Disney’s newest Aladdin really surprised me with its talented cast members, extraordinary choreography and music, and vibrancy in cinematography and set that had me entranced. Most of all, I was taken by Jasmine’s reworked character.
Disclaimer: this article will contain spoilers for Disney’s Aladdin.
Delivered to us by Naomi Scott, Jasmine has become much more than the clichéd orientalist princess of the original. She’s passionate, intelligent, tenacious and capable – a near-perfect role model for young women and children.
Emotionally, Jasmine was complex. She allowed herself to be vulnerable when things were tough but was not compromised or unable to act because of emotional weight. She was ambitious and saw a future for herself not only in the spotlight, but in the lead, and was willing to do what she saw necessary to achieve it. When stifled by rules that contained her, she continued to push for what she believed herself capable of, and what she wanted.
This Jasmine did more than just sing and look pretty. She was intelligent, reading even more than Belle in Beauty and the Beast. When Jasmine became suspicious of Aladdin she did not send someone to investigate, but broke out the maps herself and challenged him directly. She was brave – jumping off balconies, taking the reins on flying carpets, and defending her position again and again.
She had a desire to see her people given better, and an inherent love for them, despite not having been allowed to see them for many years. She was loyal to her country, unattracted to material things and determined not to accept a husband below her standards – yes, girl!
Then there was the matter of her costuming. Was Jasmine’s outfit from the original film killer? Yes. Was it appropriate? No – not culturally or socially. Did this movie fix that? Oh, yes, it absolutely did.
Jasmine’s gown had stuck with me after I saw the trailer, and I went into the film excited to see it again. The image of Jasmine walking down those stairs, with her pink dress spilling like liquid behind her, was enchanting. What struck me the most was that there was no bare mid-riff, just layers of money and extravagance, and from the way she looked in it – power.
The movie continued to deliver, scene by scene, costuming that made Jasmine appear beautiful and sophisticated, but not in a way that her appearance was one of her defining characteristics. They enhanced her, not defined her. She didn’t sashay around, giant eyes blinking, tiny waist gyrating. She looked exquisite and she knew it, but it wasn’t what was most important to her either.
If I had to take any issue with her characterisation, it would be the incompatibility of her claim that she knew her country best and was more able to lead it better than anyone. We see her hand bread to two hungry children, not realising that she must pay for these things. How odd, that someone who has read as much as she has about the necessities of running a country, does not understand the basic flow and exchange of goods. Perhaps it was a tribute to the original film, but it seemed to me a strange thing to keep in the script, considering the angle the writers were attempting to establish with her character.
Then there’s Jasmine and Aladdin. On one hand, I get it. I too was distracted by that glimpse of Aladdin’s bare chest we could see. Yes, he was charming (did you see how clean he was?). The boy’s got pearly teeth for a street rat. On the other hand, I think a few days is hardly enough time for two people to develop such a strong trusting bond. So when Aladdin fed her his spiel about having come to the city days prior, and she believed him, it made her look a bit gullible, and detracted from her overall intelligence. I would have liked to see a longer period of mistrust and uncertainty and more development between them. I did like, however, how unimpressed she was with the prince version of Aladdin, even after his magnificent backflip.
In the end, I found Naomi’s Jasmine a far more compelling and inspiring character than I had expected, and would see the movie again if only for her – with the added side benefit of all the chest eye-candy, of course. Who knew Will Smith was still so ripped?
Featured image via Screen Rant