Orientalism in Disney Movies

After reading up a little on the concept of orientalism, my mind went to movies that I’ve seen. More specifically Disney movies. These movies, that are made for children have underlying themes and concepts that you really don’t realize until you are older. Looking back on the movies I watched as a child its clear that I have a different understanding of them than I did as a child….

That being said, some of the Disney classics that popped into my head that have these racist stereotypes in them are Lady and the Tramp, Mulan and Aladdin.

In Lady and the Tramp the cats in the movie are depicted as evil characters of whom seem to resemble the Asian culture. It seems as they are associating their evil nature with their race. The siamese cats act very sly and are always sneaking around in the movie which is a stereotype associated with orientalism, being suspicious and sneaky.

In Mulan, the Asian culture is presented in a somewhat exotic way. It is what Western people consider the “typical” Asian culture, which has continuously been represented in Western cinema. This idea meshes all the different branches of Asian culture to seem like its the same, when in reality they are completely different places. With this in mind, this concept is what children in Western countries were taught when they were young through movies like Mulan. The movie is a combination of Chinese and Japanese culture making Mulan an unrealistic representation and generalizing the cultures in Eastern countries. The film is clearly intended to be set in China because they show the Great Wall of China amongst other details incorporating Chinese culture. But they also show her wearing kimonos, white face make up, and the Japanese national flower, the cherry blossom throughout the film.

Lastly, in the movie Aladdin, the evil villain, Jafar, who is trying to steal the magic lamp is represented as someone from the Middle East, again who is the villain. He is the evil man who is scheming against the main character. In addition, later in the movie, Jasmine is enslaved by him which adds to his evil nature. This adds to the racist depiction of his character by him objectifying a woman. In addition, Princess Jasmine is from a culture that typically covers their head and most of their body. But in the movie her outfit is nothing of the sort. This adds to the Western depiction of Eastern Culture.

Reflecting on these movies, it is clear that these ideals are heavily influencing the film industry. Film makers are using these stereotypes and inaccurate representations of different cultures to better their films. Western cinema is based off of incorrect assumptions and depictions of culture and people in general. How do we change this moving forward?

“From Eden”

https://genius.com/Hozier-from-eden-lyrics

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I would strongly consider the song From Eden, by Hozier poetry, due to the imagery, the numerous symbolic elements and the perspective the song is written in.

From the first few lines of the song it is clear that Hozier is speaking to someone, and later on it becomes apparent that it is a lover that is not necessarily fit for him. These following lines draw the listener in and act as imagery within the song. He is clearly speaking directly to someone by repetitiously using the word “you” and posing a question.

“Babe, there’s something tragic about you

Something so magic about you

Don’t you agree?”

He then goes on to stating that this girl reminds him of his youth and using “his mirror years ago,” symbolically to convey this message. He speaks of his innocence and how she almost reminds him of that. He almost refers to her in an angelic way but she appears to have quite the opposite effect on him.

“Honey you’re familiar like my mirror years ago”

Lastly he wrote the lyrics with a religious background making the meaning behind the words go deeper beneath the surface. He says “I slither here from Eden” indicating the Garden of Eden which is a biblical reference. It appears that he gave up some form of paradise for this girl. By describing himself as a serpent within the garden, it makes him out to be below her, making her out to be a goddess.

I slithered here from Eden just to sit outside your door”

Throughout the lyrics, Hozier uses numerous poetic elements to convey his true meaning behind the words. Although the exact meaning isn’t really known, the use of these poetic elements create a deeper thought process for the listener.

Everything Sweet

After reading the novel Beloved by Toni Morrison, it is clear that she carefully constructed this story to have deeper meanings. There is an abundance of symbolic elements, so much I most likely didn’t catch it all as a reader.

After doing the symbolism activity in class and being assigned the symbol of sugar, it opened my eyes to the recurring mention of sweetness/sugar. I was oblivious to this before but going back and looking made me realize just how carefully placed this symbol was.

Sugar was mostly mentioned when referring to the pas memories of Sethe. There was always an association with the bad memories and sweetness. One of the most prominent examples being the name of the place Sethe and Paul D escaped from, “Sweethome.” With this association of the past, sugar is also mentioned when talking about Beloved. It appears that she feeds off of sugar and is always refueling on something sweet. She is the one who brings up past memories for Sethe so it doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that she fuels off of sugar.

Another element that I found interesting is the fact that sweetness/sugar is typically associated with the good in stories. It is quite ironic that it is associated with the exact opposite in Beloved. It makes it a harder motif to comprehend as a reader and catch at first glace into the story.

In a World of Technology…

The one element about Exit West that never really processed correctly in my brain, was the time period it took place. This may be naive to say, but any story I’ve read involving a period of war and suffrage have always been stories of our past. And while I know that there are people in very similar positions as Saeed and Nadia to this day, I have yet to read a book from a fairly present time, during a state of war, until now.

With this comes the age of technology. The incorporation of the characters having phones and internet access made the reality of war all the more real to me. I found myself more “in the shoes” of the characters than I’ve ever experienced while reading before. The concept of war has always been something I’ve read about from the past or briefly heard of in the news. This was the first time that I was truly able to sympathize with the characters and I believe this is merely because of the time period the story takes place and the world of technology they characters were formally submerged in.

Who is the Real Stranger?

Image result for silhouette people clipart

As I became familiar with the strange qualities of Meursault as the story developed, the question that stuck out to me was, “What was Camus purpose for characterizing Meursault the way he does?”

Meursault is caught in a world where no one really thinks the way he does. Have you considered the possibility that the title “The Stranger” comes from the inability for Meursault to understand others as opposed to others understanding him? Throughout the story it is clear that Meursault is different from everyone else, but what if Camus is referring to everyone but Meursault as “The Stranger.”

All of the characters in the story have a different role and relation to Meursault. I would argue that these characters with the exception of Meursault act as “the norm” in our society today. It is easier to understand and empathize with the thinking of the other characters because we have been exposed to people like them before. But is it possible that our characterizations that represent “the norm” are incorrect? Maybe Meursault is discomforted by the way the other characters act. Maybe he is the only character that isn’t in fact “strange.” Maybe he is living the “right” way. Maybe Meursault isn’t “The Stranger” after all.

Masked or Unmasked?

After reading the short story “The Secret Woman,” two times through, I was left with a this question in my mind. Does a mask reveal your true identity? or does it cover it up?

The relationship between the husband and the wife at the beginning of the story makes you think that they are in a stable and honest relationship. As the story goes on you learn that they were both lying to each other and the instability of their relationship becomes apparent. When discussing Irene attending the ball, she responds to her husband with “As for me…Can you see me in a crowd, at the mercy of all those hands…” (328). Not questioning her response, the husband doesn’t seem to think twice about this. The woman has a version of herself that her husband knows and fulfills her role as a wife.

Later in the story when Irene attends the masked ball, she reveals a completely different side of herself while she is under the impression that her husband is not watching her. Her entire demeanor switches. In a rather natural way at that. While she is confined by her role as a wife with her husband around, with the mask on she is now free to act how she desires and appears to be in her natural state. Although the mask quite literally disguises Irene’s true self, by wearing it, it allows her to reveal her unleashed identity.