As beloved as the 1992 animated film Aladdin is, the animated movie suffers from the same problem as many a Disney princess installment: its female protagonist, Jasmine, is a woefully underdeveloped character, especially when examined through a contemporary lens. The sultan’s daughter (as voiced by Linda Larkin) is witty and intelligent but has very little agency. And though she protests her kingdom’s law that she must marry another royal, she doesn't have much ambition beyond the romantic, either.
"Jasmine’s role seems relatively passive, so that was an obvious character in which to embellish and enhance,” Guy Ritchie, who helmed the new live-action remake, told Yahoo Entertainment (watch above).
And one of the best surprises of the new version is indeed how much the new Jasmine (played by Naomi Scott) has evolved. She doesn't just want love — she wants to lead. In fact, she aspires to be the next sultan of Agrabah, a perfect sociopolitical twist following a U.S. election season that saw a record number of women elected to congress.
“It was about making her more ambitious, and giving her more of a narrative and more of a journey,” said Scott (Power Rangers), who’s drawing early raves for her portrayal. “The plot changes feel natural. It feels like a natural progression. She’s been studying, she’s royalty, she’s next in line [for the throne]. So it really makes sense that she’s the leader. And also she has qualities that make for a good leader.”
Music also plays into Jasmine’s newfound empowerment. Whereas the original film saw her fate decided by the men around her, here she paves her own way and refuses to be silenced by them. That’s the theme of "Speechless,” the new song written for the remake.
“She’s grown up a bit, she's more than just a ‘Disney princess,’” explains the film's Oscar-winning composer, Alan Menken. “She’s a flesh-and-blood young woman who wants to be heard and wants to be respected and wants her strength to be seen.”
Aladdin opens Friday. Watch the director and cast talk about Will Smith’s performance as Genie:
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