Disney faces backlash over Jasmine casting in new live-action remake of ‘Aladdin’

L-R: Massoud, Scott and Smith are set to star in the new live-action remake of Aladdin. (AFP and AP Photos)
L-R: Massoud, Scott and Smith are set to star in the new live-action remake of Aladdin. (AFP and AP Photos)

Disney has found its Aladdin and Jasmine. But people are not happy with the casting choices.

Disney production President Sean Bailey had announced Saturday that newcomer Mena Massoud will star as Aladdin, and pink 'Power Ranger' Naomi Scott will play Jasmine in the live-action remake of the 1992 animation. Will Smith was also announced to star alongside Massoud and Scott as the Genie in the film directed by Guy Ritchie.

However, for the past few days, Disney has been facing some serious backlash from social media over Scott's casting, being accused of whitewashing like Hollywood.

Fans have been generally happy about Disney's choice for Aladdin as Massoud is of Egyptian background, but Scott is of British and Indian descent, which has been deemed 'problematic' by many. Some Twitter users said that the casting choice suggests that Disney thinks Indian and Middle Eastern women 'look the same' and 'brown people are interchangeable.'

The casting also follows reports that Ritchie was having trouble finding young lead actors of Indian or Middle Eastern descent who can both sing and dance, which led to a flood of suggestion posts on social media outlets from all around the world.

Some fans had rooted for Jade Thirlwall from British girl group Little Mix to be cast as Jasmine, seeing her as a perfect fit for the role as she is of Yemeni and Egyptian descent. Meanwhile, Turkish actress Tuba Büyüküstün was one of the many stars the Huffington Post had suggested for the role. On the other hand, many fans on social media wanted Aladdin to be played by Avan Jogia, who is not of Arab heritage.

There is a wide-held belief that the film Aladdin was based on a story from One Thousand and One Nights -- also known as Arabian Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian folktales told by Scheherazade. The film is also set in a fictional country called Agrabah, which to many gives off the impression of a Middle Eastern city- which sparked calls for Disney to cast actors with Arab heritage. However, researchers found that the original Arabic collections didn't include the story of Aladdin and his magical lamp, but was later added by French translator Antoine Galland in the 18th century. On the other hand, some believe that the story has origins in China.

The original 1992 Aladdin starred Scott Weinger and Linda Larkin as Aladdin and Jasmine with Robin Williams as the Genie.

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