Disney Movies: Symbolic Interaction, by Aladdin

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Aladdin is the story of a poor, young man who has become a thief along with his monkey companion and best friend, Abu, in order to have enough food to eat. His life is changed when he meets Princess Jasmine, a young woman who ran away from the palace walls in hope of being free and escaping a forced marriage. The couple meet, and it is immediately evident that they are falling for each other. This relationship is put on pause, however, when Jafar, the Sultan’s advisor, interferes. Jafar is plotting to obtain a lamp containing a magic Genie so he can rule

Agrabah, but in order to do this he needs Aladdin. Aladdin, however, ends up in possession of the lamp and uses his wishes to win the heart of Princess Jasmine by becoming a Prince himself. The movie continues with Jafar doing everything he can to sabotage Aladdin’s efforts, but Aladdin fights on. At the end, Aladdin is permitted to marry Princess Jasmine, even though he is not a Prince; Jafar is defeated, becoming a slave to the same lamp he so greedily tried to obtain; Genie is set free, with a whole new set of friends; and everyone is happy.

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Aladdin is an excellent example of all three sociological perspectives due to its multiple aspects. However, I chose Aladdin to illustrate symbolic interactionism because it is the perfect example of how people respond to symbols, and how symbols essentially create a social structure, by “guiding our behavior” (Henslin, 2011, p. 99). Symbolic interactionism is “a theoretical perspective in which society is viewed as composed of symbols that people use to establish meaning, develop their views of the world, and communicate with one another” (Henslin, 2011, p. 12). Aladdin is known as a street rat because of his appearance, not his character. In fact, Aladdin’s character is so great that he is known as the “diamond in the rough” (Musker, 1992). Unfortunately, his character is not a symbol that others interpret in order to best understand how they should treat Aladdin. In fact, most people treat him very poorly due to the symbols they do see. Women shun him, guards chase him, and people sneer at him.

Aladdin has no wealth, therefore he has no symbols of wealth. In Agrabah, symbols of wealth include nice clothing, shoes, jewels, horses, camels, and much more. Aladdin didn’t even have shoes to protect his feet, and there are obvious patches on his clothing. He also had no place to live or call his own. His only option was abandoned buildings to sleep in at night. These are symbols of poverty. People who had never met Aladdin, referred to him as a street rat. A scene in the movie shows a pompous Prince on his way to meet Princess Jasmine to seek her hand in

marriage. On the way, he nearly runs over two playing children with his horse. Instead of reacting with concern for nearly killing the children, the prince takes out his whip preparing to hurt them for disturbing his path. Fortunately, Aladdin sees this and stops him from whipping the children by placing his arm in the way. The prince sees Aladdin’s clothes and appearance, summing him up to be worthless. He tells Aladdin that he is a “worthless street rat”, and actually says only his fleas will mourn him when he dies (Musker, 1992). This is an example of symbolic interactionism because it shows how Aladdin’s appearance invoked this particular response from the Prince. If the Prince had seen Aladdin in similar clothes as he was, he would have reacted with respect and possibly even an apology.

Another example of symbolic interactionism is when Princess Jasmine runs away from the palace. She does not want to be recognized as a Princess, so she covers her nice clothing with a plain brown cover up, and she wears a hood to cover the jewelry on her head. She is accepted as an equal by the people of Agrabah, and even Aladdin is unable to tell she is a Princess. When the guards find Princess Jasmine dressed in her disguised clothing, they immediately treat her poorly. They make fun of her, and deem her as “street mouse” (Musker, 1992). It is not until she removes her hood and identifies herself as the Princess that the guards correct their behavior, bow down to her, and immediately apologize. They recognized her symbols, and responded to them accordingly.

Likewise, when Aladdin uses one wish to be a Prince, the Genie changes his clothes to a much wealthier look, providing him shoes, a hat similar to the Sultan’s headwear, and fancy attire. The Genie transforms Abu from a monkey to an elephant for Prince Aladdin to ride on top of. The elephant being used as transportation immediately provides a symbol of great wealth, but if that wasn’t enough, the Genie creates a parade of gold, peacocks, jewels, dancing girls, men

with spinning swords, and much more. These symbols immediately present him as not only a Prince, but a Prince of extreme wealth. The people of Agrabah react to him completely different at the sign of his new symbols. The girls are suddenly attracted to him, men want to shake his hand, and the guards bow down to him. He is immediately welcomed into the Sultan’s palace, and embraced by the Sultan himself purely due to the symbols presented that establish him as a Prince. If Aladdin had attempted to enter the palace with his usual appearance, he would have been chased out of the palace and possibly arrested. The only explanation, for the obviously different reactions from these people, is the change of symbols.

Symbolic interactionism is in every relationship. We learn the ways we are supposed to act around people based on their symbols, and based upon what is culturally accepted within our society. For instance, the Princess held more prestige and was treated with respect in Aladdin based upon her symbols. This is similar to how the President is treated today. Aladdin’s status, however, was very low and his symbols showed that. This invoked a negative response towards Aladdin, and is similar to how a homeless person is treated because of his symbols.

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Disney Movies: Symbolic Interaction, By Aladdin. (2022, Apr 29). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/disney-movies-symbolic-interaction-by-aladdin/