Feminist writer Scarlett Curtis has incurred the wrath of many Aladdin fans after suggesting the Disney animated classic was ‘racist’.
Appearing on a Good Morning Britain debate panel, the daughter of rom-com king Richard Curtis described the 1992 film as an example of ‘cultural appropriation’.
Scarlett, who authored the book Feminists Don’t Wear Pink, called for classic fairytales to be rewritten in a way which reflects contemporary sensibilities; criticising the sexist tropes all too often lurking in tales of princes and princesses.
Defending her case against novelist Adele Parks, Curtis explained:
Because I think the point of fairytales, unlike Shakespeare, unlike Fred Astaire films, is that they are retold and retold and retold, you know?
We don’t really have the sacred text. I don’t think I’ve ever read the original of many of the fairytales. I’ve just been retold them again and again and again.
The originals were actually very dark and had a lot of sad endings. And then we had some that had happy endings. And now we could have some that had feminist endings.
I also think Aladdin is a little bit racist and has issues with cultural appropriation.
Set in the fictional land of Agrabah, Aladdin received some criticism at the time of its release for the racial stereotyping and ‘othering’ of Middle Eastern characters.
For example, the villainous characters were shown to have Middle Eastern accents, while star crossed lovers Aladdin and Jasmine have lighter skin and American accents. Indeed, Aladdin’s facial features were reportedly modelled on white actor Tom Cruise.
At the time of its release, Richard Scheinin, a journalist at The Washington Post, wrote:
For many Arab Americans and Muslims, the film is not innocent, funny or particularly triumphant. Many of its characters are portrayed as grotesque, with huge noses and sinister eyes. And they are violent, willing to chop off the hand of a woman who steals an apple for a hungry child.
Such caricatures exemplify the negative stereotyping with which Hollywood and the media have stamped Arabs and Muslims for nearly a century, these critics say. The sting of Aladdin is particularly intense because it is a high-profile Disney release, playing to massive audiences, including impressionable children.
Re write Disney classics, fairy stories?! What a load of utter nonsense. Couldn't be bothered to listen.
— Ingrid Morris (@ingridsusanka) October 19, 2018
However, not everyone was convinced by Curtis’s argument, with some Disney fans channelling the fury of Jafar as they took to Twitter.
One person bellowed:
Re-write Disney films due to sexism & feminism?! I really have heard it all now….the world has gone mad!!! @ GMB people are reading too much into them!
#GMB I’ve never heard such garbage as these people are spouting about fairytales being sexist what’s wrong with the world MADNESS get a life.
This extreme feminism needs to stop. Sure girls will want to be like Cinderella and snow white, then guess what, they grow up like everyone else and realise it's just a fairytale story. "Snow White didn't give consent to being kissed" is the stupidest thing I've ever read.
— Cameron (@lawseyitfc) October 19, 2018
Although many people were outraged by Curtis’s suggestions, society has been adapting and changing fairytales for hundreds of years. Indeed, some of the older versions of our beloved fairytales would be completely unpalatable for our 21st century way of thinking.
Consider Carlo Collodi’s original version of Pinocchio, where the puppet boy ends up accidentally killing his cricket friend and is hung for his crimes. Or Giambattista Basile’s version of Sleeping Beauty, where the princess is raped and gives birth while she sleeps.
This was discussed on @thismorning yesterday.. some daft cow rewriting Disney classics because they're not P.C. get a bloody grip!! Watching sleeping beauty does NOT breed rapists. Just ridiculous!!!
— allison gayle jarman (@GayleJarman22) October 19, 2018
Should we rethink fairytales with every new generation, or should some stories just be left as they are, as still and preserved as Snow White in her coffin?
The live action remake of Aladdin will fly into UK cinemas as of May 24, 2019.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.