aladdin remake

The internet has given millions of people a platform to complain about things that don’t matter in the entertainment world, but it has also given millions of people a platform to complain about things that really, really matter and should be carefully considered by everyone working in a creative field. The subject of Hollywood whitewashing, where ethnic characters and stories are given a painful Caucasian makeover, belong in the latter camp. For every Scott Derrickson, who genuinely listened to and learned from fans concerned about whitewashing in Doctor Strange, you have people in positions of authority who really, really don’t give a shit.

So when the producer of Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of Aladdin says the cast will be diverse, we should all pause and take notice.

The quote comes from Collider‘s interview with Dan Lin, who is currently making the rounds promoting The LEGO Batman Movie. But he’s a busy guy with a lot of projects on his plate and one of those projects is Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin, which meant he was able to talk about ensuring that a movie set in the Middle East isn’t chock-full of white people:

Look at me. I mean I’m not a typical guy. Listen I’m very fortunate working in Hollywood; I am diverse. So when I came in to make the movie, I wanted to make a diverse version of the movie. Luckily for me Guy Ritchie has the same vision and Disney has the same vision, so we’re not here to make Prince of Persia. We want to make a movie that’s authentic to that world.

For those of you who don’t remember (and who could blame you?), Prince of Persia was the 2010 film that decided it was okay to cast Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton as heroes in a film set in, well, ancient Persia. The fact that the film bombed should have clued people into the fact that casting white actors in ethnic roles does not guarantee box office dominance, but hey, here we are. The exact same thing happened with Exodus: Gods and Kings and Gods of Egypt a few years later.

In related news, Lin also noted that the new Aladdin will follow in the footsteps of the upcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast and go full-musical:

We’re gonna be discovering new people because it’s a real challenge, because not only does an actor have to act, but they really have to have singing chops.

As much as I love the original Aladdin (and I adore it), this is another area that could use a more sensitive touch. After all, the lyrics “Where they cut off your ear/If they don’t like your face/It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home” really won’t fly in this modern climate. An appropriately diverse cast would be step one to making a movie that doesn’t traffic in stereotypes while simultaneously erasing ethnic characters from the forefront (a seemingly impossible task that Hollywood has proven quite good at accomplishing).

And you know what, Disney? If you cast fresh, diverse faces as the leads, you could surely get away with casting a white movie star as the genie. You can have your cake and eat it, too.

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