Aladdin and Orientalism

I don’t see movies in theatre often. I’m just not a movie person. However, for whatever reason, I went and saw Disney’s Live-Action Aladdin back when it came out in 2019. I enjoyed the film and didn’t think much of it afterward until this year when I was introduced to the concept of Orientalism. Before this class, I had no idea what that was or what it referred to. Now, after exploring the definition, I am now being challenged to apply this concept to a modern concept in my own life. The first thing I thought of was this film. Before class a few days ago, I thought the film and its depiction of Middle Eastern Culture was reasonable. However, I’m now beginning to think it may be a bit outdated, to say the least.

The truth is, this film is a prime example of Orientalism and proof that it hasn’t changed, even in modern times. The 1992 animated version of Aladdin was problematic itself: according to the article “Orientalism in Film: Aladdin Over the Last Century,” the film introduces the characters’ cultural backgrounds to be “barbaric and uncivil.” Additionally, minor details in the film, such as the clothing that the main characters wear, are all inconsistent with the reality of these cultures. Based on the backlash from that film, you would think that filmmakers would make more of an effort to prevent the inaccurate perceptions of the East that Orientalism amplifies. Yet, there appear to be similar problems with the second film.

The actors hired to play the main characters in the live-action film are not even Middle-Eastern actors; however, according to author Maha Albadrawi, “different cultural backgrounds are not interchangeable,” and in doing this the film is already reinforcing Orientalism and erasing culture and history. This is the first of many problems that critics found with the live-action film. Yet, they all appear to be rooted in the same way: filmmakers and producers are letting European culture influence their depictions of the Middle East. It won’t be until we, as a society, reject our inaccurate impressions and make an effort to actively engage and educate ourselves in Middle Eastern culture that Orientalism will become less relevant.

Mansplaining

After looking at the resources available I chose to read the New York Times article published in 2016 called “‘Nasty Woman’: Why Men Insult Powerful Women.” I chose this one because Cordelia’s character stood out to me as both a reader and a woman, and her actions in this tragedy reinforce the notion that we live in a society where women just can’t ever seem to be right.

A few paragraphs into the article the author begins to discuss men’s discomfort with women in power and their reactions to that feeling. A lot of men have no problem explicitly calling women out. For example, I was shocked when I read on and discovered that Australian senator Bill Heffernan had the audacity to publicly characterize Julia Gillard as someone who has “no idea about what life’s about,” just because she has chosen to remain “deliberately barren.”

However, condescension is another “common tool for deflating powerful women,” and the article’s dive into this topic reminded me of another New York Times article I read, published four years after this one, about “Mansplaining.”

Four whole years later and mansplaining is still relevant enough that it got a whole article. Simply put, mansplaining “describes the act of a man’s unsolicited explaining, generally to a woman, something he thinks he knows more about than she does — occasionally at anesthetizing length — whether he knows anything or not.”

The key here is “thinks.” The problem here is “thinks,” because men can be the furthest from the truth and still have enough influence to silence women today. As a woman in society, there are numerous times that I have been shut down – for the wrong reasons. I’m fine being wrong, but I’m not fine being falsely convinced I am wrong just because men don’t know any better. The result of mansplaining is catastrophic: women are being doubted and limited while men are fueling their overconfidence.

Cordelia was banished for standing up for herself, just like countless other women are today. And it’s wrong.

Music is poetry.

Song: “Swim (Reprise)” by Valley

In 3 minutes and 53 seconds, Valley’s music has been able to repeatedly strip me from the world I live in, transform the present, broaden my understanding of life, and return me right back to my mom’s car where I often find myself listening to it.

If that isn’t poetry, I don’t know what is.

The melody itself and the way the sound travels through me every time I listen to it could be enough proof that this is poetry in itself. Give it a listen (seriously). But, there’s more. “Swim” is a journey. It’s an experience. And the more I listen to its story, the more I can feel it.

