Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Princess Jasmine: A 30th Anniversary Tribute

(Guest post by David T)

On November 25, 1992, “Aladdin,” Walt Disney Pictures’ 31st animated film premiered in theaters. Loving Disney feature animation, I was excited to see the newest addition to their canon. However, these feelings were tempered by the preconceived idea that I wouldn’t love it like “Beauty and the Beast” released the previous year. When I watched Aladdin on the big screen for the first time, I was immediately drawn in by the gorgeously detailed hand drawn and computer animation and the music by Alan Menken, Tim Rice, and the late Howard Ashman. Surprisingly the movie surpassed Beauty and the Beast in becoming my favorite Disney film. The moment was the appearance of the Sultan of Agrabah’s daughter, Princess Jasmine.

In the Princess’ introductory scene, I learned that she was being required to marry a man of the same social status by a predetermined date (Jasmine’s “next birthday”). In addition, the royal remained in the palace confines by her loving yet overprotective father. Like Belle, I quickly related to Jasmine. As a thirteen-year-old boy, I wasn’t royal, and marriage wasn’t even near the horizon. However, I began feeling the constraints of my parents’ rules. I was growing older and wanted to decide how to live my life.

Since my first encounter with her, I’ve been inspired by Jasmine’s characteristics exhibited in Aladdin and its adaptations to Broadway, television, and live-action film. In the original animated feature, I admire Jasmine’s independence. From the beginning, the princess is willing to utilize it and reject Prince Achmed as a potential husband. She is unafraid to vocalize to her father that she wants love to be the reason she marries and not because a law demands it or to satisfy the Sultan. Jasmine demonstrates her autonomy when she condemns Aladdin (disguised as Prince Ali), the Sultan, and Jafar for debating what’s best for her life. She states, “I am not a prize to be won!” When Aladdin offers the royal the chance to leave the palace via magic carpet, she willingly accepts. After Jafar takes over the kingdom, the deposed royal defies the evil new sovereign by refusing to bow and later rejects his offer to become his queen to end her enslavement. The most powerful moment where Jasmine exercises her independence is when the Sultan alters the marriage law to which she happily declares that Aladdin is her choice. 

I like the observing and introspective nature Jasmine displays in the Broadway version of Aladdin. In her solo, the princess expresses frustration with specific demands of her royal station, especially the requirement to wed a man she doesn’t know or love. She knows that her suitors are only interested in her wealth. As the royal and her handmaidens sing about her situation, Jasmine recognizes that if she doesn’t listen to her heart and change course, she’ll end up bitter and unfeeling. This self-realization cements for the princess that she needs to leave the strict security of the palace and find what she is yearning for.

In the retelling of Aladdin in the television series Once Upon a Time, I love how Jasmine’s leadership is exhibited. Determined to end Jafar’s control over her father and Agrabah, the princess seeks out the mythical “diamond in the rough” which turns out to be Aladdin. When the evil sorcerer re-emerges as a threat after initially being stopped, Jasmine rejects the Sultan’s proposed plan for protection which would require her marrying a prince who possesses a military. Instead, she searches for Aladdin (who has disappeared) to enlist his help again. The royal is ready to make the sacrifice and willingly marry her people’s enemy when it appears her options have run out. Even though Jasmine faces setbacks, the princess perseveres. In doing so, Jafar is ultimately defeated and Agrabah is free and safe.

I’m affected by Jasmine’s self-advocacy in the Aladdin live-action remake. The possibility of succeeding her father as Agrabah’s ruler is questioned by Jasmine’s handmaiden, Dahlia, and dismissed by the Sultan and Jafar. This doesn’t stop Jasmine from expressing herself. The most dramatic moment of this is when Jafar usurps the throne. The princess powerfully persuades Hakim, the Captain of the Guard to continue supporting the rightful royal family. Through this demonstration and Jasmine’s subsequent willingness to stand up to their enemy, the Sultan realizes that his daughter is capable of reigning. He abdicates allowing the princess to become a female Sultan. 

Since seeing Aladdin during the 1992 holiday season, the Princess of Agrabah has been and continues to be an inspiration. I had the unbelievable opportunity to meet her speaking voice, Linda Larkin and share how Jasmine has influenced my life. In honor of the 30th anniversary of Aladdin’s theatrical release, this post is dedicated to one of my most beloved Disney Princesses. Happy 30th Anniversary, Jasmine! Thanks to you, “I’m like a shooting star. I’ve come so far. I can’t go back to where I used to be!”

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