Jafar

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Jafar is the evil Royal Vizier from Disney’s film Aladdin. He is a psychopath who is in love with Princess Jasmine, and will not stop at anything to make her love him back. Jafar’s appearance lends himself to the theme of Race, Exoticism, and Ethnography. His skin is much darker than that of the protagonists in the film, and he is always seen wearing black clothing and headpieces, with red accents. In the movie, the Genie calls him a “tall, dark, sinister, ugly man,” showing how the darkness of Jafar correlates with his hideousness. Jafar is exotic due to the excessive ornaments he adorns and surrounds himself with. He is always wearing extravagant clothing and can often be seen with riches around him. Jafar also has a gold cobra-headed staff with ruby eyes that he carries, which foreshadows Jafar’s later change from a human into a giant, black cobra. The color of the cobra demonstrates the theme of race more clearly, because instead of being a normal snake color, it is pitch black – therefore more evil. Jafar’s appearance correlates with Cohen’s “Monster Theory (Seven Theses)”. One of Cohen’s theses is that the monster is the “other.” To American audiences, Jafar is very much the “other.” He is not Americanized like Aladdin and Jasmine are, and this separation from the audience makes it easier for the audience to see him as a monstrous villain.

Works Cited

Aladdin. Dir. Ron Clements & John Musker. Walt Disney Home Video, 1992. Film.

Blauvelt, Christian. “Reel Bad Arabs.” Jump Cut. 50 (2008): n. page.Print.

Shaheen, Jack. “Aladdin Animated Racism.” Cinéaste. 20.1 (1993): 49. Print.

Towbin, Mia Adessa, Shelley A. Haddock, Toni Schindler Zimmerman, Lori K. Lund, and Litsa Renee Tanner. “Images of Gender, Race, Age, and Sexual Orientation in Disney Feature-Length Animated Films.” Journal of Feminist Family Therapy. 15.4 (2004): 19-44. Print.

White, Timothy R., and J. Emmett Winn. “Islam, Animation, and Money:The Reception of Disney’s Aladdin in Southeast Asia.” Trans. Array Themes and Issues in Asian Cartooning: Cute, Cheap, Mad, and Sexy. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999. 68-76. Print.

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3 responses to “Jafar

  1. I was drawn to the originality of this choice in considering race in relation to monstrosity, especially since children’s movies like these are so formative in coding societal norms of what is inherently good and evil. Jafar is the obvious villain in the story, heavily associated with, as the poster notes, cobras and serpents, the most iconic symbol of evil dating back to the days of Adam and Eve. I also never noticed that along with these symbols of evil, his skin sets him apart from the other characters, as if he was born evil just as he was born with darker skin. Additionally, another of Cohen’s theses that goes along with this analysis is the monster as a victim of the category crisis, evident through his shape shifting at the end of the film. Jafar’s monstrosity has a clear correlation with his race and proves to be a fascinating manner in which race still plays a role in monstrous characterization, even after so much progress in racial relations.

  2. I found this blog post very compelling! After reading your post, I was wondering how Jafar’s initial role in the story as the sultan’s advisor fits into your theory about his monstrosity. At first I thought that it may have been to make Jafar’s evil action more exaggerated. Yet, part of me wants to believe that the story was validating the fact that “the other” can have an important role in the world. However, I remain thinking that his role as an advisor was more of a forewarning of the dangers of giving darker people power. Amazing post!

  3. What is interesting here is the notion that complexion is a signifier for malevolence, or monstrosity. I never noticed that Jafar was decidedly darker than the other protagonists of the film, but now I realize that such a detail is both intentional, and essential to the understanding of race in this ostensibly, “juvenile” (insofar as it is a Disney production) film. It is obvious that Jafar is the other, and perhaps he became the other because of his skin. To that end, I wonder if Jafar is a monster because his otherness ostracized him in such a way that evil was the only thing he could choose.

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