Here’s a little story I haven’t told many people, because it shines a bright light onto my unbridled geekiness.
So, the year is 1992. The Chicago Bulls are NBA Champions. Andre Agassi is sporting a full head of hair. Kids are sitting around their rooms with Troll dolls attached to their pencils as Kriss Kross’ Jump and Sir Mix-a-lot’s Baby Got Back blare out of the boombox. Home Alone and Sister Act are topping the box office. And I’m a 10 year old kid.
Of all the year’s cinematic offerings, I’m particularly excited about the prospect of watching Aladdin, especially since I’ve discovered that he’s modelled on Tom Cruise and that makes the fat little bespectacled Arab kid in me really proud. It’s going to be cool to be Arab.
I settle into my seat at the Odeon on High Street Ken, and I’m ready for a mystical land full of anthropomorphic cuteness from monkeys and whatnot. Then I sit through 90 minutes of thinly veiled racism, which leaves me crushed. Even Robin William’s psychotic take on the Genie isn’t enough to salvage the film in my eyes.
I go home, and being the nerdy English school kid that I was, embark on a quest to chastise Disney for their insolence through the only means available to me: a strongly worded letter.
The details are a bit fuzzy and haven’t withstood the test of time in my memory, and I have no idea what I wrote. But I remember being particularly vexed by the swashbuckling and monstrous law enforcers. Plus the following lyrics didn’t really sit well with a proud Lebanese kid, who’d never actually seen his parent’s homeland yet:
Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place / Where the caravan camels roam / Where it’s flat and immense / And the heat is intense / It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home
So there you have it. I was a ridiculous 10 year old with a warped sense of pride sending a letter to one of the biggest corporations in the world. End of story. Right?
Not exactly. Through some weird combination of events, it would seem Disney thought a fat 10 year old had a point. They thanked me for my letter and forwarded it to the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, of which I’ve been an honorary member ever since.
Moral of the story. Always complain when something just isn’t right, sometimes people listen.