Why is the story of Aladdin always the story of the exotic Other?
Weird as it is for Westerners to think about (or at least for me), most of the stories of the mysterious and exotic Arabian Nights are in fact set in a milieu that would have been intimately familiar to contemporary readers and/or listeners: their own world. We don't blink at TV shows about doctors or high schoolers; even though they use tools and language that would seem miraculous to someone from another time or culture, they're a part of our world that we take completely for granted. How different is your garden-variety fairy godmother from your average djinn, anyway? Same in-story function, different trappings. And to people hearing the stories of the Arabian Nights, viziers and bazaars and multi-colored fish would have sounded as familiar to us as presidents and supermarkets and... multi-colored fish.
Fast-forward to America in 1992. Is China as exotic and mysterious as it was centuries ago, at the height of the silk trade? Of course not! It's a Communist country with restrictions on childbirth, a lousy human rights track record, and potential nukes. You bet your sweet patootie Disney's not setting their next blockbuster in China barely two years after the Berlin Wall came down.
|The Arabian Nights, Edmund Dulac|
|Scheherazade and the Sultan, Sani ol Molk|
Or maybe there's something super simple and coherent going on that I've completely overlooked. Leave a comment and let me know!