A Catonsville, Maryland, elementary school cancelled their plans to produce a rendition of Disney’s “Aladdin” because of a complaint that it supported negative stereotypes of Arabic culture.
Westowne Elementary School drama club in Baltimore County was scheduled to perform “Aladdin Jr.” — which is an adaptation of Disney’s 1992 film “Aladdin” — in February of next year, according to WBAL TV 11.
However, those plans were derailed after parent complaints of negative stereotyping.
“In the play, Arabs are described as barbaric — those are the exact words that are used. And the actual play was very controversial apparently in the early ’90s,” said parent Danette Zaghari-Mask, who said her son was upset by it.
Even though auditions had already been held last month, Zaghari-Mask’s son decided to drop out of the play.
Zaghari-Mask, an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said she felt, “It was worth expressing his experience to the school, and were just so relieved that the school is considerate of diversity.”
Her comments caused the school to cancel the play in favor of a less controversial production.
The school’s principal, J. Palmer Wilker, sent a letter to the parents of the drama club last Thursday that outlined the school’s reasons for canceling the production.
“Recently, it has been brought to our attention that Disney’s Aladdin Jr. has historically been criticized for its inaccurate, negative stereotyping of Arabic culture,” the letter said.
“Here at Westowne, we want to cultivate students who have a strong self-image, appreciation, and respect for other cultures. It is important that we make choices that resist negative stereotypes, promote understanding, and celebrate all people.
“After careful consideration and with input from the perspectives of many stakeholders — teachers, parents, and community members — we decided that this production of Aladdin Jr. is not the best fit for our Westowne community.
“Instead, the drama club will be producing an alternative theatrical production with a focus on fables to showcase the talents of our amazing students.”
The school decided to move it’s dramatic endeavors elsewhere, and perform “The Young Fables.”
“I think they did a really great job of explaining why they came to the decision they came to. I think it was definitely the best outcome,” parent Emily Shaw said.
However, not all parents are pleased with the decision to cancel “Aladdin, Jr.”
WBAL reports that parent Jessi Eberle said, “They’re saying we’re a community, but they didn’t even ask anyone. They just made this decision by themselves and it’s kind of disappointing.”
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