B2 High-Intermediate US 22 Folder Collection
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- [Presenter] This is Aladdin,
this is Jasmine,
and this is her dad, The Sultan.
You know them from Disney's Aladdin.
You know this outfit
and this one
and then, there's this one.
But are they accurate?
We got this historian--
- Hi, my name is Ayse Baltacioglu-Brammer.
I'm a Professor of Middle Eastern History
at New York University.
Today, I will be talking about Disney's
classic animated movie Aladdin, released in 1992.
- [Presenter] To walk us through what the movie got right
and what they got wrong about these looks.
First, let's learn about the complex and intriguing
origin story of where and when Disney's Aladdin takes place.
- It's almost impossible to have an exact answer
for where and when the movie takes place.
The movie Aladdin conflates many,
and oftentimes contradictory, details
about the Middle East and Islam
by perpetrating negative stereotypes and presenting
basic factual mistakes and absurd characterizations.
From its opening song to its character formations,
the movie has drawn a lot of attention and criticism.
Interestingly, but not shockingly, the protagonists,
Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, and the Genie,
all have perfect American accents
with more Western features.
However, most of the other characters,
especially the more villainous ones,
have strong Middle Eastern accents.
- Only one may enter.
We must find this one, this diamond in the rough.
- The most direct inspiration for Disney's Aladdin
came from the movie Thief of Bagdad, filmed in 1940,
that was Alexander Korda's Oscar-winning British remake
of the 1924 silent film of the same name.
According to the producers of the movie,
just like The Thief of Bagdad,
Disney's Aladdin was meant to be set in Baghdad,
however this was exactly when the US
started bombing Iraq during the first Cold War
and therefore, Disney changed the setting
to a fictional city to avoid
negative connotations with the city of Baghdad
or the dictator ruling Iraq, Saddam Hussein.
Instead of Baghdad, the name of
the city in the movie is Agrabah--
- Welcome to Agrabah
- Which is not an actual place.
The imaginary city of Agrabah, however,
includes most of the letters from the city of Baghdad.
Regardless of the city, Disney's retelling of the story
effectively brings Aladdin to the Middle East
with some obvious details from Iran and India as well.
The movie Aladdin takes inspiration from
the famous collection of tales, One Thousand and One Nights
or, as more commonly known in
the West as The Arabian Nights.
["Friend Like Me" by Robin Williams]
♪ Well, Ali Baba had them 40 thieves ♪
♪ Scheherazade had a thousand tales ♪
- Scheherazade is the main character
in The One Thousand and One Nights stories.
Although the story of Aladdin is interestingly
one of the best known stories in the collection,
it was not a part of the original Arabic text.
It was, in fact, added to the collection
in the 18th century by Galland--
[camera shutter clicking]
- [Presenter] One second.
Who was Galland?
- Who allegedly acquired the tale from
a Syrian Maronite storyteller he met named Hanna Diyab.
The event that sparked Arabian Nights
into a modern European phenomenon
was its translation by the French author Antoine Galland
into French from a 15th century Arabic manuscript.
[camera shutter clicking]
- [Presenter] So, is Hanna Diyab
the creator of the story of Aladdin?
- Hanna Diyab was born to a Maronite Christian family
in Aleppo in modern-day Syria in the late 17th century,
which was under the Ottoman rule,
an empire that lasted over 600 years
and ruled the Middle East, North Africa,
Southeastern Europe, and Asia Minor.
The original setting of Diyab's story is ancient China.
The Chinese setting of Aladdin
may surprise many of you today,
but it is actually not that far-fetched.
Many of the stories that are told
in One Thousand and One Nights are not
situated in the Middle East but further East,
somewhere in or around China, most likely in Central Asia.
Looking back at the Disney film,
the Chinese or Central Asian Aladdin
is all mostly unrecognizable,
aside from Aladdin showing Jasmine the world.
- It's all so magical.
- This is partly due to a distinct Hollywood practice
to Arabize everything about Islam or the Muslims,
which is the assumption that all Muslims are Arabs.
Side note: vast majority of Muslims today
live outside of the Middle East,
mostly in Far East and Southeast Asia.
The royal palace in Aladdin seems like
an exact replica of the Taj Mahal in Agra, India,
built by the Muslim ruler of the time in the 17th century.
More references to India include
elephant sculptures around the palace
as well as the name of Jasmine's pet tiger, Rajah.
- Rajah was just playing with him, weren't you, Rajah?
- However, the background scenes are also said
to have been based on Persian miniatures
as well as the photos of the Iranian city Isfahan
taken by the film's layouts provider, Rasoul Azadani,
an Iranian animator at Disney and namesake of
Rasoul, Agrabah's Captain of the Guards.
- We've all got swords! - Hoo-ya!
[camera shutter clicking]
- [Presenter] Okay, so how should we analyze
the outfits worn in Disney's Aladdin?
- For the purposes of analyzation of Disney's Aladdin,
I think the most likely option is that the story takes place
during the lifetime of its creator, Hanna Diyab,
in the late 17th/early 18th century
and The Sultan in the story is simply
the Ottoman Sultan who was at the time the ruler
of the Middle East, including Baghdad, Cairo, and Aleppo.
