Debate:Aladdin is racist

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Aladdin is racist[edit]

Oxyaena Harass 01:44, 2 December 2020 (UTC)

There's one real problem with this: Aladdin does not attempt to represent ANY practice, belief, or style common to ANY culture; it's an amalgamation of cultures into a stylized, surreal fantasy world. The movie doesn't reference any geographic locations or other identifiers that would indicate the movie is set in (or at least, is based on) a distinct real-world entity. It doesn't claim to represent the Middle East with any degree of accuracy, so why take it as a representation of anything more than pure fantasy? I mean, it doesn't even depict any semi-historical occurrences like Pocahontas does!
Second, much of the accusations of racism consist on plot points and details that depict characters in this movie negatively (barbarous, cruel, corrupt, etc.) The thing is, Disney is famous for this. Not for racism, but for taking basic story designs or details common in every culture's literature and tails and adding a "flair" to it, so to speak. Every culture has tales of brave young knaves, of ruthless, power-hungry warriors, and of corrupt and vile autocrats. To say that this is "racist" is of course absurd.
Finally, what's the desire to go after the past, to find racism where there isn't any? I'm not denying that Disney has made racist stuff in the past (Song of the South comes to mind, although I did love Splash Mountain). But I don't think any reasonable person has watched Aladdin and said
1)This at least acknowledges Middle Eastern culture to allow me to conclude that it is based in the Middle East and
2)This depicts Middle Eastern culture in a purely mocking way unlike how it handles Western cultures and events, such that I can call it racist.
Just stop, honestly. Judging by your discussions in the Saloon Bar, Western culture has been the bringer of all evil and the giver of poisoned fruit, and any attempt by Western cultures to even interact with ANY other culture is completely racist. I mean, you sounded like a full-on racist when you said that reason was a Western value. IveBeenFrank (talk) 10:53, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
Your disgusting defense of racist orientalism is duly noted. There's nothing reasonable about your bilge. For starters, Disney's Aladdin is an adaptation of an older, Persian work set in Baghdad, which is a real place. Did you even watch the video? It may not be intentionally racist, but it still is racist, since it perpetuates stereotypes about Eastern cultures and contributes to the ignorant discourse surrounding the Orient in general. Stop being so Eurocentric. Oxyaena Harass 12:50, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
Setting the personal attacks aside, there's just one thing I'd like you to consider: What about Aladdin is different from the many Disney adaptations of European folklore? From Snow White to Sleeping Beauty, each film is a mishmash of outfits, architecture, behaviors and customs that the filmmakers felt like including. These were adaptations of older works set in specific locations and cultures. The authors tossed these aside, and added whatever they wanted, creating a surrealist world that nobody watching took to be traditional Europe. Are these racist too?
Also, who on Earth would watch Aladdin and think "Why yes, this film can inform me about Middle Eastern cultures and behaviors!" Everyone watching knows that it is in a fictional, surreal-mishmash world, and as a result know that it isn't a reliable source on the Middle East. IveBeenFrank (talk) 13:03, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
An argument from incredulity is no argument at all, and before I forget, did you even watch the video? Also, the fetishization of reason is a Western value, believe it or not. Oxyaena Harass 13:06, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
Ah, I see. You can't address my points, so a one-sentence dismissal is all you can muster. Yes, I watched the video, and it failed to provide substantial evidence for its claim. Also, you need evidence for your own claim: First, how or why does Western culture have a monopoly or other overabundance of reason, and second, how does that monopoly classify as "fetishization?" IveBeenFrank (talk) 13:14, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
You need your vision checked, cause clearly you misunderstood the video. Also you're the one who said "claiming reason is a Western value is racist," so please, justify your claim first. Oxyaena Harass 13:35, 2 December 2020 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Furthermore, the makers of those films you mentioned at least did a little bit of research on those folk tales and their settings, unlike the creators of Aladdin who resorted to classic Orientalist cliches as opposed to genuinely researching the subject matter in question. Oxyaena Harass 13:39, 2 December 2020 (UTC)

