Disney’s First Non-White Princess, Jasmine.

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Aladdin, 1992

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.

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Tis a pity the film was about Aladdin, not Jasmine.

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.

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Naked chest? That was practically NUDITY when I was six.

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.

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We'll have a nice picture of their date, instead.

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.

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She's a total hottie in the red outfit. Uh, can I say that about a Disney character?

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.

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She's a totally awesome princess.

Oh, oh! And the other thing I really like about this film is that there was KISSING before the wedding/final scene. Yay, kissing!

imageP.S. – I’m going to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 tonight – are you jealous?

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8 thoughts on “Disney’s First Non-White Princess, Jasmine.

  1. Archer says:

    I like this post. I like the parallels with Portia. But I thought Mulan was the Daughter of a Chinese nobleman… Like the daughter of their equivalent of a Lord… Not just a Chinese citizen?

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  2. Penelope says:

    These Disney princess posts are so enlightening! I admit that even now I fall for the hype, and love these princesses without realizing how dull/repressed/typical most of them really are. Jasmine is definitely the coolest, IMO, although I never realized just how different she is. I don’t remember another princess who actually fights for herself, and decides not to do what is expected of her.

    Great post!

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    • Lissa says:

      I couldn’t bring myself to agree with you on all of the princesses being dull/repressed/typical. Certainly the eldest three are (Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora/Sleeping Beauty). I think the beautiful thing about the Disney princesses is there’s so much variety between them and it’s easy to find parts of each that you identify with. I never really bothered looking further in Jasmine’s story myself because apart from her physical appearance (so exotic!), she never really interested me as much as say, Belle did. But upon re-watching the films now that I’m older and have been to University to study films and literature, I’m more easily able to see particular things I may have overlooked in the naivety of a child.

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  3. Sara Yori says:

    It’s funny ’cause Aladdin is one of my favourite Disney movies, but Belle is my favourite Disney Princess. Jasmine would definitely come in second for her rebellious and strong character.
    By the way, great post, I like how you analyzed it!

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    • Lissa says:

      For a very long time, The Lion King was my favourite Disney film, and Belle was my favourite Princess.
      However, that all changed when I saw Tangled.
      Thank you very much for stopping by!

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  4. Nadia Jules Roby says:

    Archer’s completely correct. Mulan was the daughter of a noble. Regular civilians could not join the Chinese military @ that time (it even briefly states that in the film when her father receives his summons to arms).

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    • Lissa says:

      Yes, I believe we reached that consensus after watching the film. Also, in the film both nobles and regular civilians were required to join the army, one man from each household.

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