Disney just announced that they are still struggling to cast an Aladdin in the new Disney live action movie, pushing filming to August. Rightfully so, Twitter is currently in a frenzy of suggesting actors who they believe would fit the role. The only issue is that the most of the actors suggested aren’t Arab.
Alright kids, if you know someone who fits this, you better share this with them. Submit asap. Good luck my babies pic.twitter.com/PLP37ritcV
— Dani Fernandez (@msdanifernandez) March 9, 2017
The original Aladdin is set in a fictional Arabic land and has a song that is literally called “Arabian Nights.” It’s not okay to just erase that Arabic identity by suggesting South Asian actors because news flash all brown people aren’t the same. Riz Ahmed, Dev Patel, and Avan Jogia are all not Arab, however, the internet has taken it upon themselves to push these actors as the “perfect match.” Brown people are not interchangeable; you cannot equate nor replace an ethnicity with another one. It would be equally as silly to cast an Arab actor for a South Asian role.
Furthermore, by forcing these well-known South Asian actors onto the role of Aladdin, they are erasing Aladdin’s Arabic identity and hindering the chances of a small, talented Arab actor to get a breakthrough role. The time extension to casting may be a good sign, however, because Disney is rumored to be determined to find an unknown, young actor.
There are 22 Arabian countries with over 300 million Arabs across the world along with the huge industries of talented Arab actors, yet Disney claim that there’s none available or auditioning for the role of Aladdin? It seems that Arab actors are only ever available when the role of a terrorist is needed.
Arab representation is essentially non-existent in mainstream Hollywood. Casting Aladdin with an Arab actor would make the role more realistic, open up opportunities, inspire young Arabs, and make the Arab feel represented rather than stereotyped. The role of Aladdin being played by an actual Arab would be a huge deal for the Arab community.
It is already set that Will Smith will play the Genie and rumored that Naomi Scott or Indian Disney Channel star Tara Sutaria will be Jasmine (both are of Indian descent). And while casting actors of color is definitely better than white-washing the roles, Arab roles should be played by Arab actors.