The controversy around Aladdin

Aladdin is a well-known animated Disney movie and while it is popular, its depictions of Middle Eastern and North African culture are not fully accurate and cause harm to the people of that culture.


Olivya Martin

The popular Disney movie has more controversy surrounding it than one may think.

The original Disney animation movie “Aladdin” was released in 1992 and since then has been in a deep controversy that Disney can not seem to get rid of. For some, the children’s movie is about a young man falling in love with a princess and doing everything he can to be worthy of her love; for others, the movie depicts the culture of the Middle East region negatively. 

The movie revolves around the main character, Aladdin, who is homeless and is frequently referred to as a “street rat” throughout the movie. Viewers follow his story as he falls in love with Princess Jasmine and finds a lamp that contains a magic Genie who proceeds to grant Aladdin three wishes. Aladdin uses one of his wishes to become a Prince so he is suitable for marriage to Princess Jasmine. 

The well-known intro song to the movie titled “Arabian Nights,” had an early lyric change due to the negative picture it paints of Arabic culture; originally the first verse of the song said, “where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face.” Now the lyrics are “where it’s flat and immense and the heat is intense.” The original lyric portrays a negative view of the culture and life of Middle Eastern cities as it is implying that if the society does not like someone based on their appearance, they will harm them.

The change in lyrics shifts the song from a negative portrayal of the lifestyle to explaining the scenery. The song then goes on to say how the “Arabian nights, Like Arabian days, More often than not, Are hotter than hot in a lot of good ways,” thus shifting the view of the song back onto the culture and scenery of the Middle East.

Many critics have called Aladdin a typical European view of the Middle East and have said that the movie does not show an accurate depiction of true Middle Eastern and North African culture. It has also been said that the portrayals of villains have darker skin and are barbaric and the characters of the movie as a whole have been described as over-dramatized and exotic. This highly-praised movie has negative depictions of culture that people should know is not an accurate depiction.