It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home

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.

6 Responses to “It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home”

  1. Tarek
    March 8, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    Actually, the lyrics were worse, until the Saudis I think objected:

    Oh I come from a land from a far away place
    Where the caravan camels roam
    Where they cut off your ears if they don’t like your face
    It’s barbaric but hey it’s home!!

    But yeah bitching works!

  2. Kareem
    March 9, 2010 at 2:25 am #

    Tarek is right. “Cut off your ears if they don’t like your face” was the original lyric.

    If you have an old VHS copy of the movie you will hear that lyric. The DVD release got the more politically correct lyric of “Where its flat and immense and the heat is intense”.

    I think it was changed because of complaints from the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee.

    Regardless, Aladdin is still my favorite Disney cartoon.

  3. marina
    March 13, 2010 at 8:27 pm #

    “Le barbare, c’est d’abord l’homme qui croit a la barbarie des autres”. Levi-Strauss

  4. A.K.
    March 19, 2010 at 11:28 pm #

    Aladdin is Chinese…

  5. ayah
    April 3, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    Not sure if you know this, but Jack Shaheen has been writing and making short films about the portrayal of arabs in Hollywood, and Aladdin is one (the hundreds) of examples of bad ones
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ko_N4BcaIPY

    (I have his books if you’re interested.)

    …but you have to admit, the genie is hilarious…

  6. Ola
    June 28, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    Hey Nasri….

    I have stumbled across this blog accidentally and have to say well done! I am ADDICTED to reading it during my lunch break on a daily basis, eager to catch up with the years I’ve missed..
    Love the wittiness and sarcasm used, although I am not Lebanese (Syrian, born and raised in Dubai) I do relate to the idea of not belonging… And the culture shock one gets everytime they go back home… And the other shock when one goes out to the West, as Dubai is Disney Land for adults… But it’s home, but not home I’m not quite sure if you get what I mean…. It’s an interesting love-hate relationship…
    As for the letter, good on you and bless your upbringing! I cringe at discrimination and racism! And I believe that you need to speak up, even if you are the odd one out. Put an end to all this hatred and unacceptable and labelling just because one is too ignorant to learn or is too scared to accept what is different….
    If you do pass by Dubai, it would be great meeting you! I am sure the conversation will be witty and diverse as opposed to the usual conversation in town at the moment 

    All the best and keep it up!

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