This song, although referencing a friend, is not necessarily about anyone specific. However, it is about a specific experience we all inevitably encounter in our lives. We all have people in our lives that we love. For whatever reason we are bound to them; yet, oftentimes we must watch them fail. We must watch them struggle, but there should be no doubt that the loyalty and love we hold will remain eternal. This song is emphasizing the strength and the hope that committing to a person can give both people involved.

The song opens up by not only highlighting the current conflict with the friend but also the fact that both people are deeply affected by it. By including the metaphor “I’m a drug test and you’re still failing me / All you do is take, take and take,” Valley allows for the listeners to begin to be able to feel what it’s like to be in a situation like this.

Furthermore, by including the “Swim deep, you gotta make it better,” Valley is using imagery to represent the severity of the situation. It’s not easy, but the only way out is through… and the deeper we go, the closer we’ll be.

Lastly, what gives me hope every time I listen to it is the repeated “I’ll be waiting on you forever.” It is not only the repetition of the line that resonates with me, but it’s the inclusion of the pronoun “I” that drags me into the story. By including me, I, as a listener, begin to experience the story itself. And the more I am involved in this story, the more hope I get. It reminds me to never give up. I can wait forever, and I will wait forever.

Strong & Independent (as she should!)

There is no doubt that a lot of things in this story don’t make sense. Single sentences that last an entire page, magical doors that can transport you across the world, and all of this in the middle of a very realistic, devastating war… huh?? This story is very unlike others I’ve ever read and, personally, it took many chapters for me to really understand what Hamid was trying to do.

However, what I was able to catch on to early on was Nadia’s unique character. Her first real introduction to the readers with dialogue is short, yet expository. After Saeed asks her to have coffee, Nadia questions if he says his “evening prayers” (4). Taken aback and feeling pressured to excuse himself, Saeed rambles on until Nadia interrupts him, claims, “I don’t pray,” suggests “maybe another time” (5), and then rides away on a motorcycle. So random and unexpected, but it’s fascinating.

As we learn more about Nadia’s character, we learn more about her independence. It took a lot of strength and bravery for her to make the decision to leave her family and start a life on her own, let alone do it in the world she was living in. Her past has shaped her into the woman she is, and it is a shock to a lot of the people she encounters, including Saeed. I feel like she is the perfect representation of “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and it’s one of the main aspects of this story that keeps me curious. I love Nadia’s effect on not only the characters in the story, but also me, as a reader. She’s a very sublty inspiring character. As she should be.

Meursault or Sisyphus?

Whether it’s a coincidence or not, there is a very distinct parallel between “The Myth of Sisyphus” and The Stranger. The timing of this discovery has helped my understanding of not only the evolution of this story, but life in general, too. Over the weekend I not only learned who Sisyphus was, but I discovered that he was happy because he was aware. He was conscious of his situation and he was realistic about the hope he carried with him throughout. Therefore, every time he walked back down the hill, it was in that moment that he could reinvigorate his superiority. That is where he had power, even in a situation where his “whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing.”

Similarly, while waiting in his cell for the day of his execution, Meursault spends his time awake thinking of his appeal. He always begins by “assuming the worst” (114). That is, he considers how his life will go when there is simply no escape from his execution. And, although frightening to him, that is where Meursault seems to be able to find peace and clarity with the outcome. When his hope ceases and he stops giving himself any benefit of the doubt… that is when his journey towards indifference begins: “As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world” (122).

Initial Thoughts

At this point in the story, I am having a hard time figuring out how old Meursault is. Although a man, living on his own, out of school with a steady job, there is one scene in particular that has me perplexed. At the beginning of Chapter 3 when Meursault is back at work, he decides to take a break one day with his coworker, Emmanuel. Out of nowhere, (to me, at least), Meursault is sprinting towards a moving truck, getting “engulfed by the noise and the dust” (25). Soon enough, he takes a “flying leap,” he helps Emmanuel on, and they arrive at Celeste’s “dripping with sweat” (26). Compared to his dull, unemotional, detached character that he portrays throughout the story with both his internal and external monologue, it was a shock to me when the author included this sporadic act… which is why when I thought I had an idea of how old he was, I soon retracted.