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Disney accused of whitewashing after creating role for white actor out of thin air

'Was it really necessary for you to throw a white dude in the movie, Disney?' asks critic about new Aladdin film

Maya Oppenheim
Wednesday 06 September 2017 18:17 BST
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The original folk story Aladdin and the Magic Lamp from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights includes no white characters
The original folk story Aladdin and the Magic Lamp from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights includes no white characters (Getty Images)

Disney has been fiercely criticised for creating a whole new role for a white actor in its new Aladdin film.

The multinational company is believed to have cast Billy Magnussen as a character called Prince Anders who did not appear in the original animated 1992 film.

The decision follows claims Disney whitewashed the live action remake by choosing to cast Naomi Scott, a non-Arab actor, as Princess Jasmine in July.

Scott, who is of British and Indian heritage, will star alongside Mena Massoud, who is of Egyptian background, as Aladdin, and Will Smith as Genie. Although Aladdin is located in the fictional make-believe country of Agrabah, fans of the film have long assumed it is a country which would be in the Middle East.

Fans are now angered by the decision to cast Magnussen, who appeared in Bridge of Spies, in the new Guy Ritchie-directed film. The original folk story Aladdin and the Magic Lamp from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights includes no white characters.

“Was it really necessary for you to throw a white dude in the movie, disney? Ain't no one asked,” asked one critic on Twitter.

"Disney, Arab men already exist. Stop trying to whitewash everything," said another.

“I liked Billy Magnussen just fine as the Not Chris Pine Prince in Into the Woods, but his casting here seems wholly unnecessary,” added one more.

People were similarly frustrated with Disney for casting Scott in the role and argued the decision ultimately assumed women of Indian and Middle Eastern heritage looked the same and were interchangeable.

“People have a right to be upset about Naomi Scott being cast. They're upset that their representation was taken away, and rightly so,” said one.

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“If I keep reading Naomi Scott was the perfect choice because ‘no Arab women can sing/act like her’ I’m going to drop a thread on those who can do better,” added another.

Guy Ritchie, who is directing the film, was previously urged to avoid “whitewashing” by fans after Tom Hardy was rumoured to be linked to a role in the film last month.

The original animated film was a comic take on the Middle Eastern folk tale of a young man granted three wishes by a genie trapped in a lamp. It was the highest-grossing film of 1992, earning over $217 million in revenue in the United States, and over $504 million worldwide. It also won Academy Awards for best score and best song for “A Whole New World.”

The Independent contacted a representative of Disney for comment.

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