Disney, Aladdin, Genie, Djin, Africa

About Disney’s Aladdin…

Due to time constraints and the typically high level of exhaustion I am working at, I can either stop writing or write when and what I can. Because I am so set on writing, I have decided to due just that and set aside time for myself to write what I can within a set time. These 392 words were wrought in the space of 10 minutes.

A quick clearing of the air before I begin: I have no reason to complain about race-swapping characters from fiction. Heck, I didn’t even mind it in Hamilton. It can be weird though, when a story is from a particular region, so I did balk at the Prince of Persia movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal (with that spelling I am going to guess that he is somehow Dutch or of Dutch origin because of the spelling of his name). I think he is white. He looks more white than not, but then again I have known some Persian folks and there is a range of how they look, especially considering that some of them were mixed. Anyway, I write all that to clarify that I am amused by all the silly media race-based outrage.

In the original Aladdin, the eponymous hero is almost certainly Chinese. It think it say he is in China and he seems to be from there. There have been Muslims in China for quite a long time. I think Disney made his Arab because the story of Aladdin was linked to the Arabian Nights anthology at some point in history, decades ago I assume. Additionally, there is no “Jafar” character in the original story, instead there is a vizier, who wants his son to marry the unnamed princess and the African Sorcerer who tricks Aladdin into fetching him the lamp and traps him underneath the sands of the desert. Interestingly, the sorcerer also gives Aladdin a ring, which contains a genie. The Genie of the Ring is less powerful than the Genie of the Lamp. Neither seems to have a limit on the amount of wishes they can grant, but there is some difference in power between them.

Anyway it kind of tickled me seeing Will Smith as the Genie of the Lamp because I immediately thought about the African, presumably Black sorcerer who became Jafar in Disney’s retelling of the tale. I guess that skin-deep connection is lost then, since they changed the story. Furthermore, the connection doesn’t even fully exist within the original story. The Genies or djin are not humans, but some sort of demon or desert spirit from Middle Eastern lore as best as I can tell. Thus, they are not of any ethnicity. I believe the Ring Genie is described as having green skin.

Learn more about the original Aladdin by following the links below:

Link 1

Link 2

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