

o   Her clothing and speech mimics that of American teenage girls form the eighties/nineties

  • Baggy pants, halter tops, long hair, scrunchies
  • “How dare you! All of you, standing around deciding my future? I am not a prize to be won!” *storms out* (Aladdin 1992)

o   Her faith is not addressed; she has no discernible accent

  • More relatable for Americans because there is no no culture shock/barrier

o   She’s bored of home, so she chooses to run away

  • Typical rebellious American teenager behavior
  • “You’re not free to make your own choices. You’re just — trapped” (Aladdin 1992)
  • “But I can’t stay here and have my life lived for me” (Aladdin 1992)

o   Rich girl (Jasmine) meets poor boy (Aladdin) when disguised

  • Typical American plot (“‘uptown girl’ story with Broadway tunes” (Staninger))

o   She has strong will, determination, and a direct attitude

  • Sassy, rebellious American teenager – knows what she wants

2. Jasmine as a Middle Eastern woman and how non-Middle Easterners perceive Middle Eastern women

o   She encompasses the American ideals of freedom, choice, courage

  • Opposite of the Middle Eastern stereotypes

o   She is beautiful with Caucasian features

  • Her noticeable European qualities whitewash her

o   Her name is Jasmine instead of the original “Badr al-Budur”

  • More whitewashing – make familiar to Americans to prevent cultural isolation

o    Jasmine wants to break free of the “controlling” Islamic conventions

  • Promoting American ideals as better
    • “Archaic” Islamic traditions should be replaced with “better” ones
  • “The law is wrong.” (Aladdin 1992)

o   The main characters are modeled on American celebrities

  • Tom Cruise, Ed Sullivan – further whitewashing

o   American audience didn’t recognize prejudice and stereotyping

  • Americans need to be educated – characters were obviously incorrect

3. Islamic women and their role in the Middle East

o   Women have final say over domestic issues – especially who their son(s) will marry

  • They hold tremendous power over husbands and sons

o   American stereotype: Islamic women are timid and shy; they would never discuss sex

  • Women are open about their sex life with their circle of female friends

o   American stereotype: Islamic women have little schooling as they are forced to drop out before secondary education

  • Young girls are being encouraged to go to school nowadays – albeit as a back-up plan if anything happens to their husband and they need to support a family singlehandedly

o   Western women haven’t come that far in civil/human rights movements (not even 100 years since women got the right to vote!)

  • They should get off their high horse
    • Disparities between the two groups aren’t that different/far behind

o   Ancient scripture was altered/distorted/manipulated by Muhammad’s misogynistic followers

  • Made it seem as though Muhammad viewed women as subservient
    • He had strong wives – proposals, not arranged marriages
    • He gave them the right to inherit money – financially independent

o   “Golden Age”/Abbasid dynasty stripped women of their power and pride (forced to be slaves)

  • This time period is immortalized in The Arabian Nights, fueling the stereotypes

The ironic portrayal of Jasmine as a distinctly American princess belittles the culture and beliefs of the Middle Eastern world as it attempts to prove that the Eastern ideals are “backwards” and in need of being fixed. Staninger recognizes the American ignorance towards Middle Eastern culture. She hopes the reader will attempt to appreciate other cultures – specifically Islamic culture – more after they read her work, perhaps seeking more accurate depictions of the culture than Disney’s Aladdin.

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