Diamond in the Rough

The last couple weeks I’ve stepped away from talking about movies because I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as just a movie reviewer. I think I’ve had some decent success, people have said the Matchbox Twenty blog is my best so far (which really bums me out). But now it’s time to go back to basics and talk about what got me started: Disney movies. Lots of people have been requesting this one, well here you go. Today, in another rousing episode of “Dan Destroys the Things He Loves:” It’s the Aladdin blog! Don’t get me wrong, I loved this movie. It’s one of the first I ever saw in theaters. But that doesn’t mean it’s without flaw. There are countless examples of people acting out of character, logic errors, and holy crap there are some flaws with the main message. As always, I plan to ignore the obvious fan theories, like the one where Aladdin is happening in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I actually think it’s far more likely that an all powerful Genie doesn’t entirely exist in one plane of time or existence, and that he has a line of sight into the pop culture of the future.

Also, I want to take a moment to point something out in response to a complaint I’ve received before. I’ll admit that I’m nitpicky, but it’s not arbitrary. My problem is when a movie, book, or television show creates a world with rules, and then doesn’t follow those rules just for the sake of advancing the plot. For example, in the movie Split there is an OCD character who makes the main girl take off her shirt every time it’s dirty. Then when her last shirt gets dirty, he decides not to have her take it off. We later find out that under the last shirt are her scars, and that would have ended the entire movie. The villain acted out of character simply because he needed to for the movie to advance. That’s the kind of thing I take issue with and comment about in my blog. That and Matchbox Twenty, who can just go ahead and die in a fire. Oh, and I’m planning to write more frequently about Tirumari Jothi and my lack of plan to watch One Piece. Because if I changed now it would be out of character, and I would have to write about that, thereby creating a paradox, and an anime isn’t worth that.

 

Jasmine acting out of character is a pretty short list. She’s a spoiled, naive girl, but she’s not stupid. Trusting Aladdin was not a smart move on her part, but it made sense in her character. The biggest moment where she acted out of character is when she returned from her night on the carpet with Aladdin. Up until now she was headstrong, not prone to flights of fancy or romance, and was more than willing to go to war with Jafar. So why, after the magic carpet ride where she learned Aladdin isn’t dead, did he sit at her mirror brushing her hair instead of marching directly to her father and telling him Jafar lied? Her failure to act in character caused the whole thing to spiral completely out of control. If she’d gone to her father right away, Jafar would have run (Jasmine was smart enough that I have faith she’d have figured out the snake staff hypnotism), and he never would have seen the lamp in Aladdin’s hat.

Aladdin has two major “out of character” moments. We spend the entire first act learning about this thief with a heart of gold, this “diamond in the rough.” He only steals to eat, because he’s gotta eat to live. He’ll tell you all about it when he’s got the time. But even then he gives his bread away to hungry kids. He gets in the way of a mounted prince with a whip, and he saves Princess Jasmine from getting her hand cut off. It could be argued that he did that because he thought she was so beautiful, but he didn’t have to intervene the way he did. Aladdin put himself in harm’s way when he got involved. Aladdin is a well known thief in town, and he selflessly stepped in on a bad situation to rescue a girl.

So why is he so selfish when it came to the genie, and so dishonest when it came to Jasmine? Nothing in Aladdin’s character would indicate he was such a liar. I get pretending not to be Aladdin out of embarrassment, but when Jasmine found out who he was there was no reason to lie, nor any indication he would see the need to lie just to save face. Aladdin was a proud thief, he was even happy to show where he lived to a pretty girl he’d just met. I totally understand being a little embarrassed when you find out she’s the princess, but she clearly didn’t have a problem with it so why did he double down on the lie?

And then there’s the genie. Aladdin is repeatedly selfless throughout the movie. He demonstrates fierce loyalty to his friends, and yet when it comes to keeping his promise to the genie, he waffles. And he waffles for an incredibly stupid reason, he thinks he’s not a true prince without the help of the genie. That’s stupid, and it actually plays into something that was equally stupid at the end of the movie. The Sultan verbally changes the law, abolishing the rule that the Princess must marry a prince, so she is now free to marry anyone she chooses. And of course she chooses Aladdin. The problem is, that was completely unnecessary. See, Aladdin didn’t wish to look like a prince, or for people to believe he was a prince. Aladdin wished to BE a prince, and there’s no reason that would not still be in effect. Wishes don’t end just because the genie has a new master, so Aladdin is definitely still a prince.

So there was no reason for Aladdin not to wish the genie free (and as talkative as Genie was, it’s weird that he didn’t tell him that). But even if Aladdin didn’t wish him free and they still had their fight, it is completely out of character for Aladdin to not take the lamp with him. I get that there was an argument, but there’s no way Aladdin leaves the source of his power under a pillow in an unlocked room. By the way, that makes it even more insane that Iago expected him to leave the lamp in his room when he called him away. 100% of the times Jafar has seen the lamp recently, it’s been in Aladdin’s hate. He took it on a date with him, for crying out loud.

One last out of character moment. Aladdin would totally have stolen those rubies from the old man in the dungeon. While they were on their journey to wherever the cave was, no way Aladdin didn’t pickpocket him. But the most out of character moment comes from Jafar.

One of the first characters we meet in the actual story is Jafar, when Ghazim, a “humble thief” delivers the second half of the scarab that opens up the Cave of Wonders. First off, if Jafar knew the basic location of the Cave, that it held the lamp, AND how to find both halves of the scarab, I refuse to believe he didn’t already know the “worthiness” clause of the deal. And that being said, Ghazim is clearly not worthy. There was never any chance of Ghazim successfully getting the lamp. On that note, it is completely out of character for someone as arrogant as Jafar to not consider himself the only person worthy. Jafar thinks he’s the only one who should be Sultan, that his worth and talents aren’t being properly utilized. Why would he ever consider someone else worthy over himself?

