Even today, I remember when Aladdin debuted in theaters in 1992. A fictional Agrabah portrayed through the eyes of Walt Disney captured an entire generation with its quick wit and classic rags-to-riches story. I was fascinated with the entire notion. Magic carpets who played chess, lots of jewels and treasure in caves , and a genie who made good jokes! My 7-year-old imagination ran wild at the idea of having 3 wishes. Of course, the most important part of the plot centered around capturing the heart of Princess Jasmine, something the genie was not allowed to directly manipulate according to the international governing code of genies.
Genie: So what’ll it be, master?
Aladdin: You’re gonna grant me any 3 wishes I want, right?
Genie: [imitating William F. Buckley] Uh, ah, almost. There are a few, uh, provisos. Ah, a couple of quid pro quo.
Genie: [normally] Uh, rule #1, I can’t kill anybody.
[cuts his head off]
Genie: So don’t ask. A-rule #2!
[fixes his head]
Genie: I can’t make anybody fall in love with anybody else.
Genie: You little punim there. RULE #3!
[turns into a slimy Genie, and imitating Peter Lorre]
Genie: I can’t bring people back from the dead. It’s not a pretty picture. I DON’T LIKE DOING IT!
[he returns to normal]
Genie: Other than that, you got it!
Falling in love is quite certainly one of the most bewildering things a human being can subject themself to. There’s a moment where you notice and then a decision to move. Just as in chess, the protagonist makes a gambit of submitting their wit (or lack thereof) for the acceptance of a stranger’s uncontrollable response. It involves a tug-of-war between pretending you don’t care in an effort not to be overbearing (you don’t want to smother the person) and showing just enough that you do care to let matters develop. It’s a dance of euphoria and the script of nightmares. What if things don’t work out? Worse yet, what if they do?
I used to think that love was a task of finding commonalities and shared life goals. It was set-up, won, earned, planned out. Many cultures, even today, observe the tradition of arranged marriages. Even my own Kansan sister has happily married a guy whose meeting was arranged between some intuitive friends. Getting a calculated relationship can be interesting and still holds weight, but it’s a light weight compared to the reality of chemistry. In spite of everything, this is something not even Aladdin’s genie can force. There are simply certain people in life that I am immediately and strongly attracted to. I know when I see them because the hair jumps on the back of my neck. My I.Q. immediately regresses 30 points, and my vocabulary morphs into a series of monkey grunts and awkward smiles. Sometimes I see them on the subway or on the bus, in the supermarket, or even saxophone competitions.
Why is it that some people seem to have magnets inside them? Why do people think about love so much? Aren’t we brought up in Western culture to believe in “the one” and matters of the heart? Why is there just one if there are over 7 billion people in the world? What about the idea of being content with who you are and fulfilled as a single person? After having gone through a forced engagement (totally my bad, see preceding paragraph), I’m quasi-sure that a successful couple is set up by two people who are comfortable in their own skin long before they ever meet each other. If you consider their sense of self-esteem, they are 51% content with themselves yet 49% in need of affirmation. I know it sounds clinical and formulaic, but it’s a solid point of departure. For me, life is full of women I could fall in love with. It’s just a matter of finding one I don’t get bored spending time with. Another way to consider dating could consist of simply saying hello and goodbye to lots of different people until you find someone you can no longer say goodbye to.
So Aladdin, of course, had to turn himself into a prince for Jasmine to even notice him, all the while competing with the evil sorcerer Jafar who was certain Jasmine would fit perfectly in his diabolical plan to steal the kingdom from the sultan:
Princess Jasmine: [to Jafar] At least some good will come of my being forced to marry. When I am Queen, I will have the power to get rid of *you*.
Sultan: Well, now. That’s nice. All settled then. Now, Jasmine, getting back to this suitor business… Jasmine? Jasmine!
[the Sultan notices that Jasmine is running out of the room, and runs after]
Jafar: If only I had gotten that lamp.
Iago: [mocking Jasmine] “I will have the power to get rid of you.” Grrrr. To think we gotta keep kissin’ up to that chump, and his chump daughter, for the rest of our lives…
Jafar: No, Iago. Only until she finds a chump husband. Then she’ll have us banished. Or… beheaded.
Jafar, Iago: Ewwww.
Iago: Oh, wait a minute, wait a minute! Jafar, what if *you* were the chump husband?
Iago: Okay, okay. *You* marry the princess, all right? And-and, uh, you- Then *you* become the sultan!
Jafar: Ah. Marry the shrew. I become sultan. The idea has merit.
Iago: Yes, merit. Yes! And then, we drop papa-in-law and the little woman off a cliff… “Yaaaah! Kersplat!”
Jafar: [laughs] I love the way your foul little mind works.
In the end, guy gets the girl and good triumphs over talking parrots and their crazy masters. I think real life should be the same as Aladdin lived. Find what you want, truly desire. Pay attention to your street smarts, sometimes that’s all you have. Get a genie, or at least a good friend (preferably a funny one). Always keep a magic carpet close at hand. Never, ever, ever, give up.