As many of you know, Disney has my heart. It’s the kind of love that can withstand many missteps (like tarting up Merida for her princess unveiling, waiting way too long to give us diverse princesses, and making a meeting with the Frozen girls at Disneyworld a logistical nightmare for any parent). For quite a long time it was strictly platonic…and then came Aladdin.
I was eleven when Aladdin was first released in movie theaters. Junior high was already on the horizon, and my elementary school heart was already thinking about boys in a serious way. The thing was, I wasn’t one of those girls who fantasized about getting married. My career was a more exciting prospect and freedom was my main objective. But I still obsessed about boys. Jazmine was relatable to me, she wanted more than what was expected of her—and what was expected was marriage. I can’t remember if I made all these connections as a tween, but I knew I liked her best of all. It also didn’t hurt that we had the same skin tone.
Then I met him. Aladdin. Handsome and clever and completely unafraid of a strong woman. He could sing and he had a flying carpet. His best friend was a monkey and (really thrilling to eleven year old me) he never wore a shirt. Escandalo! Was he real? I fully admit to the fact that I developed a huge crush on an animated character, but looking back it wasn’t as strange as I made it sound. Aladdin is the male protagonist I always look for when I read (and write) a book. We take it for granted in an age where women and minorities wish to be heard and want to be represented in every conceivable way. But finding that elusive unicorn—the well-rounded male—is almost impossible. A man who is strong yet sensitive enough to realized when we don’t need (or want) to be rescued. A male character who shows vulnerability and courage. It was exciting then and refreshing now.
These men exist in nature. I’ve met them and I married one, but why are they rare in stories? We’ve replaced the two-dimensional female archetype from fairy tales and replaced her with an equally underdeveloped male archetype.
Yes, I know this movie sets a lot of people’s teeth on edge with its stereotypes and insensitive song lyrics (which Disney recently changed in the song, Arabian Nights) and I freely admit that my analytical side gnashes right along with them. But this isn’t that kind of post.
I know that by the end of the movie, Jazmine wanted nothing more than to marry Aladdin. The feminist in me wants to rail against that, but honestly I don’t. Once you’ve found the one who lets you be you, it’s reason enough to want to spend the rest of your life with them. So, I don’t begrudge her suddenly going gaga over him. If I ever met Aladdin, my well-rounded husband would have some real competition.