88 Postcolonialism: Is Aladdin Safe for Kids?

David Walker

Postcolonial critique on Disney??? Get ready, the liberals are trying to ruin Aladdin now!

Actually, colonialism ruined Aladdin. One thing people might not realize is that the colonization of Western powers in other nations has changed our perception of those regions. It seems obvious, but there are people out there who believe colonialism just happened, ended, and stopped affecting the world in an era of “postcolonialism.” So, what does this have to do with Aladdin?

Postcolonialism is recognized as the period after a nation that was previously occupied by Western powers gains its political independence. In the case of India’s independence, the end of the Britain’s political prominence in the region was what made it “post-colonial.” What the term postcolonial fails to address is that once colonialism is acquired, there’s no magical way to turn a country’s culture back to the way it was. The only representation of that original culture Western children get to see in their mainstream is Aladdin.

Aladdin is a hybrid piece, according to postcolonial theory. It’s a cross-fertilization between Western and Middle Eastern cultures, making it something familiar, but new. The portrayal of Indian culture through a western lens, however, can lead to oppressive missteps and cultural misrepresentation. So when Disney represents Indian society as wildly impoverished, brutal, barbaric, and silly, Western children grow up with false perceptions that, over time, alter cultural perceptions.

If you need any proof of how Disney alienates Indian culture, get a load of the characters who have thick (attempted) Indian accents as opposed to American ones. Jafar, Razoul, Farouk … that weird merchant guy? Their accents are there to either be threatening or comic relief. All the protagonists have perfect American/English accents. What does that tell the kids?
I guess before we show our children media about different cultures, we should go to college and learn about lingering colonial power structures, or else our offspring will be subliminally militant oppressors, or just screwed up, ignorant people, in general. All we can do is hold our breath and hope this blog does enough.


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The Student Theorist: An Open Handbook of Collective College Theory Copyright © 2018 by David Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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