Okay. First, that's not what you said. From the Saloon Bar, you claimed that reason was a "Western metanarrative," inherently implying it's exclusitivity, absolute or relative, to Western culture.
Reason, a la rationalism, is the primary method scientists, philosophers, and this entire wiki uses to determine truth. To claim that reason is exclusive to Western culture, or even uncommon except for Western culture, is incredibly offensive to Indian, Chinese, African, and Native American cultures: you're essentially saying that they lack the ability, or the philosophical institutions and ideas, to determine truth and validity. For example, saying someone can't reason is an insult: it's saying that person is overly emotional, foolish, and generally unintelligent. That's exactly what you're saying to these cultures, and that's pretty darn racist. But more than that, your claim is historically incorrect. Empiricism and reason was developed in Indian philosophy from the 7th to 3rd century BC, which went on to massively influence philosophy in the region. Reason was also very important to the Islamic Golden Age, with figures such as Al Farabi,Ibn Tufail, and Ibn Sina contributing to its development, which would come to influence later figures in the Renaissance and Enlightenment. As such, it's racist and incorrect to say that reason is exclusive to Western culture.There's no reason why reason and rationality have to be a Western concepts.
Finally, how exactly do you know that the researchers did more research for the European fairy tales? If anything, they might have done far less, as they were already surrounded with stereotypical depictions of the Middle Ages, with knights in shining armour and princesses in castles. IveBeenFrank (talk) 13:59, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
this is not the first time i have heard such claims about disneys aladdin, but never having seen the film i cannot comment too much on specifics of the this particular movie. from what i can grasp, its a movie steeped in orientalism. @ivebeenfrank you say 'Everyone watching knows that it is in a fictional, surreal-mishmash world' thats kind of the problem. its a movie set in the middle east, yet there is little in its depictions of the middle east that are not based entirely on western steretypes of not the middle east, but the east in general. as you said, its a mish mash. a child hailing from a middle eastern country, is unlikely to be spoilt for choice for works that depict peoples with a similar heritage in a set in a part of the world that they are from. what they get in aladdin is an americanised lead and that mish mash orientalism.
it is unlike the examples of that you give of snow white or sleeping beauty. poor examples imho, they are much older films from different era. beauty and the beast would be a more apt comparison. these are depictions of a western world by westerners. beauty and the beast is clearly set in a fantasy of an old western europe, and as generic as it is, there is little that is out of place in its depiction, the characters are all clearly european. aladdin is different because it is a depiction of supposedly middle eastern world by not by middle eastern people but by westerners, and its depictions are not clearly middle eastern but vaguely eastern, an orientalist imagining of a strange and exotic place that is meant to be the middle east but instead is a mish mash of north african, middle eastern, indian etc. and unlike depictions of europe, where a child with a european heritage might be spoilt for choice, for a child of middle eastern heritage this is all you have, this, as you say, mish mash.
this orientalism is perhaps not the kind of racism that will lead directly to lynchings or pogroms, but is a kind rooted in imperialism, with a patronising view of cultures seen as alien or exotic. i would like to say its a throwback to a different time, but depictions of the middle east or of arabs have not exactly progressed much.
to disney's credit, they seem to acknowledge the problems of their film or least mindful of the their impact on our perceptions of different cultures in the current climate. AMassiveGay (talk) 14:37, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
I still don't see how the film is racist. Sure, it may not accurately represent the Middle East, but that clearly wasn't its goal to begin with. It's meant to entertain children with a magical, fantasy world. Its basic plot structure is nearly identical to its other, European-set films; the only changes are the music, the setting, and the details of whatever fantasy world they choose to create. For something to be racist, it must depict a specific race or culture in an extremely negative and prejudiced light; the film simply doesn't do enough to separate it from its kind to make it "racist." IveBeenFrank (talk) 14:56, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
Yeah, Aladdin is harmless. Its magical kingdom might have trappings that make you think it's Arabic, but it's not meant to be Arabic. It's just a kid's interpretation of an old story. Disney makes shit up for all of their movies. Beauty and the Beast is hardly a historical source on pre-Revolutionary France. As a Chinese-American, I find it amusing to look into Mulan's inaccuracies but I don't find them offensive. 🎄Chef Moosolini’s Ristorante Italiano🎄Ask about our holiday specials! 15:26, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
Frank, you're not very good at critical analysis if you're just gonna recite the tired old "iT's JuSt a MovIE!!!" PRATT at me. Movies are a reflection of the popular psyche, how things are portrayed in mass media are going to affect the popular consciousness. This is not rocket science, it's why fields like literary criticism exist. Oxyaena Harass 16:29, 2 December 2020 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Hell, everything you've written to me ever has consisted of nothing more than poor misunderstandings of the topics we discuss. You're just like Cory. You read between the lines, and then forget to read the lines. Your assertion that rationalism is the end all be all of philosophical inquiry is an insult to most of the human condition. Your response to one of my points was " tHeRe wErE cApItAlIsT uNiOnS too." That's laughably ignorant of early 20th century labor politics for one. Oxyaena Harass 16:36, 2 December 2020 (UTC)

