Disney Channel has made hundreds of films since it’s beginning in 1983. Over the course of its career, Disney has been criticized and appraised for the various messages sent in its movies. Some messages may not be intended; they are just the norm for films. For instance, many Disney films featuring women give her all male companions. From hidden sexual messages to potentially racist messages, Disney has been accused of almost all of it. In the Disney film Aladdin, released in 1992, one can see a few messages that may be taken as negative as well as the clear positive messages the director wanted to get across to the viewers.
Aladdin is an Oscar winning film about a boy who lives on the street and falls in love with a beautiful princess named Jasmine. In order to win Jasmine over, Aladdin, the “street rat”, recruits the help of a powerful genie. He also has his trusty sidekick named Abu that is a monkey who helps him along the way. Jafar, Jasmine's father's trusted advisor, tries to break up Jasmine and Aladdin and want to become sultan; however, Jasmine and Aladdin get to be together in the end and they supposedly live happily ever after.
While watching the film, I started to analyze the appearances of each character. The protagonist of the story, Aladdin, is a young male with a muscular build and pretty face. The leading female character in the film also has a good physique and is on the protagonist’s side. On the contrary, the villain in the movie, Jafar, has a less appealing appearance. He is tall and lanky, with a sagging face and pencil thin mustache. He also has very big hands with skinny, bony fingers. Jafar is unattractive to say the least. This presents a potential negative message for children. When Disney movies portray their antagonists as physically unattractive, they are sending the message that we should associate unattractiveness with evil. I also noticed while watching the film that the villain is the character that best resembles an Arabian person’s appearance. The antagonist is the character with the darkest colored skin, while the protagonist looks like the typical Disney prince who wins over the girl. This could potentially give children the wrong depiction of Arabians.
Although Aladdin may fail to deliver the right message with the characters appearances, it sends a very strong message to young girls about standing up for themselves. Jasmine plays a strong female character that constantly holds her own in difficult situations. For example, she chooses not to marry even though her father keeps insisting that she needs a husband. Jasmine sticks up for herself and chooses her own man to marry. She also shows little girls that money and social status is not important when choosing whom you want to marry by turning down the rich handsome men that are brought to her. Most films do not do a good job of showing this message to children. Actually, a lot of children’s films send the message that the only way for a man to get a girl is to be rich and handsome.
Based off these two positive and negative messages, I believe the message of young women sticking up for themselves is more powerful. Since this positive message is not often seen in Disney movies, it is good for kids to witness. While it is true Aladdin has the villain resemble a more unattractive person, there are several other characters that are good guys in the end who are unattractive, like Jasmine’s father. The many positive messages such as hold yourself with pride no matter what social class you are in, give back to the poor, do not be shallow, and be selfless have a greater influence than any negative one can find in the movie.