We have this false idea that fairy tales are about weak and passive heroines, damsels in distress. So we are always fighting against a fairy tale legacy that doesn’t exist.
We all know Disney has a reputation for sweet, passive princesses and throughout this series I’ve seen where that is both accurate and also unfounded. Especially in the 90s, Disney movies were full of independent, interesting heroines. Belle and Ariel are pretty accurate representations of their fairy tale. Jasmine, however, Disney improved considerably.
I will confess I didn’t actually read the tale for this post. I wikipedia’d it and also referenced Project Disney for comparisons.
There is a princess in Aladdin. He falls in love with her at first sight and woos her with a parade of slaves and jewels. But in the movie, before the parade there is that moment where Jasmine runs away and they meet briefly. This gives their relationship context and a measure of depth. There’s laughter that could believably lead to affection; there’s commonality in how they see the world and what they want from life. It’s a great example of the good sort of insta-love because there is attraction and a spark that can become something more.
In the tale, Princess Badroulbadour is rather passive and gullible, though also a little brave and wily. Jasmine is fierce. She’s defiant. She’s clever and also wily. Perhaps my favorite is how beautifully honest she is – completely unafraid to tell the men in her life when they’re fools.
This is no passive “Disney Princess” the way we say those words to dismiss the idea of princesses as dainty, soft-spoken, gossamer women. Jasmine does nothing but make her own choices no matter how many times she’s told she can’t.
It’s an interesting balance to tell a story about this woman who is trapped by the law and her culture and a world of expectations; to see her strain against these boundaries; to fight for more even when it seems hopeless. The fact that she’s trapped doesn’t make her helpless. Or we’d all be in trouble because so many times our own culture makes us feel trapped – in the possibilities for our careers or salaries – in the expectations of society – in the dismissal of a world built by old, white men.
But Jasmine reminds us we do not have to accept the cage we’re given. She is defiant and occasionally discouraged. She is forthright even when its unpopular with the men around her. And ultimately, she has her happy ending.
Perhaps one day we will too.
Haven’t seen Aladdin in ages? Angie has a great comparison of the fairy tale and Disney movie as part of her Project Disney.