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.

Women and King Lear

Women in power are often characterized in one of a few ways to diminish their power (All of which are experienced by powerful female characters in King Lear). Here are a few of many examples from the play along with modern examples…

  1. Women in power are portrayed as scary, wild, and animal-like.

Lear, when upset with Regan and Goneril for denying him all his guards, called them “unnatural hags” (II.iiii.275). This depiction of them portrays them as not fully women for acting in a forceful manner. It describes powerful and demanding stances as a masculine role that is only “natural” for men. When women show power, they are crazy and “unnatural.”

Similar to the treatment of Regan and Goneril, Michele Obama was on the cover of a magazine with the headline, “What’s So Scary About Michelle Obama.”

2. Women in power are portrayed as mentally ill.

Goneril, after criticizing Albany and his ability to handle control, is accused of being, “most barbarous, most degenerate, have you madded” (IIII.ii.53-54). The play sees no plausible reason for women to be acting with power so the default reaction is to accuse them of insanity.

Nancy Pelosi was made out to be mentally unstable in memes explaining her plans to impeach Trump.

3. Women in power are minimized to their femininity.

Cordelia, before returning to see her father, is described in great detail. In act 4, scene 3 words such as “delicate” are used to make her seem innocent and weak. She is described as a queen and portrayed as angelic. Power is most commonly associated with the opposite of these characteristics and masculinity. Therefore extensively pointing out the femininity in a woman is used by men to negate their power.

Currently, this is used all the time when describing women in power. Before all else, they will be described as a mother, a daughter, or a wife.

Is Adele a Poet, Singer, or Both?

Adele’s album 25, was released in 2015. This album was groundbreaking and was the fastest-selling US album ever. Once Adele finished her 25 world tour, she decided to take a break from creating a new album to spend more time with her child who was only three years old at the time. Six years later, Adele just released her new album 30 on November 19, 2021. This album already broke the 2021 sales record in just three days. Similar to many of Adele’s albums which address her love and breakups, this album focuses on her recent divorce. It takes the listener along with her on her journey of motherhood while she reconstructs her life. While many of Adele’s songs are powerful, I find “My Little Love” to be particularly moving.

This song demonstrates the complex feelings involved in a divorce, especially when a child is involved. Adele, as a mother, feels guilty for subjecting her son to the pain of his parents. Parents never want to inflict any pain on their children, but some emotional hardships are unavoidable. During these hard times, the parent-child dynamic is reversed. Adele is in so much pain herself that her child is actually helping her learn to navigate her new world.

Adele wrote,

When you lay on me, can you hear the way my heart breaks?

I wanted you to have everything I never had

I’m so sorry if what I’ve done makes you feel sad

Adele uses imagery to express the immense pain she is in. Her heart is literally broken and not only does she express visual images, but she also adds auditory elements and the sense of touch that listeners can relate to. This helps deepen the listener’s understanding of her pain and guilt. She feels like her son’s pain is her fault and hates that she has subjected him to any pain at all. In a way, she is trying to prove just how badly she feels for what she had done.

I don’t recognise myself in the coldness of the daylight

Adele juxtaposes coldness and daylight. This represents Adeles deeper feelings of isolation. She feels like a new person and is learning to live without her ex-husband. Her surroundings may have not changed but she feels a sense of internal displacement. Her son is one of the few consistent factors in her life, so she relies more heavily on him than ever before.

I’m having a bad day. I’m having a very anxious day

I feel paranoid, I feel very stressed

Um, I have a hangover, which never helps, but

Adele brings us into her own experience as she talks through the thoughts in her head. The short phrases demonstrate the chaos and emotional turmoil that she is experiencing. Her thoughts seem to be spinning and the listeners may be able to relate to times when their own thoughts may have been racing.

Adele in this album takes us on a deeply personal journey and through her words, allows us to experience some of her feelings. I think almost anyone could relate to either these feelings associated with the impact of a divorce on your own life, feelings of motherhood, or simply feelings of general pain and anxiety.

Exit West & Lucy by Kinkaid

While reading Exit West by Hamid, there were multiple times when I connected it to Lucy by Kinkaid. While the situations of the main character in Lucy and Saeed and Nadia differed greatly, they both shared similarities in the way that they missed their home country despite the less than ideal conditions they experienced living there. 

