So I saw the new Aladdin! And the song “Speechless” has awakened something in me, I tell you. Granted, part of it is annoyance that I can’t find the original version, in all of its magnificent rage and anger, in full anywhere on YouTube. But the other part is awe because WHAT A SONG! I remember when ‘Let It Go” came out and I wanted someone to do a furious version of it so bad, and I think “Speechless” is that song! The original Aladdin has the hella creepy line “speechless I see, a fine quality in a wife” from Jafar to Jasmine, and this feels like her 27-years-in-the making rebuttal.
I’ve heard it being called a feminist anthem and I 100% agree with that, but it gets me thinking about how all the Disney princesses are endlessly pitted against each other in a war over who’s Most Feminist, and I think that’s missing the point. I don’t think you can really have a “Most Feminist” anything, you know? Feminism has a LOT of facets and nothing can be one thing to all people.
But! For me personally, Jasmine was the Most Feminist Disney Princess. I was still in primary school when the original Aladdin came out, if someone asked me what feminism was I’d probably have guessed it was a kind of fruit or something, but I loved Jasmine so freaking much. She was a princess I’d never seen before. I didn’t know the word “badass” then either but if I had that’d have probably been the description I’d have gone for back then. She didn’t do much fighting in the movie but her personality, her desire for freedom and agency, it appealed to me hugely. (She may have been the seed of my ‘a female character doesn’t actually need to grab a weapon to be strong’ philosophy.) I thought she was so, so cool. I even got my mum to hand-sew me a turquoise Princess Jasmine outfit but sadly all evidence of it has been lost to history I believe.
Anyway, just as animated Jasmine was the perfect hero for my six-year-old self, live-action Jasmine feels like the perfect hero for my adult self (and also other six-year-olds.) There are definitely some aspects of the remake I love more than the original -sacrilege, sorry- and Jasmine’s story is one of ’em. The sexism she faces in this one, it’s not just the sexism leveled against a woman in power, it’s the sort of subtle everyday stuff that all women get. One of the most interesting song changes is in “Prince Ali” where, “heard your princess was a sight lovely to see” has become “heard your princess is hot, where is she” and this is sung right in front of Jasmine, and that sort of mild, frustrating objectification will probably be familiar to, let’s say 50% of the audience.
When Jasmine is made Sultan at the end, everything I loved about her as a kid just sort of clicked into place all over again. Of course she should be Sultan! She’s compassionate and smart and unlike Aladdin she actually wants the job! My favourite moment that demonstrates what kind of a person she is happens in both versions, where she sees starving children on the street and instantly hands them an apple: children need to be fed so she’ll feed them, simple as that.
Princess Sultan Jasmine, long may she reign. (Although technically she should’ve been a Sultana. Which, hey is also a kind of fruit! This is a surprisingly fruit-heavy tribute.)