Feminism is alive and well in Disney’s live-action remake of the animated classic, ALADDIN. Princess Jasmine brings to life a strong female character that we can all get behind. The writers, John August and Guy Richie, delicately balance the original narrative while incorporating themes to accommodate contemporary audiences. 2019’s ALADDIN reflects the societal changes we have collectively made in supporting women’s equality.
Unlike the original, Princess Jasmine becomes a main focal point of the film and has a story arc that arguably overshadows Aladdin’s. Whereas in the original Princess Jasmine’s struggle to remain independent was a somewhat auxiliary component to the story, here, her character is expanded upon in greater detail. Her battle for independence and recognition for her ideas is greatly emphasized. Actress Naomi Scott exceptionally captures Jasmine’s heart wrenching emotional experience of being objectified and valued only for her beauty. We are invited into Jasmine’s inner world and experience her pain in being dismissed because of her gender identity. A new song, Speechless, is added to the film to highlight Princess Jasmine’s experience of “being seen and not heard”. Although it is arguably one of the least catchy songs in the film, it soulfully brings Jasmine’s narrative to the forefront. Additionally, there is a pay-off at the end of the film, where Jasmine’s independence and reluctance to go quietly is rewarded with her becoming sultan despite being unmarried. The decision to allow Jasmine to become sultan without a husband is a huge departure from the animated version where she is only allowed to marry Aladdin who succeeds her father. Jasmine’s portrayal of a strong, courageous, and intelligent woman who breaks down barriers makes her a hero of the film.
One critique of the film may be the heavy-handedness in which feminist themes are commented on. It is very obvious that the film was written to promote Jasmine as a strong female character. The motif of remaining “silent” and navigating oppressive male authorities are present throughout the film. While she is singing Speechless, men are disappearing around her symbolically suggesting her surpassing patriarchal barriers that stand in her way. Although this direct focus on Jasmine as strong can be seen as overemphasized, as a movie for children Jasmine’s empowered disposition is, in my view, appropriately reflected. Unlike the previous film, where her being married off to a man and being unable to rule the kingdom independently is somewhat glossed over, the live action Aladdin directly opposes the sexist treatment of Jasmine. Despite the title, this new remake could have just as easily been titled “Jasmine” given the compelling nature of her storyline.
Overall, the live action remake of ALADDIN is a fun, entertaining, and feminist rendition of the classic fairy tale. The portrayal of Jasmine as a strong female character provides a role model for children of all genders to promote empathy, equality, and understanding. Particularly, little girls are able to see the possibilities of leadership and strength reflected in Princess Jasmine’s story. Strong female role models, like Princess Jasmine, have the opportunity to strengthen the foundation of our society and promote gender equality. ALADDIN is now in theaters and you can read our review of the film HERE.