And two, it's just yet another example of you missing the forest for the trees. Oxyaena Harass 16:38, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
Again, I won't address the personal attacks. And just to clarify, I never said that rationalism is the end-all-be-all of philosophical inquiry. It's much like quantum physics. It represents the best tool we have for representing and quantifying the world with all the necessary detail and with none of the pitfalls we know of. Does that mean it is perfect? Of course not. Humanity will surely make more discoveries that will overwrite this entire method of thinking. But as of the present, it is the best form of inquiry we have. Thus, to claim that it is exclusively Western is an insult to all other cultures, denying them the best method we have.
Just how stupid do you think the average American is? Nobody, besides a very young child, will think of the Middle East and connect it with Aladdin. As a test, the Middle East has been big news for nearly 3 decades. Guess what: people don't think of Aladdin or even reference it at all when discussing it. Why is that? Mass media portrayal affects popular consciousness, provided that the populace has some sort of belief that the portrayal can be taken seriously, or contains a modicum of truth to the setting and situation. Nobody expects any Disney movie to be accurate to the real-world; one could argue that it's isolation from reality contributed to its initial-and lasting-success. Its movies are classified as fantasy, not even realistic or historical fiction. IveBeenFrank (talk) 16:46, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
I'd like to again point out that the assumption of "rationalism" as a purely Western concept is very much ahistorical. Such concepts predate the Enlightenment Era in the West, with many originating or maturing within the Arab World during the Golden Age of Islam, while others have non-western analogs elsewhere. It baffles me to see someone claim to oppose Western cultural hegemony while also essentializing aspects of that culture that have roots and branches elsewhere. ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 17:02, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
Yeah, I went into a little more detail about that in my post after the first outdent. IveBeenFrank (talk) 17:05, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
Ya'll realize that the movie is actually popular in the Mid-East, right? Especially considering that it generally depicts the Mid-Easterners as people and the main characters in a good light. There aren't many people worse than the person who is looking to be offended on someone else's behalf. CoryUsar (talk) 18:22, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
Yes, it begs the question: who is that other person beyond a subject for the opinion mill? Ariel31459 (talk) 18:29, 2 December 2020 (UTC)

Stereotypes, tropes, and pragmatism[edit]

So. I accept the premise that Aladdin is racist. Or at least that it relies on racist tropes. The question therefore becomes, so what? Beyond a critical acknowledgement of a sort of passive racism in Western media, what happens next? ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 15:45, 2 December 2020 (UTC)

More tedious attention seeking via performative outrage and increasingly unhinged invective? Helena Bonham Carter (talk) 16:33, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
Troll Oxyaena Harass 16:36, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
@Helena Bonham Carter Honestly, I can't really see much productive engagement with these tropes beyond exploring how they other and exotify foreign (from our perspective) cultures. Like, I can see a Sarkeesian-eque critique, but not much more before we devolve into unproductive obsession. There just isn't much more to engage with outside of broadening our knowledge of a piece of media and how we engage with it. ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 16:55, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
@GrammarCommie I'm not knocking the rhetorical gambit, merely pointing out that it's unlikely to reap the deescalation / productive discussion dividends you'd expect with a more stable or good faith interlocutor. Helena Bonham Carter (talk) 17:29, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
@Helena Bonham Carter In that case it's a good thing I'm not merely addressing the original posters, but the subject and the audience as a whole. In my creation of this tread I was very careful to focus on the subject and phrase things in such a way as to try to invite discussion from all quarters, rather than just the original claimant. ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 17:41, 2 December 2020 (UTC)

i am curious as to why aladdin is the focus of a debate. its almost 30 years old and i can think of no particular reason it would warrant scrutiny at this time. there are certainly more egregiously racist flicks about, and more recent. AMassiveGay (talk) 18:05, 2 December 2020 (UTC)

