Disney’s Aladdin, apparent bane of my existence and the film company’s new live action remake, has been accused of “browning up” their white extras. Set in the fictional city of Agrabah (you know, somewhere oriental and exotic), where “brown” people dwell, Aladdin’s extras have been receiving extreme tans on set for what I can only assume is an uncomfortable attempt at authenticity.
It clearly wasn’t enough that a made-up white character was written into in the live action remake, but more white people clearly had to become a part of this disaster.
South Asian actor Kaushal Odedra, an extra in Aladdin and a stand-in for a lead actor, told the New York Times, “Disney are sending out a message that your skin colour, your identity, your life experiences amount to nothing that can’t be powdered on and washed off. I asked a Saudi cast member what he made of having these extras being tanned so heavily and he said it’s unfortunate, but this is how the industry works, and there’s no point complaining about it since it isn’t going to change.” The frustration with this movie is apparent in its own team.
Of course, aside from the obvious “brownface,” keep in mind that Agrabah is a made up city so, theoretically, anyone could live there. There’s no need to make the white extras look like they’ve been sitting out in the sun all day. Ritchie could have also hired more South Asian and Middle Eastern extras if he was so concerned about authenticity.
Don’t worry, Disney reassures us, “This is the most diverse cast ever assembled for a Disney live action production…More than 400 of the 500 background performers were Indian, Middle Eastern, African, Mediterranean and Asian.” You know, because we’re really good at dancing.
I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.