Disney films – the origins of every Star Plus drama. Or perhaps, it’s really vice versa, maybe Hans Christian Anderson travelled to India one day (or had access to some Indian cable) and saw a young beautiful girl being victimised by her family. Add a few pretty dresses, fairy godmothers and a ball – and she’s getting married to a man she met the night before. No hanky panky there!
Okay, okay, I know that the fairy tales came first, but here’s a look at how Disney films are similar to the clichéd Bollywood films and serial dramas (or should it be sari-al dramas?), and how the Disney-fied versions may have been peppered with desi culture.
1. Sleeping Beauty
Starting off with an arranged marriage which is fixed at birth (okay, Asian parents don’t do that anymore, but think of older generations pairing up their kids with cousins etc). As for the ‘evil witch’ who makes trouble – just think of the jealous ‘aunt’ who causes a drama and a kicks up a massive fuss when not invited to family occasion – is this not almost every Asian wedding you’ve ever been to? Not to mention the three god-fairies who are meant to be looking after the Princess but end up telling her to dress, eat and clean the house – replace this with interfering aunts or mother-in-laws, and you have a Bollywood family drama. Not to mention, only in a serial drama would the happy ending be a wedding with a blinged out ballgown (i.e. dress that goes blue-pink-blue-pink).
2. Beauty and the Beast
Let me start off, first, with the fact that in Beauty and the Beast, reading is seen as bad. Forget the fact that my parents used to hate my sisters and I reading books (a separate post in itself!) – EVERYONE who has seen a Bollywood film in the 90s will know that a heroine can never be beautiful while she wears glasses because it makes her ugly and geeky, which comes from reading too many books and not being a good marriage prospect. That is, until she takes the glasses off and transforms into a immaculately made-up supermodel with perfect hair.
(Props to Beauty and the Beast, though, for giving Belle a whole library to accept her inner nerd.)
Add to this the fact that Belle’s only purpose (and worth) in life is to be a potential wife to the village bachelor, since he’s such a catch, and you’ve got your average Bollywood movie in which any girl, no matter how much of a rebel, career woman or lost-cause she is, becomes a cosy home-maker once she’s snagged herself a man who’s willing to wife her up.
Another Bollywoodification in this film – when Belle goes to live with the Beast, she’s seen as endangered, or even a subject of scandal…until everyone finds out he’s a prince with a castle, in which case all is forgiven and she can marry him because of his giant 42-inch plasma tv and his Beemer in the drive…er, I mean gold-gilded chariot wheels.
3. Jungle Book
Mowgli. ‘Nuff said.
(Not to mention the fact that most of us had the same bowl-haircut as Mowgli when we were kids.)
If Indian serial dramas could be epitomised in one Disney film it would be this one – the pretty, luxurious dresses (in the dramas everyone is dressed up to the nines as if they are about to attend their own wedding, but instead just sit around at home lurking around in corridors and stuff); the rivalry between sisters/in-laws/aunts/mothers/grannies; the race to get married, and of course, the comic ‘ugly’ sisters (i.e. fat aunties) trying to squeeze themselves into flouncy dresses.
Not only does Cinderella end up marrying a man she met once before her marriage (arranged marriages have less dancing involved, but still), but she manages to do so in a beautiful dress which conveniently cost nothing because of a ‘fairy godmother’ (if only, eh?) – and us Asian girls will all know about having to be home from the ball in time for curfew.
5. Snow White
Replace Snow White’s evil stepmother with a mother in law, and you have almost every Asian woman’s dynamic relationship with her MIL (particularly the ones on tv). Not to mention trying to kill her with food – jealous much?
Oh, and those heigh-ho-singing dwarves? Just promoting the ethics of hard work, just like a good A-grade Asian (Not to mention how those dwarves are just symbolism for hairy, Asian men, i.e. potential haasbands. ) Just like Cindy-poo and Sleeping Beauty, Snow White marries a man she saw once, then falls in love with him AFTER shaadi like a good girl.
It may be about an elephant, but the ear jokes are all Asian.
Okay, a different type of Asian, but still emphasises boys are more important than girls. What do they know, hey?
They didn’t even try to hide anything in this one – big-nosed Asians, arranged marriages (to rich princes – isn’t every Desi mother’s son a Prince after all?) and brown people wishing for things they can’t afford – and expecting them for free (i.e. cutting corners).
And Jasmine herself has got the classic long black hair in a (albeit poof-y) good-girl plait, brown eyes with extravagant eyeliner (just look outside on the streets of East London to see proof of a dodgy combination of young girls and too much eyeliner) and as if it’s not racist enough, she has a pet tiger.