Bleats

I Never Realised How Much I Needed Middle Eastern Representation In Film Until I Watched Aladdin

Friend like ME.

Labelling yourself is a hard thing to do. On paper I’m a 23-year-old female, 154 centimetres (short, I know), and of Lebanese descent.

When I look in the mirror I see another layer to me that isn’t communicated on paper. I have brown hair, green eyes, one nostril that’s obviously smaller than the other, and super small and veiny hands.

If someone had a conversation with me, they’d get even more information.

My point is that defining a human being is hard: we’ve all got multiple layers and unique nuances that make us US.

I understand people’s desire to see themselves represented in the media. Seeing yourself in the stories people love and are talking about is comforting and empowering. It lets you know that society sees you without having to explicitly say as much.

I understand the desire, but I’ve never related to it. Even though I am of Arabic descent, I consider myself to be Australian. I’ve never felt ostracised for my ethnicity or different from my friends, even with my bushy eyebrows. Maybe that makes me lucky, I don’t know. But it’s just my normal. So I’ve never been desperate to see myself or my culture represented on screen.

Until I watched Aladdin.

Right from the opening sequence, the film hit me deep in my core. I felt an unexpected pride spread through my chest as Arabic music began to play and beautiful shots of sand dunes and Middle Eastern market places filled the screen.

It was all so beautiful to me and realising it was part of my heritage made it even more beautiful.

It was also jarring. To relate to the things I was seeing felt weird. To recognise the instruments in the music and find comfort in the familiar Arabic accents of the actors was something I am definitely not used to when watching big Hollywood blockbusters. The Margot Robbies and Leonardo Di Caprios of the world favour big city lights to village candle sticks and magic carpets.

Sorry, Margot.

This isn’t to say I’m suddenly going to stop enjoying watching movies with white actors.  The Avengers are all pure bred white people and I will forever love those movies.

But Aladdin did help me realise how much I need Middle Eastern representation in film.

Watching the credits and seeing names like Mena Massoud (who plays Aladdin) roll down the screen was comforting. It’s a reminder to me that despite belonging to a culture that most of the world doesn’t understand, and despite my parents strict rules, I am capable of big things.

More importantly, it also gives me joy for others. I know Aladdin will be a beacon of hope for the people who still live in Lebanon and Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The people who didn’t have a privileged upbringing like I have and the people who face daily discrimination. Aladdin gives them a little bit of magic, and I’m not just talking about flying carpets and genies.

The magic is seeing themselves and their loved ones and culture represented in a way that matters to the world. In a POSITIVE way. That’s the real magic.

Mena Massoud was born in Cairo. He moved to Canada when he was young, was raised as a Coptic Orthodox Christian and attended a Catholic school.

Naomi Scott (who plays Princess Jasmine) is of Gujarati Indian and English descent. She’s not Middle Eastern but that doesn’t matter- her dark skin and exotic beauty makes just as much of a statement.

Marwan Kenzari (Jafar) is of Dutch-Tunisian background. He grew up in The Netherlands and has a dutch accent when he speaks, but can grow a full beard and rocks a turban like it’s nobody’s business.

The entire movie is full of actors and extras just like them and just like you and me. The sons and daughters of Englishmen, immigrants and people who are even immigrants themselves. Aladdin is a melting pot of culture and that translates beautifully onto the screen.

Who would’ve thought a Disney movie could do so well what Hollywood has been failing to do for years? Diversity in film isn’t an easy feat but it isn’t an impossible one either.

Sometimes all it takes is some traditional costumes, some bushy eyebrows and luscious beards, and a culturally rich soundtrack to add important depth to a film. The kind of depth you just can’t get on paper.

3D Animated Blues Clues Is Not Impressive, It’s An Abomination

Have you seen Blue?

Before I was obsessed with Criminal Minds was, I was obsessed with Blues Clues.

That show is the reason I (and every other child between the ages of 3-8 years old) I wanted to be a detective.

To be fair, who wouldn’t want to be a detective if it involved following a blue puppy dog around trying to solve fun clues in a cartoon house?

Part of Blues Clues’ charm was the crappy 2D animations. The show was on Nickelodeon for ten years, from 1996-2006, and the animations stayed the same that entire time. They were flat and grainy and followed a colour scheme that was straight out of our grandmas living room in the 80s.

In hindsight, it was horrible. At the time, it was pure magic.

You know the saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But it seems our dear friends at Nickelodeon missed that memo, because Blues Clues is getting a 21st century reboot this year.

That means the amazing 2D animations I mentioned will also be getting a reboot, because nothing is sacred.

I understand we’re in the age of CGI dragons (re. Game of Thrones) and touch screens. I understand reboots are the new normal. I understand people love impressive technology and movie magic. But Blues Clues is the exception to the rule: making the animations prettier will not make the show better, it will make it worse.

How I feel right now.

Sure, the remake, called Blue’s Clues and You, will still feature the iconic Thinking Chair,  Handy Dandy Notebook and friends like Tickety Tock, Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper, and Mailbox.

But would Playschool be the same if you got rid of Humpty Dumpty but kept the rest of the toys?

Would Arthur be the same if Arthur was a turtle instead of an aardvark?

No.

If you change the main character of a show, you change the very essence of that show.

So why change Blue in Blues Clues?

Watching a 3D CGI animated Blue jump across the screen won’t be the same as watching his 2D predecessor. It just won’t be.

If Will Smith’s Performance Review Was In The Real World He’d Be Out Of A Job

The truth hurts.

Will Smith is a true American gift.

I love him, you love him, everyone loves him. And it’s easy to understand why: he’s charismatic, and funny, and super real and gives off ‘cool dad’ vibes that don’t make you want to roll your eyes and punch him.

As an actor, he’s good too. He’s starred in a variety of different roles and proved his skills are diverse. He can play a hilariously useless 90s kid from the ‘burbs just as well as he can play a hustler (I’m referring to Fresh Prince and Focus, obviously).

So you may be shocked to discover Will Smith hasn’t broken a 70% rating on Rotten Tomatoes in over 20 years.

That’s almost two thirds of his career.

20 years is a loooong time.

You might be shocked. Or maybe, like me, you were not as shocked as you thought you would be because, honestly, it kinda makes sense.

The last of Will’s films which hit over the 70% mark was Enemy of the State in 1998 with a whopping 71%. Since then he has appeared in 20 films

Only five of those 20 are considered ‘fresh’ films: I Am Legend, MIB III, Hitch, Pursuit of Happyness, and Ali. Despite that, they still haven’t cracked 60%.

His highest rating movie? Men In Black (1997) with 92%.

And his lowest was After Earth (2013) with 11%. Rough.

It’s been a while since Will got ratings like these.

Will’s movies are great entertainment value but, let’s be real, his ratings would not be good enough in the real world. As far as performance reviews go, a 70% average maintained over 20 years with no improvement is not good. The man would be out of a job.

You heard me.

So the question is WHY? Why hasn’t old mate been able to get a decent Rotten Tomatoes rating for so long?

Fans are behind him, he gets good jobs in good movies with good production value (I mean, Aladdin??).

Some Redditers have some thoughts:

Interesting,

Most people, however, are defending Will’s honour.

Fair.

Personally, I don’t trust Rotten Tomatoes. Focus is one of my favourite movies of all time and it only got a measly 56%. It’s a rigged system and I won’t be told otherwise.

Long live King Will.

Long live the king.

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