When reminiscing about his old home, Saeed describes it as a time “he now thought of fondly in a way, despite the horrors, fondly in how he felt for Nadia and she had felt for him” (153). While he had to leave his home country due to unsafe circumstances, he still misses aspects of it that can not be relived anywhere else. Despite the harm that was present, there were interpersonal connections that he now longs for. The greatest difficulty in deciding to leave was having to go without his father. As he stepped through the door, he knew it meant he may never see him again. Yet he still proceeded to go through the door. This just shows the immense distress of his current living conditions which warrant this decision.

Similarly, the narrator in Lucy misses her home in Jamaica even though her living conditions made her want to leave. This decision, like Saeed’s, was not made without sacrifices. The narrator explained how she missed the intangible aspects of her prior home. The sun, the taste of the food, and the presence of her grandma – all things she gave up to move to America.

Migrants are often criticized and seen as lucky to be in a place deemed “better” by many individuals in their society. The hardships and sacrifices migrants make are often overlooked. This can alienate migrants and make them feel bad for missing their old home. This perception that natives have of migrants results in the narrator in Lucy feeling extreme guilt for wanting to feel the familiarity of her old home and Saeed’s feeling of similar conflicting emotions.

Meursault and His Mother

Meursault, throughout The Stranger by Albert Camus, is characterized by having very little emotional connections with anyone. The prosecutor portrayed him as soulless, failing to even cry at his own mother’s funeral. In fact, the prosecutor happily pointed out that Meursault was “swimming, starting up a dubious liaison, and going to the movies, a comedy, for laughs” the day after his mother had died (94). While Meursault may have not outwardly displayed affection or traditional grief towards his mother, he clearly listened to her and took her words to heart while she was alive.

In part 2, Meursault mentions the words and advice of his mother that help him get through prison. Meursault after acknowledging Maman’s often repeated philosophy “that after a while you could get used to anything,” concedes that he too could have gotten used to living in the trunk of a dead tree (77). During his time of thought he chooses to remember his mother (which is significant since he barely thinks about other important people in his life such as Marie) and ponder her expressions. Meursault thinks of his mother again when he contemplates her death and his own. He can relate to the sense of freedom and finally understands that even “where lives were fading out, evening was a kind of wistful respite” (122). Impeding death, when accepted, is a sense of freedom that allows an individual to be ready to live all over again. Meursault realizes that “nobody had the right to cry over her” (122).

Meursault was able to commemorate his mother in a way that felt authentic to himself. Thinking of her during meaningful times allowed him to keep her alive in his mind. Meursault finally comes to the conclusion that while everyone was telling him that he was “weird” and “different” for not crying, he may have been the one doing the most appropriate thing by not being sad and continuing to live his own life.

Robot Lady Dines-In

In The Stranger, a strange woman entered Celeste’s and asked Meursault to sit with him. She was quite peculiar and described as having “robotlike movements” (43). Her actions serve as a foil to Meursault’s character.

The robot lady was very driven, quick-moving, and meticulous. She “studied the menu feverishly” and ordered in a “clear and very fast” voice (43). She had a no-nonsense attitude, getting straight to the point. She wasted no time between meals by checking off radio programs “one by one, and with great care” (43). She so deeply cared about checking off the radio programs and then proceeded to continue on with her life with “incredible speed and assurance.”

Meanwhile, Meursault’s character is the opposite. He is passive, soft-spoken, and unmotivated. When asked to move to Paris, he claimed he “wasn’t dissatisfied with [his current life]” and “had no ambition” (41). He does what other people tell him to do and has very little free thought of his own. He would rather stay stagnant than pursue satisfaction. He does not even find passion when being proposed to. He was indifferent and his reasoning for getting married was simply because Marie had wanted to.

yThe robot lady is assertive while Meursault is passive. The robot lady preemptively added up her dinner bill and placed the cash on the table (43). Meursault does whatever other people tell him to do. He prioritizes practicality over happiness. He accepted Raymond’s dinner invitation only so he wouldn’t have to cook for himself (28).

Meursault begins to display motivation and interest by following the robot lady for a while after she left the restaurant. Although this change in character was short lived as he regressed to his old ways and “forgot about her a few minutes later” (44). Maybe Meursault is right: “people never change their lives” (41).