For: false religion and some sorcery, strong moral confusion, and cross dressing and homosexual references
Aladdin is a simple story of two teenage lovers, one tired of her father telling her what to do and how to dress, and the other tired of society telling him that he can’t just take other people’s stuff. Modeling exactly the kind of behavior parents don’t want to see in their kids or their kids’ dates, Jasmine’s disrespect and antisocial behavior, and Aladdin’s daily larceny routine, constant lying to his young girlfriend, and dependence on a guy who wears dresses, make the pair less than charming and the movie more than worth skipping.
False Religion and Some Sorcery
Aladdin takes place in a Muslim society, and features multiple openly Muslim characters. Characters invoke or swear by Allah several times during the movie. Emphasizing the ties between Aladdin’s magic and its religion, a powerful manifestation of magic exclaims in rage and horror that the disobedient are “infidels”. A reference is made to the Islamic ritual of midday prayers.
In Aladdin, “magic” is spiritual rather than scientific, and yet can be used for both good and evil. The Genie, a magical being, is able to create something out of nothing, and then uncreate it, as well as change objects and characters into other objects and species. The Genie himself is an immortal spiritual being who does immoral things, and yet is granted eternal freedom. Biblically, each of these things is not only spiritually impossible but, as positively portrayed, mutually exclusive with the existence of the biblical God.
One of the protagonists consents to the use of divination (actually called divination in the movie).
Several non-living objects (jewels, sand dunes, rugs, and other household goods) come to life, or are already animate when the movie begins, and display emotions, make choices, and even deliberately kill people.
Strong Moral Confusion
Aladdin clearly presents a socialist view of poverty and human rights. Aladdin is a career criminal, stealing other people’s property every day, multiple times a day, for his own personal gain. He and the other characters attempt to justify this on the basis that he needs these things more than their rightful owners do, meaning that his relative poverty makes him the rightful owner of these people’s hard-earned possessions. Dishonest transactions are portrayed as a good thing as long as the profit always goes to the person lowest on the economic ladder. Aladdin presents himself as a victim for having to run from the police, and complains that the relatively small value of the stolen goods should give him the right to escape without hassle. Merchants who want to be paid for honest work are portrayed as cruel and unjust.1
Aladdin is very positively portrayed, despite also being called - accurately - “a one-man rise in crime.” He says, “I steal only what I can’t afford, and that’s everything!” He boasts of staying one step ahead of the “lawmen”. Princess Jasmine laughs as she and Aladdin make off with someone else’s goods. Immediately after joining Aladdin in one of his theft jobs, Jasmine is outraged at his arrest, demanding that the guards release him, and asking, incredulous, what his crime was.
Aladdin is very strongly portrayed as a boy who is inherently “worthy” because of some vague, unexplained quality deep inside him, regardless of what he actually does. He complains that those who frown on him (and who do so strictly because of his constant crime) would "find out there's so much more" to him, "if only they'd look closer." Aladdin’s inherent “worth” is specifically stated to be what makes him the only one able to safely pass a magical barrier. Despite his openness to moral corruption, he is called merely (and multiple times) “a diamond in the rough.”
Even after falling in love with Princess Jasmine, Aladdin goes on to ogle nearly-naked dancing girls (created by the Genie just for his viewing pleasure), surrounds himself with a scantily clad entourage, and begins to kiss another woman. This casual unfaithfulness is not portrayed negatively.
The princess, a girl in her mid teens, behaves toward her father, other elders and even strangers exactly the way many parents would dread their daughter behaving, and yet she is portrayed positively because of these behaviors.
Jasmine’s father is simultaneously portrayed as the short, fat, naive type who plays with toys, and as the concerned parent who wants to make sure his daughter is taken care of. The line between the two gets blurred as his character as a whole is mocked throughout the film.
Jasmine is constantly scowling, glaring, moping, and ignoring, turning her back on, and rolling her eyes at people, especially her father. This is positively portrayed. She also routinely gets in men’s faces, uses defiant language, and even attacks them with her fists, and is positively portrayed for that. This is especially a problem because if the genders were flipped and it was a boy (even a little boy) being that aggressive and hostile to women, it would be obviously inappropriate, meaning that the only way Jasmine’s behavior is being justified is on account of her gender.
Not being “free to make your own choices” is a major theme in Aladdin, but the movie’s presentation of “freedom” is twisted and self contradictory. Jasmine is portrayed as being hemmed in by her responsibilities as princess (having to go certain places, dress a certain way, and even the legitimate complaint of being forced to marry against her will). On the other hand, Aladdin doesn’t have anybody telling him where to go and how to dress, and he doesn’t have to marry at all, and yet he says that even in his way of life, “You’re not free to make your own choices,” meaning that he’s not “free” because he’s not allowed to steal without repercussions. They only gain “freedom” from life’s obstacles when there’s no one in authority present, or when the authority bows to their wishes. In Aladdin, “freedom” simply means getting to do exactly what you want, when you want, regardless of how it might affect others.
Aladdin persuades teenage Jasmine to sneak out at night with him without anyone’s knowledge. On their secret ride together, Aladdin tells her that he can “open your eyes” to things her parents never showed her. They delight that, out there, there is “no one to tell us no.”
Cross Dressing and Homosexual References
The obviously male Genie shapeshifts or dresses up as a female several times (harem woman, flight attendant, cheerleader, Carol Channing, Ethel Merman, and more). He also impersonates a male clothing designer and gives him a distinctly effeminate voice and bearing. At one point, Genie tells Aladdin, “I’m gettin’ kinda fond of you, kid. Not that I want to pick out curtains or anything.”
1 While the method of punishment portrayed in Aladdin is unjust (cutting off the offender’s hand), this doesn’t change the fact that the merchants are negatively portrayed for wanting Aladdin and Jasmine to pay for what they had stolen. In the Bible, the appropriate punishment for theft is merely recompensing the original value plus a percentage to cover losses (see Exodus 22:1-4). However, the Bible also clearly states that stealing is wrong, and even when the thief is stealing just to survive, he is required to recompense the victim (see Proverbs 6:30-31).