Orientalism in Aladdin

Orientalism is a misunderstood problem that has led to a false representation of Asai and Africa and the cultures surrounding them. The group of people misrepresented the most by orientalism are people from the middle east area. People from Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen all have to live with stereotypes placed on their heads through orientalism. In a large majority of films and books, the story’s antagonist comes from some Islam militia terrorist group located in the middle east. This has spread to Africa as well through groups like Boko Haram. Think back to any movie you have ever watched, or any book you have ever read, and try to think of an example where the bad guys or the people portrayed as evil in the story are not Muslim or African. It’s difficult, isn’t it? and near impossible when discussing films from a long time ago. These constant stereotypes have led Muslim people, the Islamic culture, African people, and African groups and cultures to be seen as over-aggressive and dangerous.

A good example of orientalism can be found in the film Alladin. When a middle eastern woman was asked how she felt Alladin represented her culture, she said she throuroughly enjoyed the original film from 1992, but when it came to the remastered disney version, she had the following to say, “Is it messed up that I’m happy Disney has traded explicit racism for cliched exoticism? Is that really the bar they had to clear for me to be happy” she was clearly unhappy with of inacurate disneys representation of her culture was. She went into further discussion of the movie and how Disney failed to hire actual Middle-Eastern actors in both movies. That people of different cultural backgrounds are not interchangeable and simply reinforces Orientalist ideas and erases culture and history. Agrabah, which is the name of the fictional town for the movie, is based off Middle Eastern, Islamic, and Asian aspects and cultural identities. Within the opening song the lyrics describe the town to be “where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face, it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home”, essentially describing the people of these cultural backgrounds to be barbaric and uncivil. Another point to be made was that the main characters, Aladdin and Jasmin, are both wearing clothing from different countries with Aladdin wearing a Turkish Fez and Jasmine with Indian shoes.

Orientalism is all around us, in films, books, story’s, and many other places. It is a problem that has been rooted deep in our society for many years, and is now something hard to get rid off. The false representation of Asai and Africa and the cultures surrounding them has lead to negative connotations surrounding them and giving people the wrong idea of these cultures.

Orientalism in 19th Century Interracial Relationships

While reading God of Small things set in post colonial India, I was reminded of the effects of Orientalism among British officers in the East India Company. More specifically when examining Orientalism, the relationships between British officers and Indian women came to mind.

The theory of Orientalism discusses the dangers of both stereotypes that diminish the validity of nations on the “orient” describing places outside of the West “primitive” and stuck in time, as well as stereotypes that over romanticize the culture, depicting the people, especially the women of the “Orient” as sensual, mysterious, and exotic. Both stereotypes are equally harmful because both work to dehumanize the people that live outside of the West, not allowing people who live in the “orient” the mutual recognition they deserve.

As a case study, the interracial relationships in colonial India reinforce the idea that Orientalism can manifest as a positive, or attractive view of people in India for instance, but is still extremely harmful because it diminishes humans to a single trait. Many British Officers of the East India Company, like James Kirkpatrick, married Indian women upon moving to India with stereotypes of women in the “orient” as their reason for attraction. British men claimed Indian women to be “more sexual” and “exotic” than British women and thus preferable as a sexual partners.

The British men of the East India Company were prime examples of Orientalism in action, their attraction to the women in India was motivated by stereotypes of women in the “orient” rather than the quality of their character. Thus, the concepts of Orientalism still apply even when the stereotypes are more positive, and desirable, the dehumanization no matter the stereotype remains the same.

Orientalism vs. Classism in The God of Small Things

In Amurhatti Roy’s, The God of Small Things, it is interesting to note how different people are judged in different ways. While there is blatant discrimination and oppression in the Caste System, there are less regulated prejudices in orientalism.

The classism seen in The God of Small Things mostly fits within the Caste System, but where it does not is where it is shown at its strongest. Through the Ipe family, we see what it’s like to be at the top of the chain. We see how Baby Kochamma treats others that are not of their class, such as Velutha, and the magnitudes she goes to in order to preserve the family name. The most obvious being framing Velutha, whose death shows that Boaby Kochamma will go to any length for the family’s position. Usually, as with Sophie Mol, the British are seen as high up in the caste system, just because of the color of their skin. Interestingly enough, this does not matter to Baby Kochamma. When Tacko told his family he was marrying Margaret Kochamma, Baby Kochamma did not approve, despite her future daughter in-law’s nationality. To Baby Kochamma, money is what really sets people apart.

In comparison, it is less surprising that Margaret Kochamma’s family also didn’t approve of her and Chako’s marriage. Margaret Kochamma’s family is afraid of their daughter marrying an Indian Man because they have been tamed by orientalism. Through orientalism, the protrayal of the East in Western media and entertainment, Margaret’s family considers India an “other”. They are scared of their daughter going to a place that they aren’t comfortable with, and losing the “civility” that they associate with the West. They don’t truly understand what a place like India is really like, and the death of Sophie Mol must have only intensified their prejudice.

