DISNEY’S FILM ALADDIN FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE – When did you last let your heart decide?

– Maria Kwak

Aladdin is a love story between Princess Jasmine and a young street rat Aladdin. The song ‘A Whole New World’ from the film is well known through Disney’s 1992 animated version of Aladdin. One phrase that throws a question to us is ‘When did you last let your heart decide?’ The plot setting lies on a mission to realize their love despite the challenging circumstances.

The two characters encounter for the first time, when Aladdin rescues Jasmine from the street market in the kingdom of Agrabah. While introducing themselves, they realise that they have something in common although there is a difference in their socio-economic status. A poor young lad, Aladdin lost his parents when he was young, while Princess Jasmine grew up without her mother. The princess describes such challenge as being ‘trapped’ by saying that one “can’t escape from what you are born into.” Through their shared hinderance, the two seem to feel a special connection. Such occurrence may play a role in making a bondage between individuals while we find least similarity in their backgrounds. It is a fictional setting.  However, we find corresponding situations in reality. We understand that God equally distributes challenges among us regardless of one’s circumstances, as we are equal human beings before his eyes.

The young princess faces a challenge when her father says that she must find husband. While her father wants a marriage with someone who will treat her daughter as subordinate to the Sultan, Jasmine wants to be the Sultana who will rule their kingdom. Likewise in reality, going against a father’s wishes is not always easy, especially considering religion, culture, or socio-economic status. Although the father’s intention is for her daughter to have a safe life, Jasmine struggles to be the owner of her life. The mischievous sorcerer Jafar says that her life will become easy once she accepts destiny, which she does not agree with. In the song ‘I can’t stay silent,’ Jasmine portrays her concept of feminism. In a Christian context, our decisions are made on the teachings of the Church and not to compromise with secular values that may provide an easy-way out.

While Aladdin embarks on a quest to meet the princess, the Genie appears to him granting him three wishes with the exception of killing someone, resurrection of the dead or making someone fall in love. In our conscience as believers, the power that the Genie holds is equivalent to what God can only do to us. Above all, we can never make anyone fall in love with ourselves. The Genie also informs him that it is necessary for him to be precise with his words to prevent the wrong outcomes. It is also true for us when praying. We must be careful with what we pray for. After a careful consideration, Aladdin wishes to become a prince, with the material means and social status to impress princess Jasmine, who is kind and beautiful. 

Aladdin enters the kingdom as prince Ali. However, nervous Aladdin repeatedly makes mistakes during the conversation with Jasmine. He fails to make a good impression on her and feels discouraged due to his shortcomings when confronted with other suitors who look more refined in physical appearance and superior in material possessions. He questions himself: “What do I have to offer?” not realizing he has a pure heart connection with the princess. Even his extraordinary dance performance that gains applause from the crowd does not seem to impress Jasmine. It may not always be the same object of attention that will impress everyone, as God created each individual with uniqueness.

The story takes a surprising turn, when Aladdin invites Jasmine on a magic carpet ride. When Aladdin says, “Do you trust me?” Jasmine simply answers “yes.” A magic carpet ride represents an uncertain future or destiny in our reality, which often awakens fear.

It is not always easy to trust someone at first encounter. As meeting someone new and trusting takes a lot of courage, we sometimes try to find evidence elsewhere: what the person possesses or can provide instead of trust from our hearts. However, we must remember that we were created to ‘feel’ before our brain makes a judgement based on our brain’s consciousness. Jasmine says that to be with the person that you share your heart with is an indescribable feeling.

‘When did you last let your heart decide?’ is the central theme of the story. The song ‘A whole new world’ is translated as ‘Mundo Ideal’ in Spanish, which is equivalent to ‘Ideal World’. What would be the ideal world that is different from our society? What would be that Promised Land, where no one is suffering and all your needs are met according to God’s plan. The choice is up to us.

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