South Asian and Asian cultures were hardly represented in pop culture until recently. Cultural diversity is prevalent among the new cast of Aladdin.
Growing up in the Disney Princess era in the late 90s, I had my fair share of favorites. I love Ariel and Belle, but my all time favorite would have to be Princess Jasmine from Aladdin, even to this day. As a child, I thought that the characters of Jasmine and Aladdin were of Indian origin. This was partially the reason I loved the movie so much, I could relate to them in a way. I realized much later that Aladdin was based off of Middle-Eastern characters, not Indian ones. Needless to say, I was disappointed. But having had that perception for so long, it raised my hopes of cultural diversity and representation in the entertainment industry and beyond.
The Era of Live-Action Disney Princess Films
The hype started with the live-action remake of a Disney classic: Cinderella. Of course there have been similar small-scale remakes in the past, but this movie was hyped and glitzed up Hollywood-style. Along came Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast remakes; all of which dominated the box offices. Several other such movies are slated to release in the coming years. But the main focus, is on the new minted cast for the live-action adaptation of Aladdin.
Diversity or Adversity?
This announcement made the public constantly speculate who would play the titular character. People would suggest celebrities like Zayn Malik or Dev Patel for the role. I know I would love to see either of them become one of the more handsome Disney princes. However, one key aspect of Aladdin would be amiss: neither of the two are Middle-Eastern. Zayn is half-Pakistani, and Dev is Indian. Because of the close proximity of the Middle East to South Asia, people tend to freely associate one with the other. It is important to take into consideration the ethnicity of the character.
In doing so, it will defeat the purpose of the movie. Diversity in pop culture is vital. Racial tensions are bad enough as is in this country. Though such mistakes are quite common in the industry, it is something that needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.
Because the U.S has always strived towards equal representation.