Walt Disney lead a life which was not handed down to him after experiencing the life of hard farm labor, beatings from his father and experience in working for the newspaper back in the 50’s. However, the introspectiveness that he gained along with his success from producing Disney movies was not as evident as his financial success. It is clear that Disney is a large corporation which is primarily concerned in entertaining people to make money, however the stereotypes condemned in Disney movies detest the morality of entertainment.
Although movies, are meant to harmlessly entertain children, although Disney only seeks to gain money through entertainment, it does not have to resort to stereotypes to make movies enthralling for child viewers. For instance one particular movie that I used to love watching as a child was Aladdin. In this movie stereotypes are quite evident and clear from a linguistic, socioeconomic, and racial lens. Specifically, in the scene when Aladdin meets Jafar, some very interesting dialogue arises in their first encounter. Jafar is an old, Arabic man who seems to appear crippled from the scarceness of his body weight and poor conditioned teeth, he wears a long white beard, dark skin, a big nose, and tired eyes. In the movie he is made out to be an evil character due to his appearance and Arabic dialect. Also, the fact that he is made out to be evil in the setting of an Arabic kingdom, his home country, is very ironic and insinuates a bad image towards Arabic men.
Contrastingly, Disney tries to make the fact that Aladdin speaks Standard English in the movie, superior to Jafar’s use of language, due to his dialect.
Such a political undercurrent of dialect is present in Aladdin, as Aladdin’s humanity and dialect is viewed with greater trust in respect to Jafar’s Arabic dialect.. Throughout the scene, as Jafar shows his treachery through wicked laughter, conniving movements (which only add skepticism and stereotypical reference to his image as an Arabic man), his choice of words does well to show his treachery above all else. He deviously says to Aladdin, “You’ve heard of the Golden rule haven’t you? The one that has the gold makes the rules.” In this sentence, Jafar syntactically changed the modifiers of the sentence as he pertained modifiers to a person in command as he says “the one.” Yet the original phrasing of the Golden Rule, does not have modifiers that pertain to a person, but rather holds the heart of the message, which signifies the act of giving.
Therefore, language discrimination is another reason to undermine someone when one is already discriminating against race and culture, as language is immersed into one’s culture and can be defined by culture through dialect. Evidently, Disney does not appreciate heterogeneous dialect, as it negatively and stereotypically portrays the content of a foreign dialect. On the contrary, linguistically speaking, Disney appears to encourage homogeneousness with the incentive that Standard English is more sincere and trustworthy as that of Aladdin’s since he is presented in a good light throughout the movie. From one single scene in Aladdin, it is understood that Disney uses dialectic differences to determine superior and acceptable use of language as Aladdin’s Standard English in the movie is superior to Jafar’s.
In that light, Disney is not exactly welcoming linguistic diversity by stereotypically condemning the language of a foreign dialect. It does this through using social dialect to reference what is perceived as good and bad language. This leads many watchers to be subjected to prejudice. It is for that reason that Disney insinuates a lack of sincerity from discriminating the heterogeneous importance in language as discrimination of labeling someone with a stereotype for Arabic descent occurs. Mike Wallace sums this up perfectly in his article Mickey Mouse History and Other Essays on American Memory as he says: “The Disney people do not consider this retrospective tidying up an abuse of the past, they freely and disarmingly admit its falsification, pointing out that this is, after all, just entertainment.” (Pg. 137).
As this is “after all just entertainment” it is entertainment which is done in American and with that comes certain American exceptionalism incentives and political undercurrents within Disney movies. For instance Aladdin possesses heroic features of light skin, and a small nose, using a Standard English accent. This comes to show how much more an Americanized character is perceived as a hero in contrast to a foreign character by Disney’s standards. Therefore, in the grand scheme of things, one could say that Americanized dialect, appearance and culture is superior to all else, and as true as this may be in the world, it is ironic to American liberal values.