If you looked through my childhood bookshelf, you would notice that all the stories were essentially the same. Whether you were looking for Belle or Aurora, Snow White or Jasmine. If a princess had a problem, a prince would suddenly appear to fix it. If a princess was kidnapped, a prince would rush to her rescue. In the end, the princess would live happily ever after with her prince.
In my young girl’s mind, this was as perfect as life could get, and who would tell me I was wrong? If you saw my younger self huddled in the corner of the library, immersed in the story of Jasmine, would you have been able to tell me the truth about my beloved characters?
If you came and sat down next to me, I would’ve been sure to tell you all about Jasmine’s wish to marry someone she truly loves, how strong Aladdin was to save her from the evil Jafar, and how they both overcame their problems to finally earn that happily ever after.
You probably would have bitten your lip to stop yourself from telling me everything I had gotten wrong. You could not possibly have explained to me how young Jasmine was when she was forced to get married, how she had to wait around for Aladdin before she could be happy, or how Aladdin was the one who saved the day and ended up as sultan when Jasmine was more deserving of the title. Perhaps you would have made a wish, that one day I would understand. Don’t worry, I did.
As I grew older, fewer and fewer princess books were left on my bookshelf until there was only one: “Beauty and the Beast”. Jasmine was stored in a forgotten box in the back of my mind. While all of the other princesses joined Jasmine, I held Belle close to my heart for years. Yet as time passed, even my beloved Belle would be forgotten, just like Jasmine.
Until one day in early May of 2019, when I heard the news that there would be a live-action remake of “Aladdin”. Naturally, my friends and I made plans to see the movie after we’d gotten over the stress of our 8th-grade exams.
Despite my expectations, the movie took my breath away. It was mind-blowingly beautiful. All of us were wiping away tears by the end of the movie. I had feared I wouldn’t enjoy the movie as much since I had forgotten most of the story of Jasmine. However, I absolutely loved the film.
The movie made me question why Jasmine did not spend nearly as much time on my bookshelf as my favorite princesses, such as Belle or Aurora. I had never felt a connection to a Disney princess quite like the one I had with the live-action Jasmine, and I just could not figure out what had changed.
Then I realized Jasmine is portrayed so differently in the original animation versus the live-action movie. In the animation, she is seen as a spoiled princess in search of love, with beauty that brings all the men to their knees. A maid at her side whenever she wishes, and somehow a pet tiger who seems more like a kitten when around her. Some might say that the only reason she tries to change the law of her only being allowed to marry a prince, was out of sheer boredom. Animated Jasmine is powerless, vulnerable, in need of a man.
On the other hand, in the live-action movie, Jasmine is an independent young woman in love with her country, Agrabah, more than anyone else. She is tired of people telling her she must find a man to be sultan when she could be the perfect ruler herself. Her fight for justice portrays her as strong and powerful, especially when she convinces her soldiers to stay on her father’s side, consequently saving him from Jafar. Also, when her father finally names her sultan, Jasmine is the one who changes the law so that she can marry Aladdin. Not the other way around. She takes initiative, is empowering, and, as she sang, she “won’t be silent.”
As a child, I thought my life would turn out just like my princesses — barrier-free, magical, and with a prince to save my problems. Yet as I grew older, I saw less and less of that fairytale life in my own. I could no longer connect with my beloved heroines. However, the minute I saw this ‘new’ Jasmine, I saw someone I could see myself becoming — not literally, obviously — in the future. I saw my new inspiration in her.
I felt inspired by the new Jasmine’s strength and willpower, and the way she is unafraid to take action. Unlike the princesses that I had read about as a child, this princess does not need a man. She has a voice, and she will not be silent. I once again felt like that young girl reading her beloved books: but this time, I knew the truth. My childhood heroines may not have been as perfect as I had thought, and a prince is not going to come save me every time I am in distress.
However, the ‘new’ Jasmine has taught me that I do not have to wait around for someone to make a change for me — I can be the heroine of my own story. And so can you.