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The Aladdin remake still can’t get Arab culture right

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It comes as no surprise that Aladdin is among the string of live-action updates that Disney is making to its animated films. The original 1992 movie grossed $500 million around the world and was a key part of the Disney renaissance of the 1990s, released between Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. Despite its colossal success, the film did come under fire for its negative stereotypes of the Arab world and its choice to cast not a single actor of Middle Eastern descent for the lead voice roles. The remake, then, offers a chance for Disney to correct some of those past mistakes and present an Aladdin for this era—in addition, of course, to reeling in a new generation of young fans.

So what were some of those creative choices from the original Aladdin that come off as cringeworthy today? The first—and most controversial—came right in the opening credits. “Arabian Nights” described the fictional city of Agrabah as a place “where they cut off your ear when they don’t like your face/It’s barbaric, but hey! It’s home.” After the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee decried the lyrics as racist, they were changed to “where it’s flat and immense and the heat is intense/It’s barbaric, but hey! It’s home” for the home video release. Still, when Jasmine takes food from a market stall to feed some hungry children, a merchant grabs her by the wrist and threatens to cut off her hand for stealing. The film also makes a stark delineation between characters with thicker accents, darker skin tones, and beards (villains or garden-variety,........

© Fast Company