The Orientalist Mindset Through “The God of Small Things”

“The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy brings a lot of issues to light, and compelling storytelling on the part of Roy helps emphasize systematic issues in interesting ways. A common theme one can associate with “The God of Small Things” is the orientalism and orientalist mindset present throughout the story, as well as how that affects characters and their perceptions of others. Roy does an excellent job of depicting the negative effects an orientalist mindset can have on a person’s perspective and worldview, as well as how society’s natural perception is not often prone to change. Although the story itself has a compelling plot, the way issues of class, politics, as well as societal issues are immersed into the story make it extremely informative and beneficial to read. Many societal issues are highlighted throughout the story, specifically those regarding the orientalist mindset and how it can be detrimental.

For example, from the beginning of our introduction to Margaret Kochamma and Sophie Mol, it is evident that they feel out of place, and they already have a predisposed idea of what they will be experiencing on their holidays. Although Roy does not shove these misalignments in your face, she does make it a point for readers to notice the difference in perspective, as well as how it is ultimately untrue and even offensive. For example, Ammu remarks sarcastically to Margaret Kochamma after she asks a question about Kochu Marie smelling Sophie’s hands, asking whether or not it is a custom. Although to Margaret it may have seemed like an innocent question, so few words really put into perspective the misinformation that many people have, especially those with previous notions and opinions about things they have not experienced.

Roy’s specific use of words and articulation of these differences shed light on how destructive the orientalist mindset can be, as it creates the expectation of stagnancy, without the anticipation of growth or development. Roy does an excellent job of bringing awareness to these differing perspectives and how although there is a lot of tradition and custom, such is true in any culture, and the division of “The East” and “The West” stems from a lot of misinformation and assumptions.

Orientalism in Western Media

Western media has normalized illustrating Asian and Middle eastern people as inferior, mocking their cultures, and normalizing the stereotypes imposed upon them at the hands of western society.

White women dressing up a geishas, automatically associating Japanese films with ninjas, the way middle eastern or asian characters are depicted in drawing are all examples of how normalized xenophobia is in our present day society. Extremely evident in movies, they are depicted as these people in need of saving at the hands of a white hero. Or in other words they are villainized, especially the darker they are. Colorism is also extremely popular in Orientalism seeing as the protagonist, despite race, will always be pale skinned.


  • Iron Man – An extremely wealthy (white) man was kidnapped by Afghanistans to make a weapon of mass destruction. Not only did they villanize these people and make Tony Stark the hero, they depicted the community as military ridden and impoverished, further more contributing to the stereotypes associated with Asian and Middle eastern culture.
    • I also find this interesting because especially during there Cold War, White People (Russians) were depicted as the faces of war and as terrorists but nowadays when you hear terrorist, you associated it with brown faces.
  • Aladdin – The depiction of Arab people as thieves, over-sexualization of Princess Jazmine, and considering how the villain, Jafar , is visibly darker than majority of the other characters, specifically the Sultan and Princess Jasmine. They also give most of the villains in the movie extremely exaggerated Arab accents.
  • Nicki Minaj – Your Love: In the music video, Nicki dresses up as a geisha wearing traditionally asian clothes and choosing to assimilate the diversity into just one ethnicity, either Japanese or Thai despite pulling several things from multiple asian cultures and only acknowledging which ones fit best into her work. The whole storyline of the video is her falling in love with her sensei.
Oversexualization of Princess Jasmine

Tony Stark Captured by Afghan Terrorists
Nicki Minaj’s Appropriation of Asian Culture

The Dangers of a Single Story paired with Orientalism 

One of the most powerful TED talks that I have ever listened to debuted in 2009. The conversation Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie holds with this audience about what a single story can hold against many people throughout the world and the harm that it may possess is captivating. 

A single story is a concept which emphasizes the possibility of misunderstandings with another person or culture. Single stories spread throughout the world like a wildfire. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explained her experience with her American roommate when attending college she explained the difficulties of the single story her roommate held for Adichie being from Nigeria, “My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.” Single stories lead to misconceptions about culture, gender, and race. 

Orientalism is described, by Richard Said, as a critical concept to describe the West’s commonly contemptuous depiction and portrayal of “The East”. Societies and peoples of the Orient are those who inhabit the places of Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. The critical concepts many people perceive are damaging and hold stereotypes that are untrue. 

The single story articulates a similar narrative to Orientalism. Both contain a false conception about the cultures and lives of many people, which have lasting effects throughout the generations.


When i started reading God Of Small Things, I immediately noticed Roy’s altering use of language and specifics in his writing. Especially his comparison of almost anything and everything with nature. I was curious as to this style of writing and I found a word I think accurately describes Roy’s literary ability to incorporate nature and how it challenge societys rule and customs: ecocriticism. Broadly speaking, ecocriticism is the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment. There are many events or significant places that represent this relationship, as well as give a deeper meaning to things in nature that may otherwhise go overlooked. For example water. The river had a very important meaning in this novel and served a physicall represntation fo a “boundary” one must overcome in order to cross it. Another example is the garden in which Baby Kochamma took upon herself in creating a whole world for herself and find pride in.

The title of this novel, being “God Of Small Things” has a bit of a two sided meaning when it coems to Roy’s portrayal of nature and its meaning thorugout the book. In this wirting, nature is definitely more so seen as the “small things,” while society, class, gender is all more seen as the “big things,” which is why we end up understanding why Velutha is the “God Of Small Thing,” because of his appreciation and commitment to the small aspects of nature and environment that surrounds him.