Orientalism in Disney

Disney has very little diversity when it comes to its movies and tv shows. On the rare occasion where Disney produces a film with Asian or Middle Eastern characters or themes, they manage to represent them in a way that is stereotypical and offensive. Some prime examples are Aladdin and Mulan.

The original story of Aladdin is from a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales called A Thousand and One Nights. The stories began in India then traveled all through Persia and Asia Minor then were finally were written in Cairo. This authentic folk tale turned into a mockery of people from the Middle East when it was turned into a cartoon film. The writers of the movie were white and the characters were voiced by white voice actors as well. They made several stereotypical tropes for the film that included the wealthy, incompetent sheikh (the Sultan); the dark-skinned, perverted villain (Jafar); barbaric commoners; and the hypersexualized and subordinated women of the East (Jasmine). These were all things written and produced by caucasian males which were then given to many other “Caucasians as an authentic” view of the Middle East. These messages are extremely destructive and harmful to promote to viewers who may not have any idea what people from those countries and cultures are like. There were many ways it could’ve been done better because there are ways to appreciate a culture that doesn’t end up appropriating in.

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