Orientalism in Aladdin

Aladdin, a Disney princess movie directed to an audience of children, depicts the Middle East as a foreign land that is mysterious and dangerous. It is supposed to be seen as vastly different than the western culture. The film purposely exaggerates the differences between cultures to provide entertainment- despite the fact that it exaggerates stereotypes and minimizes the culture to one small example.

The opening scene has racist lyrics, “Where they cut off your ear/ If they don’t like your face/ It’s barbaric but hey, it’s home.”

This movie and these lyrics promote stereotypes of Arab individuals. This leads to the feelings of no accurate representation in media that Edward Saed had felt. These depictions, which many Middle Eastern individuals may not relate to, can alienate viewers. Saed felt that the Arabs portrayed in media never looked like his family or any Arabs he knew. Many viewers, especially children, may feel shame from the negative connotations associated with these inaccurate depictions and may internalize these messages.

In addition to the stereotypes in the movie’s culture, Aladdin generalizes the scenery and fictional city of Agrabah. The city becomes a single identity of Arab culture when in reality there are many different cities in the Middle East that vary greatly. This one depiction creates a single image for viewers to associate with the Middle East contributing to westerners’ shallow understanding of the Middle East.

Lastly, most of the Aladdin characters have exaggerated facial features while Aladdin and Jasmine have more white features. This enforces the subtle mindset that eurocentric features are most desirable and worthy.

Aladdin as a whole exemplifies the stereotyping of Middle Easterners in western films. It displays a narrow view of the Eastern world produced by the West as entertainment.

3 thoughts on “Orientalism in Aladdin

  1. Rachel C.

    I love how you brought out that the Middle East becomes a “single identity”; it shows that every culture has multiple subcultures within, and showcasing only one is not only dangerous, but also inaccurate. It’s awful that the Western cinema has a habit of stereotyping other cultures, especially as a form of entertainment, when it is, in fact, someone’s life and reality.



    I also did an analysis on orientalism in Aladdin and I never considered the physical facial features that the film exaggerates. Very good point.


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