The thing about Disney is that they like to add technically non-princesses into the Disney Princess line-up. When you think about it, throughout their entire films, Belle and Cinderella weren’t actually princesses. Sure, they became princesses afterwards by marrying a prince, whatever. But then you come across characters like Alice (who is sometimes marketed that way) who has nothing to do with royalty – she is neither princess nor marries royalty. And then we come across the highlighted non-white ‘princesses’ Mulan, Pocahontas, and Jasmine. Mulan and Pocahontas have nothing to do with royalty – Mulan is a Chinese citizen and Pocahontas is the daughter of a Native American chief.
Jasmine’s a bit more complicated. She stands out. She’s the daughter of a Sultan. She is technically a princess, but she’s the first Disney ‘princess’ so far that doesn’t marry a prince. Instead, she chooses to marry a street kid. In fact, the entire movie revolves around the boy, not her. This is the first Disney Princess movie to actually focus on a male character instead of the princess they use to promote it. Not that I’m complaining – Aladdin was originally meant to be 13 years old, and they matured him into an 18 year old young male lead, and quite honestly, kind of a hunk.
Even though this is based on an Arab folktale about a ruffian who finds a genie, I find surprising parallels with Jasmine and one of Shakespeare’s films I studied for my Honours degree, The Merchant of Venice. Like Portia, Jasmine is trapped by the need to marry by an overbearing father. She wills to be rebellious, but once she marries, she will have more power than her unmarried self. That’s about where the parallels end. The situation is worse for Jasmine – if she doesn’t marry by her eighteenth birthday, something terrible will happen. I don’t actually know what – Jafar hypnotises the Sultan into believing she will have to marry him, which is so gross I don’t even want to think about it.
The most fascinating thing about Jasmine is that she is so very different to the past princesses we have met: chronologically, they are Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, and Belle. It pains me to say it (because Belle was, for a long time, my favourite), but Jasmine is even more rebellious and strong-willed than these previous princesses. She never just waits to be rescued: she is constantly trying to find her own way. She runs away from the palace even though she has no where to go and has never been outside the walls. Even when Jafar has her in chains in that red outfit, and she seems all helpless, she goes and does a 180 on what a typical princess should behave and actually uses her sexuality as a weapon against Jafar, which in my opinion is just totally cool.
It’s a pity the film didn’t give her more screen time. She fell in love with Aladdin because they talked and discovered how much they had in common, and she didn’t like his alter-ago Ali Ababwa. She even guessed that he was Aladdin under all the glitz and glamour, and although he lied to her (which TOTALLY pisses me off, why didn’t he just tell the truth?!) she still fell in love with Aladdin when he was being himself, a street kid. And the best thing about Princess Jasmine? She married him, even though he wasn’t a prince. It’s kind of the complete opposite of Belle – Belle may well have guessed that the Beast was some kind of nobility while he kept her trapped in his castle, but she didn’t know he was a prince and fell in love with his beastly form. Jasmine saw past the princely disguise Aladdin was using and fell in love with a nobody.
Oh, oh! And the other thing I really like about this film is that there was KISSING before the wedding/final scene. Yay, kissing!