Disney was under fire after reports to produce a spin-off movie featuring Billy Magnussen, who played Prince Anders in the live-action remake of ‘Aladdin’ circulated on social media just a few days after grim admission of Mena Massoud struggling to land in auditions in Hollywood.
So… uh… just after the news the actor who played Aladdin can't get work, Disney announces a spin-off about the token white guy in one scene! https://t.co/2cs4U0LdLy
— Reuben Baron (@AndalusianDoge) December 6, 2019
Billy Magnussen will reprise his character of Prince Ander, a goofy royalty from a fictional kingdom named Skanland. The project is not a sequel to Aladdin but the film will premiere on Disney+, Disney’s new streaming service.
Jordan Dunn and Michael Kvamme are hired by Disney to pen the script for the film featuring Billy Magnussen.
The news report hit the media on Friday just a few days following Mena Massoud’s admission of struggling to land in auditions despite playing a lead character of Aladdin in this year’s remake that grossed approximately $1bn.
People expressed angst on Disney’s decision to feature Prince Andres or Billy Magnussen, yet not considering Mena Massoud.
Just so we’re clear.
Mena Massoud, who starred in the blockbuster ALADDIN remake, can’t get an audition anywhere.
But Billy Magnussen, who plays the white comic relief character they added to the film for no good reason, gets his own spinoff.
— William Bibbiani (@WilliamBibbiani) December 7, 2019
It is, however, reported that Billy Magnessun himself approached the Disney+ producers with an idea of a spin-off series.
A score of social media users asserted that they are unable to understand the logic behind featuring a character in an offshoot project who was a minor character with a few scenes in the live-action remake yet the lead character Mena Massoud struggles to get another opportunity in Hollywood.
Mena Massoud, a 28-year-old Canadian actor of Egyptian descent, a few days ago admitted in an interview that he is yet to get a single audition since the release of the live-action movie earlier this year.
Actual Aladdin can't get an audition but the token white dude gets his own series?
Haha fuck you, Hollywood. You're racist. https://t.co/sCIGI8UWd1
— Hanna Ines Flint (@HannaFlint) December 6, 2019
‘I want people to know that it’s not always dandelions and roses when you’re doing something like Aladdin, said Mena Massoud in an interview with The Daily Beast.
The news, however, sparked a furor on social media, with fans highlighting the dilemmas of racial discrimination and privileges in Hollywood.
Fans expressed bewilderment that out of all the characters Disney found the only white character in the movie to reprise the role in a spin-off series.
Racial Discrimination and Color Stereotyping in Hollywood
According to the reports, Disney had contacted the Community Advisory Council consisting of Middle Eastern, South Asian and Muslim scholars and experts in a bid to rectify the issue of racial discrimination and color stereotyping that stigmatized the 1992’s original version of Aladdin, ahead of producing its live-action remake this year.
A detailed study drew comparisons between the original version of Aladdin and its live-remake in terms of addressing orientalism and rectifying the Arab stereotyping.
Several disparities were noted such as the depiction of Arab land as uncivilized people with an introduction song in the movie that described the land as “Where they cut off your ears if they don’t like your face” and said “Its, barbaric, but hey it home”!.
Read more: Aladdin releases its majestic first trailer
The lyrics, however, were removed after protest from American Arab Anti-Discriminatory Committee, But the word barbaric remained in the song.
Then came the representation of the characters. The 1992’s versions showed, the wicked Arabs had an ugly face with foreign accents but good Arabs like Jasmine and Aladdin had European features with white American accents.
The film also blurred the distinct qualities of Middle Eastern culture. For instance, the tiger of Princess Jasmine of Agrabah-originally Baghdad had an Indian name, Rajah.
— Angie J. Han (@ajhan) December 6, 2019
Also, the movie established Arabic land as magical deserts with genies, a flying carpet, and men living in palaces.
Rectification in new Aladdin?
The study noted that Disney made some marginal improvements to address the contentious portrayal of Arabs in movies. And also addressed the grievances of discrimination against actors of colours of particularly, Arabic descent.
The casting of Mena Massoud, an actor of Egyptian descent pacified those grievances to a limit. It also cast actors of Arabic descent for main roles in the movie. However, fans were again depressed with Naomi Scott, a British-Indian actress, reprising the role of Princess Jasmine. They expected a Middle Eastern actress for the role.
Moreover, it received flak for the portrayal of Will Smith a blue genie in the movie. Many pointed out that genie- that a black actor was roped in to reprise the role of Genie-a supernatural character.
The study also found that the live-remake again falls to magical orientalism from depicting the Arabs as terrorists and uncivilized in the movies. Overall, a minimal improvement was noted on Hollywood’s part to rectify woeful representation of Middle Easterners and actors of colors in the industry.