Heterosexual Relationships in Disney: Jasmine and Aladdin

Understanding and discussing Heterosexual relationships of the chosen Disney characters is a key argument for the extended essay. There will be one of these posts for each chosen character(Cinderella , Jasmine , Elsa & Anna), which will anayle gender roles of the characters and who the princesses interact with their male ocupants.

  1. The Pretty Princess Mandate:

The characterization of Princess Jasmine in Aladdin provides an opportunity to discuss and critique the use of beauty as a means to an end. Though her intelligence and quick-thinking is highlighted throughout the film, the message that Jasmine can use her looks to persuade other characters to do what she wants is pervasive. You can help your children think about other ways they can persuade people and get others to hear their point of view.

With children ages 4 and 5, you might say:

  • “I like that Jasmine is wearing pants, but I don’t like that the rest of her outfit shows that much skin. I think it is too revealing.”
  • “The clothes Jasmine wears in the marketplace are more realistic of how women would dress in public during the time the story takes place. Why is she dressed so differently when dressing like a “normal” person?”
  • “Jasmine is really smart and has a good sense of humor, but Aladdin seems to focus a lot on her looks. He should give her more credit.”
  • “See how Jasmine pretends to like Jafar to distract him from noticing Aladdin? She doesn’t seem to like it though—how else could she distract him?”

With children ages 6 to 8, you might comment:

“When we were watching Aladdin this afternoon, I noticed that Jasmine has a lot of great qualities—she’s smart, funny, and athletic—but she also uses her looks to get what she wants from Aladdin, Jafar and the Sultan. What do you think about that? What are other ways you can get what you want?” Give your child time to respond to this question; listen carefully to what she says and respond accordingly.

“I noticed that Jasmine’s clothes are very revealing and show a lot of her skin. Do you think that’s okay? Why or why not? What do you think Jasmine’s outfit says to girls and boys about how women should dress?”

Make it real: Consider discussing different ways people can be beautiful, not just in physical appearance. Who do you know who has a beautiful heart, beautiful laugh or beautiful mind? Take the conversation a step further and discuss how we are taught what is “beautiful” by the media as well. Look through magazines with your child and ask her what the pictures tell us about what it means to be beautiful. Do the real women in real life look like the people in the magazines? If they don’t, does that mean they’re not beautiful?

  1. The Gender Stereotypes

Jasmine is portrayed as a very intelligent, quick-thinking young woman who rebels against her father in order to stand up for what she believes in. This is fairly atypical of the “princess” stereotype and Jasmine takes an active role in helping to save the day with Aladdin. Take the time to point out Jasmine’s positive qualities to reinforce to your child that these are traits you like and think are important to have.

With children ages 4 and 5, remark on her positive characteristics and voice your questions and opinions out loud. Part of teaching children how to critically think about what they’re consuming is to ask questions yourself, even those you don’t know the answers to.

  • “Jasmine is very brave for standing up to her father for what she believes in. I like that she speaks her mind and makes sure that she is heard.”
  • “Jasmine is such a quick thinker! Did you see how she caught on when Aladdin came to help her in the marketplace and then pretended to be crazy to stay out of trouble?”
  • “Wow Jasmine is really athletic! Did you see how she leapt over the alley without any help? She doesn’t want Aladdin to treat her differently; I like that about her.”
  • “The Sultan only mentions Jasmine’s mother once in the whole movie. I wonder what happened to her? What do you think?”

With children ages 6 to 8, try to help them ask their own questions about the film. Have them reflect on the characters and have them practice imagining the background of the characters to better understand what motivated them to make certain choices.

  • “I really like how Jasmine stood up for herself in the movie. Where do you think she learned how to do that?”
  • “Before Jasmine ran away, she had spent her whole life behind the palace walls. What do you think her life looked like before she made the decision to leave? Who did she spend time with? What did she do?”
  • “Being honest is really important to Jasmine. If you found out a friend had lied to you, what would you do? Why?”
  • “Even though Aladdin pretends to be really confident to impress Jasmine, underneath he seems unsure of himself. What would make it hard to show someone how you really feel or tell them what you really think?”

Make it real: Find other strong female role models from history, or check out the library for other books that feature real-life princesses. Talk about what qualities and characteristics make those women special and unique and strong. Help your child make an “About Me” book that highlights all of her special qualities and characteristics.

  1. The Romance Narrative and Healthy Relationships

In general, the Disney princess films follow a fairly predictable story line: boy meets girl, they fall in love, they live happily ever after. But how real is that story line? What does that teach our children about how relationships form and develop in real life? Consider having a conversation about healthy relationships, both romantic and not.

With children ages 4 and 5, critique the romance story and remark on how quickly they seem to fall in love. Take time to point out the positive aspects of the relationships portrayed but don’t be afraid to douse the fantasy story with a bit of reality.

  • “I like that Jasmine talks about her feelings with her father. It’s important to be honest with the people you love.”
  • “Aladdin took Jasmine on a pretty amazing first date, but that wouldn’t be enough for me to fall in love with him and decide to get married! It’s important to get to know someone first before you decide to commit to each other like that.”
  • “The Genie, Carpet and Abu are all trying to tell Aladdin to be honest with Jasmine and tell him to be himself. Instead of listening, he gets mad and tells them to leave him alone. Aladdin isn’t being a very good friend to them.”

With children ages 6 to 8, use this opporutunity to hear their thoughts and feelings about honesty, trust and relationships. Try something along these lines:

  • “Jasmine stands up for what she believes in, even if it means disagreeing with her father. I like that they can be honest about their feelings with each other. That’s something I think is important for a healthy relationship. Can you think of a time when it was hard to tell someone how you felt but you did it anway?”
  • “Jasmine keeps giving Aladdin chances to tell her the truth about who he really is, but he keeps lying to her. How do you think that made Jasmine feel? Has someone ever lied to you? How did it make you feel?”
  • “Remember when Aladdin asks, ‘Do you trust me?’ to Jasmine? It made me wonder whether he has really earned her trust. He’s been lying to her about who he is. What do you think? How would you earn someone’s trust?”
  • “The Genie, Abu and the magic carpet try to encourage Aladdin to tell Jasmine the truth about who he really is, but Aladdin ignores them. Good friends always try to help you make good choices. What else makes a good friend?”

Make it real: Talk with your child about healthy relationships and the importance of trust, honesty, and communication. How does your family solve problems? Is it okay for children to disagree with their parents? Consider sharing a story of how you developed a friendship and what is important to you about that relationship. Share with your child qualities that you think are important in friends.

Hains, R. (2014) The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls through the Princess-Obsessed Years  Napperville, USA: Sourcebooks Inc.

Cited on Hains, R. website Andberg, K. [LCSW] (1992) Aladdin : A parent-child discussion guide

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