Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

25 Nov 2011

(Movie - 1992) Disney's Aladdin

(Reaction) Setting the Genie Free by: Francis Gabriel Concepcion

Although Walt Disney's Aladdin is positioned more as a romance-centered story, there are certain themes that are also covered within the story that are interesting enough to mull over and think about. The movie is centered on Aladdin's character above everything else. Here is a street urchin and his pet monkey made to fend for themselves in the streets. The only way for them to be able to eat is for them to steal their meals from the merchants and vendors in the marketplace.

In fact Aladdin's whole predicament is expressed in the singing of One Jump Ahead, which is the song in the introduction of his character in the marketplace. First, as he is being chased for stealing a loaf of bread, you will notice how dedicated the guards are to catching him. In fact, Aladdin makes this distinction, All this for a loaf of bread? This can be indicative of two things. One indication is that the guards might be adamant about catching Aladdin because he's always been a source of trouble for them. This is further supported when Aladdin hides himself in a sheet and tries to blend in with a couple of ladies talking. One of the women says, Getting into trouble a little early today, aren't we Aladdin? Another indication of the guard's persistence may be that they simply don't like street rats.

Looking at the facts, after all, is one loaf of bread worth all that trouble of trying to catch him (which they couldn't really accomplish)? Granted, a single loaf of bread is different from one loaf of bread each day. However one thing to note about Aladdin's stealing habits is that, as he said so himself, I steal only what I can't afford - and that's everything. It is also stressed in the song that he doesn't steal any more than he needs to survive Just a little snack guys. He also adds, Gotta eat to live, gotta steal to eat, otherwise we'd get along. Isn't that true, however, that if everyone were fed and taken care of, all of us, indeed, would get along better?

Dwelling deeper into Aladdin's poverty reveals the complexity of his situation. He is viewed as a street rat, a scoundrel despite the fact that he is only trying to survive in a world that will not lend him any help. Aladdin, then, has to resort to his own kind of resourcefulness. In a way, we can say that Aladdin is, in a word, trapped.

This feeling of being trapped is repeated over and over in the film, in fact. Jasmine herself is trapped. She feels imprisoned within a traditional system that requires that she be arranged to marry a prince. Father, I hate being forced into this. If I do marry, I want it to be for love. When her father tries to reason with her, she complains, I've never done a thing on my own. Her lack of freedom and independence only amplifies her feelings of captivity. Hence, she decides to flee the palace. While slipping out, she says to her pet tiger, Rajah, I'm sorry...but I can't stay here and have my life lived for me.

When looking at these two characters we see the difficult situations that they find themselves in. A ruling social or traditional system cages them and tries to prevent them from making their own choices and leading their own lives. However, the admirable thing about both Aladdin and Jasmine is that they both choose to do something about their situation. Others would have probably succumbed to defeat, especially in Jasmine's case. Instead, they both fight for their lives and their rights.

In fact, when Aladdin and Jasmine meet, and they are both staring out at the palace's grandeur, they both express the same thoughts simultaneously, You're just, trapped...

Into this scenario is introduced another character, the Genie. Genie, on the other hand, has no such freedom of choice. He is the one that is truly trapped. In fact, he expresses it very well in his statement: But oh, to be free! Not to have to go poof what do you need poof what do you need poof what do you need? To be my own master. Such a thing would be greater than all the magic, than all the treasures, than all the world! Genie, then, becomes the most extreme case of imprisonment in the story.

Throughout the whole movie, then, we find all three characters trying to fight for this sense of freedom. They all wish to make something of their lives. It is for this reason, then, that you see both Aladdin and Jasmine taking risks in order to for them to at least gain the opportunity to experience that kind of freedom. And when one thinks about success very clearly, isn't taking risks a part of the journey towards success?

