A whole new world
A dazzling place I never knew
But when I’m way up here, it’s crystal clear
That now I’m in a whole new world with you
Jasmine from Aladdin (1992) continued the trend of empowered Disney Princesses of the 90s. Just like Ariel and Belle, Jasmine is confident and strong, standing up for herself and not taking no for an answer.
Jasmine has lived all her life within the confines of the palace of Agrabah, so naturally she wishes to break free. Her father wants to see her married off, but Jasmine is not one to be forced into a marriage. One night, out of sheer desperation and a desire to breakaway, she decides to venture out into the unknown.
Jasmine isn’t the star of her movie, Aladdin is; Jasmine is relegated to a secondary love interest. However, Disney did a great job of infusing her character with enough depth and strength to stand on her own. They easily could have made her seem like a lifeless pretty face with zero personality (after all, she isn’t the star of the movie), but I’m pleased with their decision to go with a strong, concrete woman with a great personality.
Most Disney Princesses have a bevy of cute forest animals like rabbits and squirrels running around them. Jasmine has a tiger named Rajah. So no self-respecting man ought to mess with her. For the most part, that’s what makes Jasmine so awesome. The fact that she has a pet tiger is reason enough to know that she is no-nonsense, and you better have a strong reason to approach her.
Despite her toughness, Jasmine has many of the qualities that make a Disney Princess™: She’s sweet, caring and gentle. At the same time she’s fun loving and a little flirty.
Jafar, the film’s villain, fancies himself as Jasmine’s husband (because he wants the throne). Being the defiant female she is, of course Jasmine rejects him up front. She cannot imagine a life tied to someone she doesn’t love, despite the law that she “must be married to a prince”. Jasmine is vehemently opposed to the law, but unfortunately she has no choice.
A major theme in the movie Aladdin is “freedom”. Aladdin, Jasmine, Jafar and the Genie all want to be freed from their respective traps. Jasmine wants the freedom to marry whoever she wishes, whenever she wishes. She wants to see the world and not be stuck indoors like she always has been. Meeting Aladdin changed that for her- she finally became free to live her own life–and see the world like she always dreamed (not that she needed a man to do that, as you’d recall, she was the one who ran off to seek adventure all by herself).
I’d probably list out character flaws, but we hardly get to see any in Jasmine. Which is a good thing. Sure, she tends to be a little too stubborn, headstrong and hot headed (like when she allowed Rajah to rip off Prince Achmed’s underpants), but at the same time, she’s playful and dynamic, balancing out her little character kinks out evenly.
I’ve been saving a significant point for the end of the post. In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, Jasmine is officially the first non-white Disney princess in history. Up until 1992, every single Disney princess had been white-skinned and very European. With Jasmine, Disney finally looked to the East. Here, at last, was a princess every little Arabian or Indian girl could look up to and aspire to be. Thankfully Disney wasn’t pressured to be politically correct or inoffensive, to the point of diluting the magic of Jasmine’s character. To date, Jasmine remains the sole representative of the Middle East among Disney Princesses.
Another reason I applaud Jasmine is her major decision to reject an arranged marriage. In the Middle East and much of Asia, arranged marriages have always been, and still are, widely common. If you’re a young woman, you’d have little choice in whom to marry, much of it would be arranged by your family. So much so that you’d meet your husband (or wife) just a few days before the wedding! Jasmine, at least, being a princess, had the opportunity to meet and reject potential suitors, a privilege few girls of the time would have.
Of course, changing times have made arranged marriages far less common as young women take a stand, but from a Disney viewpoint, back in 1992 this was revolutionary. Jasmine herself tells her father, “I hate being rushed into this!” and goes on to say, “If I marry, I want it to be for love”. What an impressive step for the 90s feminist movement! Through Jasmine, Disney pushed women’s rights to all new heights, adding a new dimension to women’s portrayal in film.
Independent, fierce and headstrong, Jasmine has always been way ahead of her time period, paving the way for even more Disney princesses who weren’t just good looking–they could stand on their own feet. Jasmine made the brave decision to take a stand against a marriage she didn’t want, inspiring a generation of young women to believe in themselves and follow their hearts.