Our first of the official princesses that isn’t the main character in her film. Princess Jasmine (as with all the princesses), isn’t without her faults, but does continue the trajectory started by Ariel of the more independent princess. Indeed, when we first meet Jasmine she’s dressed in street rat garb, and it is not until later that we learn of her true identity. A lot of credit is given to her for turning away a ‘prince’ and instead being more fascinated with the real people that she is denied being in contact with given her royal status.
She’s (through no fault of her own) a side show to the main character of Aladdin and thus when we see her she has not much greater purpose than playing second fiddle. However, she still ends up with her ‘prince’ though this is after she has helped save the day and pushes her father towards making radical decisions. She is less the princess that needs to be saved and one that has a clearer mind: she helps raise Aladdin up to a better life. It can be very much believed that if she wasn’t romantically attracted to Aladdin, Jasmine would most certainly be single.
My greatest issue with Jasmine is that of her beauty being used as power (as seen in the scene with Jafar), and if I’m honest, I’m not sure how I feel about that. It would be very short sighted of me to claim that looks do not count for something in the real world, and that it is extreme idealism to claim that we should live in a world where this no longer matters. We could look at this positively and say that this is just an example of an woman being smart and resourceful. Should a woman exploit her sexuality in order to get what she wants? Well, that’s a slippery slope I don’t want to go down.
But Jasmine is a great example of Disney beginning to diversify the ethnicity of their princesses. This isn’t smoothly done, with their ethnic princesses still very much sidelined, but hopefully with the introduction of Moana this will only improve. Jasmine is a contentious princess for various reasons, from her ethnic portrayal to what she says about women. However, I do believe that she can be seen as a positive force, and with Pocahontas, Mulan and Tiana coming up in the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring the ethnicity/femininity combo further.