While the time frame and region is very broad,
we understand that Disney's Aladdin
is a hodgepodge of cultural influences.
- [Presenter] Okay, now that we have
a time and place to analyze, let's look at the looks.
[whooshing]
First up, Aladdin.
[whooshing]
- Aladdin's signature outfit in the movie
is a pair of loose, baggy pants,
a small vest that he put on his naked upper body,
and a small fez on his head.
- [Presenter] Let's draw Aladdin's outfit
from the undergarments up.
Starting with the undergarments.
- I assume he will wear underwear but I'm not sure.
[bell dinging]
- [Presenter] All right, so maybe he did, maybe he didn't.
Moving onto the pants.
- These loose pants are mostly called salwars,
a Persian word for trousers.
These are loose pajama-like trousers.
The legs are wide at the top and narrow at the ankle.
The main purpose is to provide freedom of movement
and comfort in hot and/or humid climates.
Next up, his vest.
- Although Aladdin's religion and region is not specified,
it is highly unlikely that a similar character
will have worn a vest on the naked upper body.
What Aladdin is wearing in the film
can be considered a typical attire of mystics,
who historically isolated themselves
from society and its riches,
practicing self-severe self discipline,
and abstention from all forms of indulgence,
typically, but not always, for religious reasons.
Aladdin's vest isn't wholly inaccurate
but it is likely he would have worn short or long-sleeved
cotton or linen top with or without a vest on top.
[whooshing]
- [Presenter] Moving up to his headwear.
- Now, let's take a look at Aladdin's headpiece.
♪ Simply hasn't got 'em ♪
[camera shutter clicking]
- What he's wearin' in called fez,
or fes in Turkish, or tarboosh in Arabic.
A conventional fez is a felt headpiece
in the shape of a short cylindrical peakless hat
and is usually red, sometimes with
a tassel attached to the top.
It's name comes from the Moroccan city Fez,
the city that historically produced dye
made from crimson berries to color the hat.
In the movie, the Genie tells Aladdin--
- That fez and vest combo is much too 3rd century.
- Based on this line, one would think
that the little reddish hat piece
that Aladdin is wearing is an old-fashioned one,
however the fez owes much of its popularity
to the 19th century Istanbul,
the capital of the Ottoman Empire,
when it was introduced by the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II
as an extension of the modernization
and Europeanization efforts.
In the early 19th century,
Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II's main goal
was to modernize the military
by adapting Western-style uniforms
with the addition of the fez as a headpiece.
In 1829, the Sultan ordered his civil officials
to wear the plain fez and ban the wearing of turbans.
Although some men rejected the fez, it soon became
a symbol of modernity throughout the Middle East.
Long story short, Aladdin wouldn't wear a fez but instead
will wear a traditional headpiece called turban.
[whooshing]
- [Presenter] Let's take a look at
his footwear, or lack thereof.
- It's also interesting to see that
Aladdin is always barefooted in the movie
even though there were shoes worn even by the poor.
It's actually more likely that
Aladdin would've worn some type of a shoe.
In terms of Aladdin's clothing, there are some accuracies
but also many, many inaccuracies.
[whooshing]
- [Presenter] So here's what
Aladdin's outfit would've looked like,
given our possible time period and setting.
[whooshing]
Now let's move on to Princess Jasmine.
- If I do marry, I want it to be for love.
- Princess Jasmine is the first
non-European princess Disney introduced.
First and foremost, her outfit is too revealing.
What Princess Jasmine is wearing in the movie
is a straight take from European Orientalist painters'
imaginations that dominated the arts scene in Europe
in the 18th and the 19th centuries.
- [Presenter] Let's learn about what
Princess Jasmine would've worn, from the undergarments up.
[whooshing]
[marker scratching]
[whooshing]
- While conventional women's underwear,
panties and bras, did not become
common practice until the late 19th century,
the corset was part of the imperial woman's
clothing in the Middle East.
- [Presenter] I know it seems quick,
but let's move on to the pants.
You'll find out why.
- Actually, her pants are mostly accurate.
We are just missing some other pieces.
The classical dressing for an elite woman
consisted of a pair of loose pants
layered with a one-piece elegant dress and a belt.
- [Presenter] So the pants are somewhat accurate.
Let's move onto what Jasmine's dress would've looked like.
- Depending on the social status of the woman,
as well as the season, these dresses were made of
fabrics ranging from cheap linen to pure silk and velvet.
Red and green were the most popular colors
for a high-end woman's clothing
due to the hardship of creating those colors
and also the fact that they were the imperial colors.
[whooshing]
- [Presenter] Let's move on to the accessories.
[whooshing]
- Also, in addition to the belt,
other pieces of jewelry, including necklaces,
bracelets, and tiaras were worn,
oftentimes to symbolize the power and prestige
of the family, lineage, and the dynasty,
particularly for the imperial woman.
[whooshing]
[marker scratching]
- [Presenter] Let's move on to headwear.
- You could say that Jasmine's tiara is a nod to accuracy.