Also, while I totally understand that evil people seek out power, it is crazy to me that Jafar wants to be Sultan. I mean, clearly the Sultan is bad at his job, so Jafar is doing most of the work with none of the title. But even so, Jafar has power and authority just as Grand Vizier, it seems very short sighted of him to seek out the title of Sultan. Dude has magic hypnotizing powers, a working knowledge of the combination of magic and science, and the guards listen to him over anyone else. Seriously, the guards obey the Grand Vizier over the Princess. That’s an unprecedented level of power from an appointed public servant. Later on, the guards are even willing to just straight up commit murder on Jafar’s word. That isn’t normal authority! On instruction from essentially the Secretary of State, the palace guards (essentially the Secret Service) abduct a guest of the palace, tie him up and throw him off a cliff into the water. That’s not an execution, that’s murder. On that note, why are the guards in the sequel? They commit treason and attempted murder, but come Return of Jafar they’re still in the palace running things (badly). Plus, Jafar has an incredibly rare talking parrot with teeth. That’s nuts!

I’d like to discuss a few of the logic errors I haven’t brought up yet. First, that “no touching anything but the lamp” seems like a pretty loose rule when they touch the carpet several times. Never with their hands, but the rule was not specified. Also, if we know Aladdin is the only one allowed in the Cave, why is Abu allowed? And if Abu is a loophole, why is he able to set off the punishment? And come to think of it, if you already have to find the only person worthy, why is there another test in the first place? If only one dude is worthy to be allowed in to the Cave of Wonders, why are you throwing a curveball at him? You’ve already decided he’s worthy, why make things hard?

My next question is purely logistical. Where did the lava go in the Cave of Wonders? I’m willing to accept that everything in the cave melted as part of the trap, and I’m willing to accept that it was going to runoff eventually, but that lava was rising as Aladdin was falling. I know the carpet saved Aladdin, but then the lava is suddenly all gone. Where did it go? And after it did run off or crust partially over, the heat would still have been intense. Sounds pretty barbaric. But hey, it’s home! I didn’t like that one. I frequently try to work the songs in, but that one felt a little forced to me. I’ll leave it here so you have proof I’m not infallible. Sometimes you have to show the little people, ya know?

With regards to the magic carpet, I have some issues. First and foremost, why didn’t it melt when everything else did? If the reason is that it’s alive when everything else was just part of a trap, I can accept that, but it opens up another, more serious issue. There is no way that carpet isn’t completely insane. We find out that the carpet has been in that cave for millennia. That’s thousands of years without human interaction. The US Army has rules regarding solitary confinement even during wartime. If you want to hold someone in solitary longer than 30 days you need approval from high up. The UN Committee on Torture stated that holding someone fro 23 hours a day in isolation is torture. Now imagine someone being held in solitary confinement for ten thousand years. This carpet is not only insane, it’s probably dangerous. We see the carpet express emotion, response to stimulus, and even survival instinct. What happens when it feels like its new friends are going to abandon it? I’m just going to start calling the carpet Norman Bates and be done with it.

There are two songs that really stick out as deeply flawed to me. There are some logic holes, and one moment that throws off the entire message. First, the logic holes. When Aladdin first goes home, he sings to himself. “Riff-raff, street rat! I don’t buy that! If only they’d look closer . . . would they see a poor boy? No siree. They’d find out, there’s so much more to me!” This is a logical fallacy. Yes, there might in fact be more to you. But they would absolutely see a poor boy. You’re a homeless thief whose only friend is a stray animal. That’s pretty much the textbook definition of a poor boy. Yes siree.

When it comes to “One Jump,” there are so many problems it’s hard to narrow it down. First, let’s talk about the harem matron. She swings a broom at Aladdin and says “I’d blame parents, except he hasn’t got ’em.” I think being an orphan is probably a pretty good indicator of why he’s a homeless thief. Not to mention his monkey’s name (Abu) means “father” in Arabic. This kid has some daddy issues, no doubt about that. Plus, you work at a brothel, so let’s keep the judgement quiet, Ms. Moral Authority.

Before I get to the final part, I would like to point out that Aladdin gets the girl by lying and stealing. The two “fall in love” based exclusively on mutual attraction and the fact that they feel trapped in their current lives. That is not a good basis for a strong and lasting relationship. You don’t start dating someone because you hate your life. You especially don’t start dating someone hoping they’ll be your lifeline. If you hate your life, you make changes. If you find someone who makes you happy during these changes, that’s fine, and a totally different ball game. But “I’m miserable, you’re miserable, but damn we’re both hot” is not a good lesson, Disney. Get your shit together.

Finally, it is common knowledge that the lesson in Aladdin is that true worth is not measured by what’s on the outside, but within. I was on board with that message until: 1) the entire reason Aladdin falls for the Princess is because she’s beautiful. So really it’s just that guys are deep. Girls are valuable when they’re hot.  And 2) in the first song of the movie we see a big girl grab Aladdin and clutch him to her breast and say how handsome she thinks he is. (She says “still I think he’s rather tasty,” and the joke is that of course she thinks he’s tasty, she’s fat. Ha. Ha ha. Way to stay highbrow, Disney.) I have no problem with Aladdin not running off with this girl, he doesn’t know her and he’s a romantic looking for love. But the look of horror on his face when a not traditionally attractive woman expresses interest shows that the entire message of Aladdin is bullshit.

I still like Aladdin. I’m a fan of the movie, but let’s not pretend it isn’t deeply flawed. I hope you enjoyed. Love and kisses!

 

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