Tuesday, October 13, 2015

When You Realize You've Grown Up To Be Your Favorite Disney Princess


In honor of the Aladdin Diamond Edition being released on Blu-Ray today, I went all out. I wore my Aladdin sweatshirt, I've posted the Aladdin cast reunion photos and articles all day on social media, and I've tracked the package on the hour (because of course I got free release date shipping... Thank you Amazon Student!). It's clear to everyone: my obsession with this movie is a little scary. But how could it not be?

My parents met in high school, went their separate ways in college, and then married. Other people, I might add. After two failed marriages, they were reunited in their hometown. They burned gas traveling to see each other and met for a date in Tulsa twenty-two years ago. This date entailed lunch, and a brief discussion about what would happen "if" they got married. By the time the discussion was over, they weren't quite ready to part, so they asked, "What movies are on at the theater?" and answered, "Well despite that it's a Disney movie... I hear that Aladdin is pretty good!"

They laughed the whole time. My mom's headstrong beliefs and fiery attitude made her adore Jasmine, a princess who was completely willing to shoot down those who tried to dictate her life, and my dad's love of comedy made the Genie undeniable. (Dad always said he missed his calling to be a comedian but I'm glad he's a music teacher. That way we still had food on the table every night!) So Aladdin was a hit for my parents before I was even a thought. Ha! "What if they got married?" 

In my mother's words, "It really has been a whole new world ever since." When I was born, Aladdin was the in vault already, but they borrowed a copy from my aunt and that was the beginning of the end. I watched it all the time. I loved it! I went trick-or-treating as Jasmine for several Halloweens. Every game that was played with my friends in the backyard: I was Jasmine. No one else got to be her, and everyone knew it. But tragedy struck one night while I was watching my beloved Disney classic: the VHS tape broke! It had been over-watched, over-rewinded, and over-used. How do you explain a technology failure to a little girl with a preconceived crush on Aladdin? Well... You don't. You pull out your street rat skills and improvise, so that's what my parents did.

I went a few weeks without my favorite tale, but I had Aladdin books, costumes, etc. to preoccupy my time. In those weeks, my parents watched ABC Family like a hawk, and had our new fancy VCR player (the one that could record things off the TV!) ready to go. The night the movie premiered on ABC, not only did my family sit down and watch it together again, but we recorded it on every TV in the house. The moment it came out of the vault again, we bought up more copies. We were not reliving that deprived stage again, the one where little Bethany would ask every day, "Can we watch Aladdin?" to which the reply was always inevitably, "No... Remember Bethany? It broke."

Oh yeah... 

As a result of this little scare, I am now twenty and own three Aladdin VHS tapes (excluding the broken one), the Special Edition when it came out on DVD, and now the Blu-Ray Diamond Edition the moment it was released. Again, a special shoutout to Amazon Student for offering free release-date shipping! Clearly, they know how to make their Disney girls happy.

So you're probably thinking, "Okay, it was something her parents did before she was born, and it was a staple of her childhood. What's the big deal?" Well the truth is, it was always so much more than that. I loved Aladdin because he was the type of man I wanted for myself: smart, clever, passionate, a little goofy, and come on, he's pretty attractive. The Genie was a favorite because he reminded me of my own childhood, when my dad would impersonate everyone including characters from movies, famous musicians, and even other friends and coworkers in our lives. (If you haven't heard his Elvis impression, I really do recommend it. He's got a pretty mean Eddie Murphy, too.)

But Jasmine? That smart, strong, independent, strikingly beautiful princess was exactly who I wanted to be, though I didn't know I wanted to be her when I was three. I just knew she was pretty cool, far more fun and outgoing than other Disney princesses.

When I first saw the musical on Broadway, I understood. In my beloved city of New York, I realized that I not only liked Princess Jasmine, I related to her. I was her. She was a sheltered princess who had lived in one place all her life, and dreamed of a life of adventure. Like me. She was tired of routine. Like me. She desired deep friendships, complex relationships, and new experiences to give her life meaning. Like me. (Catching a trend?) Being a princess wasn't good enough for her. She wanted every day to fulfill a new purpose. She wanted to learn the way others lived and decide the life she wanted for herself, rather than live a life that someone else told her to live. And isn't that what every twenty-year-old young woman ultimately wants?

She was smart. She was beautiful, too, but she already knew that. She wanted to be recognized for more than her looks and treasures, and when she met Aladdin, he saw her for everything she wanted to be seen for. He did not know she was a princess and was instead captivated by her quick adaptability despite her naivety. He shared his dreams with her because she was interested in listening, not because she could make them come true (even though she could).

Jasmine was a firecracker. Raised by my mother, I learned quickly not to rely on a man. They were nice to have around, but you never knew what might happen. You did not need them to survive, and boy, Jasmine didn't either. She despised men who thought they were too cool and had no problem calling them out on it. Even Aladdin, when she openly called him a "stuffed shirt, swaggering peacock." That's an awesome scene. But we can't forget my favorite line of all:

"How dare you! All of you! Standing around deciding my future? I am not a prize to be won!" 

Don't pretend like you didn't read that in her voice.

Women often feel like that. I often feel like that. My future is mine to write, but everyone else loves to tell you what you should and shouldn't do. The truth is, they don't know. No one knows what you should do better than you. No one has your personal intuition. So many adults follow the wishes of their parents, significant others, or friends, whether it be because they do not know what they want for themselves or they are too weak to fight for it. But Jasmine doesn't follow anyone's rules. She writes her own.

So all this makes me sound like a total Disney dreamer, doesn't it? Probably. And I have no shame. But if there's one argument for Disney's Aladdin you should actually pay attention to, let it be this one:

Jasmine is awfully independent for being raised in a society where she is expected to mind the rules and obey the laws. She is not like your typical princess in a typical fairytale; she does not wait in her tower for her prince to come save her. She wanted to sneak out of the palace and experience the outside world, so she just did it. She didn't whine about it or sulk any longer; she took action. She achieved her dreams on her own, and happened to meet Aladdin along the way. But Aladdin's dreams of becoming rich and living a life of luxury could not be achieved without her.

So I'd like to dedicate this little number to those who believe that Disney only teaches young girls that women should be passive, submissive women who wait on a prince to come save them. Jasmine didn't need Aladdin to make her dreams possible. He needed her to make his dreams possible. And that's what every girl wants more than anything: to be the motivation, the fire, the spark, and the passion in their man's life. Perhaps that's what I like most about Jasmine. She didn't need, she was needed. 

I admire movies like Beauty and the Beast for attempting to show that beauty is found within. But Jasmine not only shows that beauty is found within when she falls in love with her diamond in the rough, Aladdin, but she shows little girls that intelligence and fiery passion is what makes a woman astoundingly beautiful. It's good to be smart. It's good to be independent. It's a good thing to know what you want in life, and to work hard until you get it. It's good to protect your heart, but it's also good to let your guard down enough to love. And in that respect, Jasmine does everything right.

Regarding her dreams, I relate to her. Regarding her personality, I am her. And regarding her happy ending, I strive to become her. No, I'm not so naive to think that a girl can find one man instantly and live happily ever after, never experiencing another trial or obstacle for as long as they live. But I hope that the dreams I have for myself will come true, and I pray that I have the determination and work ethic to achieve them. I don't just love the movie Aladdin because I'm a Disney freak, I love it because every Disney girl wakes up one day to realize they've grown up to be their favorite Disney princess. For me, I guess that day was today. And to celebrate? Here's what the rest of my night looks like!


I'm sure no one's really surprised.

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