A detailed shawl to cover most, not all, of the hair
was usually accompanied with additional layers
of embroidered tulle when these women were out in public.
Historical sources tell us that the women
did not cover their head when they were
in the confines of their homes without any strangers.
As you can see here, when Jasmine
goes into town, she's covering her hair.
When Jasmine was in her palace without any strangers,
she wouldn't have covered her hair, so that is accurate.
[marker scratching]
- [Presenter] And down to the shoes.
- Jasmine's shoes in the movie closely resemble
what was called pabouche or terlik
and these are what both men and women would have worn.
[marker scratching]
- [Presenter] Now for the makeup.
[whooshing]
- It is historically accurate that
different types of eyeliners were popular
in the Middle East, both for men and women.
[whooshing]
In many cases, these liners were made with Kohl dust.
[whooshing]
- [Presenter] So, here's what
Princess Jasmine's outfit would've looked like,
given our possible time period and setting.
[whooshing]
[marker scratching]
Let's move on to The Sultan.
[whooshing]
- Jasmine's father has the most realistic outfit
among the characters that I discussed so far,
with some lacking details.
- [Presenter] Why don't we draw
The Sultan's outfit from the undergarments up?
[whooshing]
Starting with the undergarments.
- I, oh my goodness, what's happening?
- [Ayse] The boxers are not accurate.
We do see Rajah take a bite out of
the back of the pants of a suitor for Princess Jasmine
and this is an imperial man.
- Good luck marrying--
- These boxers with the heart prints for the time?
[marker scratching]
Not accurate.
[whooshing]
- [Presenter] Next, the pants.
- [Ayse] These loose pants are mostly called salwars.
- [Presenter] Let's look at the next layer.
- These kaftans would be generally worn
on top of another layer, called entari.
While the entari was also intricately made,
the level of detail on an entari wouldn't be
as intricate as the kaftan itself.
These will be at least two,
possibly more, depending on the weather.
[whooshing]
[marker scratching]
- [Presenter] Moving on.
- The belt that The Sultan is wearing is accurate
but probably would have been more embellished.
[whooshing]
[marker scratching]
- [Presenter] And now, let's look at the next layer.
[whooshing]
- The Sultan will wear a long robe
but it is traditionally called a kaftan.
[whooshing]
However, unlike the one that Jasmine's father
is wearing in the movie, a Sultan's kaftan
will be embellished with details.
These details will mostly be
vibrant-colored embroidery or intricate jewelry.
[whooshing]
Sultan's kaftans will serve as
an indication of their power and authority
and for that reason, it was a meticulous job
to make them, carry them, wear them, and store them.
Many Sultans, therefore, had specific people
whose main duty was to make sure
the kaftans were well-stored,
well-picked for special occasions, and preserved.
In many cases, these kaftans were
exchanged as gifts between two ruling empires,
showing each side's commitment
to fostering a positive relationship.
[whooshing]
Recently in the West, the kaftan has
become a fashion statement for a woman.
The popularity of the kaftan increased significantly
after Jessica Simpson was photographed
wearing them during her pregnancy in 2011.
[whooshing]
[marker scratching]
- [Presenter] Now for the headwear.
[whooshing]
- Here you can see how The Sultan's turban from the movie
is showing some similarities with
the turbans of the most famous Ottoman Sultans,
[whooshing]
Mehmed the Conqueror
or Suleiman the Magnificent
or his father, Selim the Grim.
You can see the Sultans wore white-ish turbans.
Turbans usually were a long piece
of cloth wrapped in different ways,
rather than being one single piece.
[whooshing]
[marker scratching]
- [Presenter] Now down to the shoes.
[whooshing]
- The Sultan is also wearing shoes
that closely resemble what was called
pabouche or terlik and these are, again, accurate.
[whooshing]
- [Presenter] So here's what The Sultan's
outfit would have looked like,
given our possible time period and setting.
[whooshing]
- As we have seen, Disney's Aladdin follows a trend
that clumps together different,
and many times contradicting, details
about Islam as a religion and the Middle East as a region.
This could happen because of two possible reasons.
First, it could be a simple ignorance
of Hollywood about the two.
The second possible reason for
the difficulty in pinpointing a timeframe and a region
is that the creators of the movie Aladdin
did not want to single out one place, one culture,
one ethnicity, or one period of time
and intentionally kept things vague in hope of
making the movie more relatable to a broader audience.
For the 2019 remake of the movie Aladdin,
Disney hired a committee consisting of experts
and scholars of the Middle East and Islam as a religion.
I guess they are learning from their past mistakes.
[whooshing]
While there are some accurate depictions of the clothing
in the characters of the movie, such as The Sultan,
Jasmine's and Aladdin's clothing have many inaccuracies.
- [Presenter] So, here's what the characters in Aladdin
would have worn if they had lived in history
during the time period that we have analyzed this film.
["Friend Like Me" by Robin Williams]
♪ You ain't never had a friend like me ♪
[buzzer repeating]
[Abu clapping]
[Abu ooking]
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Historian Fact Checks Aladdin's Wardrobe | Glamour

22 Folder Collection
Courtney Shih published on January 2, 2020
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