Sunday, 31 March 2019


On Thursday afternoon I dragged my hefty, ancient TV/VCR up from our basement for a movie night with friends. I half-heartedly dusted her off, created a catalogue of my VHS collection, and after all our babes had gone to bed, the four of us hunkered down for a trip to Agraba -- by way of Memory Lane.
ALADDIN: the story of a good-looking, heart-of-gold underdog who uses his cleverness to rescue and woo a beautiful and socially repressed princess, retrieve an important magical object and defeat a malicious enemy. The grateful ruler sees the harm caused by his nation's archaic marriage laws and offers instant political reform, allowing our hero to win the day and the girl. Much smooching. 
ALADDIN: the story of a good-looking, well-intentioned, lucky chronic liar who uses his cunning to rescue and woo a beautiful and recklessly rebellious princess, garner the praise and esteem of a whole society by increasingly precarious personal deceptions, abuse his power in three different master-servant relationships and eventually defeat a malicious enemy that only rose to extreme power thanks to our hero's irresponsible handling of an important magical object. Two days after meeting this young man as an outlaw and a thief in the streets (and mere hours after discovering the sham of his alleged royal pedigree), the princess declares herself "in love" with the scoundrel. The ruler revokes a long-standing traditional law that would ensure political security for the nation, and immediately gives consent for his only daughter to wed the imposter prince who should have already been arrested for theft and ought to be investigated for fraud. Much smooching. 
This is not the first time I have revisited this particular Disney classic as an adult. I've lugged this old TV around with me through many life stages and living situations, and I've watched and rewatched each of the films in my collection dozens and dozens of times. I know every beat of the music, the words to every bantering exchange. I love them.

But this was the first time I've revisited my childhood as a parent. It's a bit jarring to acknowledge how much the experience of motherhood has already altered my worldview. Once I saw only romance in this story -- risk, yes, but mostly the triumph of true love over long odds and unfortunate circumstances.

This time I saw only a steady stream of unsafe and unwise choices being made. I grieved over Jasmine's affectionate yet vague and neglectful father, who hardly seems capable of leading his own family, much less a kingdom. I found the pace of the core relationship truly alarming (almost all of the princess stories happen over the span of a long weekend). I was troubled -- and to the probable irritation of my viewing company, I made my feelings known throughout the show. (Note, if you're a peanut gallery hater, good luck dodging me at the cinema. I have opinions and jokes, and I can't help myself.)

Don't get me wrong, I have no intention of boxing up my collection and sending it off to Sally Ann. In fact, the whole reason I'm running these movie nights is to avoid feeling like Marie Kondo is staring over my shoulder at the untouched crate of the 50+ cassette tapes in my basement. Even through this new parental lens, Aladdin still sparks joy for me. I've probably been quoting the Genie since we met back in 1992, and I hope I'm still making obscure Disney references when I'm 92 years old.

Probably my TV/VCR will give up the ghost well before that I'm planning on running her into the ground on Thursday night at a time. And maybe I'll learn to balance parental criticism and romantic nostalgia as we go, travelling within Sherwood Forest, through the Hundred Acre Wood, to infinity and beyond.

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