It often happens that one is hampered by fear, and it is fear that prevents one from truly realizing his or her true potential. This is especially true with regards to the fear of being rejected. It doesn't matter what is being pursued, whether it's a job, a career, a girl, or even one's own dreams. People are often afraid of taking risks. In the end, they settle for what they have and give up on their dreams. This is exactly what happened with Genie. But what am I talking about? Let's get real here, it's not going to happen. In fact, it's worse for Genie because of his circumstance, The only way I get out of this is if my master wishes me out.

This, then, relates the difference between Genie and the rest of the characters. The Genie cannot liberate himself, whereas both Aladdin and Jasmine can. In fact, it is because of this freedom of choice that Aladdin and Jasmine have been presented with such opportunities.

The scene when Aladdin was imprisoned in the palace dungeon, for example, is very symbolic. He could have stayed. Who knew what would happen. Perhaps Jasmine would have been able to have Aladdin released. And yet, it is almost certain that she would not be allowed to marry Aladdin. Aladdin, thus, was presented with another opportunity, to escape in exchange of a favor. Surely when Aladdin and Jafar had arrived at the Cave of Wonders, there was fear in Aladdin's heart regarding the task at hand. He braved himself through that fear and won possession of the magic lamp, which opened him up to even more opportunities.

This whole scenario is also fitting with another theme that the movie raises, that of being one's self. When Aladdin tries to impress Princess Jasmine, he pretends to be someone he is not. This produces disastrous results, and Genie constantly advices him Al, all joking aside, you really ought to be yourself. This is a lesson Aladdin finally learns at the end of the movie when he's faced with the choice of wishing for princedom or giving Genie his freedom. I do love you, but, I've got to stop pretending to be something I'm not.

Thinking on the whole story, in fact, it is Aladdin's wisdom and character that wins over the Sultan. Aladdin, through his bravery, becomes a hero, in a sense. Although he is a part of the cause of all the trouble the kingdom went through, he is also its deliverer. Freeing the Genie, as well, makes him out to be a man of his word, a man who keeps his promises. This attitude in Aladdin is something both Genie and the Sultan recognize. Genie said, No matter what anybody says, you'll always be a prince to me. To which the Sultan added to, That's right. You've certainly proven your worth as far as I'm concerned.

Being yourself, however, in the manner that the movie speaks of, really refers to being your best self. How often have we heard that statement: This is who I am. I can't change who I am. In some cases we mean it, in other cases, it's used as an excuse to neglect a change in our character. One thing is for certain, however. Being yourself first requires that you figure out who you really are - without pretensions, without peer pressure.

Genius, for example, when we look at the history of the word, basically means being genuine or what you were naturally born with. Everyone has a unique set of skills and talents. The problem is that these gifts are too often abandoned, just like our dreams. Before it came to mean an uncanny ability in a certain field, it meant making use of what we were born with. But even with today's assigned meaning to the word, genius still entails that one is born with certain gifts, and that these gifts are realized and developed.

Looking deeper at the Genie, in the end, reveals a certain truth. The Genie is capable of fulfilling any wish. In fact, in The One Thousand and One Nights, Aladdin has no limit to the number of wishes he can make. The Genie, then, is our wishes, trapped. The Genie is also our wishes, realized. And the single factor that creates this change between imprisonment and freedom is action: to rub that lamp. Rub the lamp (do the work) and your dreams will be liberated.

Review:

It sounds very cliche, I know, and yet somehow I used to think in the negative as well. Authors are starving artists. Writers like J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer were flukes, lucky draws in a lottery. Once you start reading material by Steven Covey, Og Mandino, Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie, though, you gain a whole new perspective.

One can continue to believe in the impossibility of things, how good things only happen to bad people, and how the world conspires against the noble and the true. And maybe that really is how the world works. But complaining about it doesn't make it any better, and neither does a hopeless attitude.

Isn't that why, after all, we always root for the heroes in the end, despite all the odds that are stacked against them? We want to believe that good trumps evil sevenfold in fiction. Why not believe it in real life? Henry Ford once said, Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right. Robert Frost said, The best way out is always through. Audrey Hepburn said, Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, I'm possible'! Finally, Walt Disney himself said, If you can dream it, you can do it.

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