One thing I am curious about is if the live action remake (with the will smith genie) excarbated the stereotyping or reduced it. Because as far as I can see, the issue at play with Alladin is one of stereotyping, not so much with intended racism (it's not as bad as the crows from Dumbo) and I'm interested to know if it changes in Disney's most recent expression of the story. Techpriest (I am Alpharius! / Pencil.png / Tux icon.png / Shield.png) 18:06, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
@Sirius The live action version more or less comes across like a Hollywood imitation of a Bollywood adaptation of the original animated movie. Most of the tropes are still there, sort of, but it doesn't make things worse per se. ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 18:11, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
AladdinWikipedia as a story is actually a bit over 300 years old (at minimum). From all I've read on the story (haven't read the original story, just going from reviews), it sounds like the original story is not full-on racist per se, but it is a story that contains OrientalismWikipedia elements (meaning that there may be a bit of imperialismWikipedia type nationalist attitudes, but some of the incorrect tropes are probably out of ignorance due to sheer distance, instead of out of spite -- it's a fair bit different from the nasty underclass oriented racism of The Birth of a NationWikipedia etc.). Most entertainment relies on often stupid tropes, so meh. The main trope worth watching in the Aladdin movie is Robin WilliamsWikipedia as the genie, anyways. — Unsigned, by: / talk
Good post! I've read the original story and to be honest the movie does somewhat improve upon it. Still orientalist, but structurally more interesting. ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 18:51, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
The story of Aladdin is originally set in China. Aladdin was Chinese, the evil magician was North African. Can any such stories be told at all without stereotypes and tropes? Don't stories have to represent the people we respect and desire to emulate as well as those we revile? What would interest anyone in any story to begin with if not archetypes? Romeo and Juliet was written by someone who knew little of Verona. I Imagine it's full of misleading implications. Protecting the impressionable mind is an interminable task. Who will pay you to do it?Ariel31459 (talk) 19:02, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
"Romeo and Juliet" was also an almost chauvinistic tale about how Italians are basically inferior to the English, amongst many, many other things. Juliet not even being 14 and the comment about 12 year olds being mothers? That wasn't a "normal" age for marriage, rather, it was to show Italy as basically the inbred backwater of civilization. The play even begins with a bunch of dumbass guys bragging about the size of their penises and joking about rape and literally shitting on people's heads. Paris is implied to only be interested in Juliet because he has syphilis; back in the day, it was believed that sex with a virgin was a cure. Or it was believed that Italians believed that virgin sex was the cure. Either way, Italians got that poxy, yo.
But The Bard humanizes these human-shaped turds, and you feel sorry for everyone involved. It's not even a love story; it's a hate story, how this stupid feud ends up dooming both families even though all the adults were looking for any excuse to end the stupid thing. Heck, Romeo is at the Capulet's party and the patriarch of the family barely cares. If Romeo and Juliet weren't such idiots, which is basically what they are considering that they are both teenagers and their entire plan is needlessly complicated, they probably could've gone to either of their parents who probably would've loved to have an excuse to end the feud, or if they were nervous, go to the town leader who was looking for an excuse to end the dumb feud. But, no, horny teenagers are stupid, so they die. Note just how they die; Romeo drinks poison from a cup, and Juliet is penetrated by a dagger, both of which are symbols for the genitals of the opposite gender. CoryUsar (talk) 21:14, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
Jesus! I don't know anything about Shakespeare, but why do so many people find the Romeo and Juliet story to be so romantic? Dvir6 (talk) 15:04, 2 April 2021 (UTC)
Most people see the story as a tragedy. Romeo is a romantic who can't see the reality of what's going on and the entire thing gets kicked off into the usual shakesperian bloodbath once a third party kills Romeo's best friend, which causes him to end up engineering his and Juliet's own downfall due to a series of misunderstandings because of his view of the world. Techpriest (I am Alpharius! / Pencil.png / Tux icon.png / Shield.png) 14:39, 1 April 2021 (UTC)
I thought it was the outgrowth of people constantly referencing Shakespeare without understanding it, or even wanting to understand it. How many people quote "to be or not to be" realizing what the soliloquy is even about?-Flandres (talk) 15:17, 1 April 2021 (UTC)