Sunday, 29 March 2009

Guantanamo officials were inspired by Aladdin

I recently got into a debate with my friend Hani about whether or not Aladdin (Disney, 1992) should be rated as one of the top controversial films. Hani thinks I'm being completely silly, since not only does it not come close to the controversy around films like The Last Temptation of Christ and Monty Python's the Life of Brian, but he doesn't believe there is any controversy in Aladdin in any way whatsoever. I disagree. The original Arabian Nights lyrics, edited in the 1993 video release following protests, cannot go by unnoticed:

Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place,
Where the caravan camels roam,
Where they cut off your ear
If they don't like your face
It's barbaric, but hey, it's home.

The Barbaric Arabians, we were. Or Are.

And today, in 2009, a Spanish court of law is about to decide if it will pursue allegations against Bush administration officials for permitting the use of torture methods such as "waterboarding" to be used on the inmates at Guantanamo Bay.

Waterboarding is a form of torture that dates back to the 13th century, from the Spanish Inquisition. A method devised to instil maximum pain, discomfort and near-death experience to the person subjected to it. The use of waterboarding continued for centuries, last known to be used in the late seventies by the Cambodian communist regime.

And since then then, and until today, usage continues by the world's most 'developed' and 'civilized' nation. The U.S. of A.

Enough said.


  1. That was one of a long line of mini-Middle East disasters for Disney. The Lion King's theme of fraternal regicide, The Hunchback of Notre Dame's cathedral setting and Pocohontas' legs up to her miniskirt and constant smooching getting all three films banned in KSA.

    Odd, though. I remember the Aladdin lyric as 'We tum tum tum tum barbaric lands, we cut off their heads, we cut off their hands...'

    Hey! It's just a watering can! What do you mean you can't bear watering cans near you?

    Having a random day...

  2. Didn't Disney also face controversy about rogue animators embedding secret messages about sex in their cartoons?

    I think the more sensitive/politically correct slant on representing race on film is recent - even the old Indiana Jones movies are rife with what would now be considered offensive stereotypes.

    But I agree with you - there's no question that there is always bucketloads of hypocrisy around when the US takes the moral high ground

  3. What's wrong with the cathedral setting on the Hunchback? He was supposed to be from Notre Dame? Showing my ignorance here.

    I agree there should be some sensitivity, but given that the context of a Disney cartoon is the representation of a story in a 'fun' and entertaining light, in some respects people should just lighten up too.

    It's not just the Americans who commit politically incorrect faux pas', I think they're simply the most obvious because they're so much in the (global) public eye. The Japanese often portray white folk as over-muscled, round-eyed warmongers. The European's (including the UK) consistently laugh at American ignorance, often because they can't pronounce things in what is admittedly a confusing manner. The Chinese as a nation just don't give a spit about anybody, let alone the Americans.

    All in all, I think the Americans actually take a lot of the abuse directed at them in quite a good-natured manner. ie. they don't complain about it publicly on, and on, and on ...

    Coming back to the point(s) though, I think 'politically correct' sensitivity is easy to take too far, like schools refusing to teach kids about Christmas (but Santa's ok?). Feels to me like we're spiralling towards a highly regulated, litigious, big-brother style nanny-state.

    As it is, the US and UK are primarily Christian, democratic and very 'western' societies. I think we should respect that, just as if I was to go to a heavily Muslim or Catholic society, I would be expected to follow their rules or face the punishment. (This isn't about religion, just about different ways of life) Respect is the issue, and the lack thereof from both sides.

    I think we're all hypocrits.