Aladdin and the Magic of Nostalgia

Disney has done it again – remaking their classic films seems to be their main business ordeal for the next few years. People flocked to the cinema to see Cinderella’s glass slippers and pumpkin carriage once more, and patiently waited for Beauty and the Beast’s iconic slow dance, with Belle donning the yellow gown. While people are taking turns on the magic carpet ride, people await the beloved Lion King’s return. Disney knows we have all grown up, and they know just what to do with us. The promise of the magic of nostalgia drew us in to see Aladdin, and the public has been swayed – it yearns for more. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and Disney understands quite well how to wield it. Aladdin stayed true to its animated counterpart, with songs like “Prince Ali” and “Friend Like Me” transporting us back in time. New songs have been introduced for a touch of spice, and with the strong performances of the actors, Aladdin and the magic of nostalgia enchanted the audience once more. Just how much power does it – and Disney - hold?

Sweet Summer Child

Watching cartoons in the morning during breakfast, and watching them again just as dinner is cooking – those were the best of times. Seeing new movies was always a treat, and discovering that your favorite ones are currently airing is comparable to finding lost treasure. We did not have the power of the internet then, and to get just a tiny dose of Disney magic, you needed luck and precision. Aladdin, along with those Disney classics, was thrilling, and “A Whole New World” seemed to be on every child’s lips. The desert of Agrabah was an entirely foreign place, but gradually became a familiar one – a place where magic and a genie in a lamp you know exist. And seeing it again come to life as an adult with the Aladdin reboot has brought so much back, along with every good feeling that comes with it. The current times are proving to be difficult, sometimes even chaotic, and research suggests that people use nostalgic memories to feel better. The truth is, we’re all grown up, and we have to deal with it. Basking in the good and familiar makes Aladdin and the magic of nostalgia powerful.

Powerful Emotions

It is no secret that the magic of nostalgia brings forth powerful emotions. It comes in the form of emotional pleasure, which is usually this unusual mix of both gratitude and longing for things past. It is a yearning that uniquely identifies us as human beings. When looked at a personal perspective (like that of a reflective essay) nostalgia is often fleeting, which comes from triggering memories from a certain scent, photograph, or song. It is practically anything existing, imprinted with traces of pleasant memories. In this case, Disney knows its impact on children in the past, all of whom have now grown up and continue to seek pieces of that. Much of its influence can be seen through the physical form of Disneyland, where employees often report couples enjoying what it has to offer – without children.  Dr. Wijnad van Tilburg, a lecturer on psychology from King’s College in London, states that people tend to enjoy being nostalgic. He defines nostalgia as "a wistful affection or longing for the past." It is a force that can be powerful, especially when people are dealing with difficulties. See it like wearing rose-tinted glasses, where in it you feel better. This is exactly what Aladdin and the magic of nostalgia has done to its audience. The familiar pictures, characters, and themes, intensified further by the music, transported the audience back to a safe and happy place. In fact, psychologists argue that people tend to look for meaning in the way their past selves connect to the present selves.   

Aladdin

Quest for Meaning

Truth be told, a decade earlier things were much different. The drastic and profound change we have experienced as a race has left us with questions surrounding our very existence, usually over confusion and fear of the unknown. This technological and looming doom of climactic disaster has left us feeling lost. Where are we headed? What is the truth nowadays? What do I believe? No one seems to be sure anymore.  A decade ago we were living in bliss of the promises of dreams, now we are faced with the unknown. 

Friedrich Nietzsche, a 19th century German philosopher, postulates Nihilism, which speaks about the world not having inherent meaning, and we human beings provide that meaning. It is a condition where meaning has been lost, and there rises a disparity between how the world operates and what we wish to value. But, there is also an antidote to this meaningless culture, and that lies in the form of creating new meaning. Nietzsche believed that this new meaning lies in embracing art. Film, as research has shown, is the world’s most popular form of art, and offers potential values amidst the chaos we are experiencing. Considering this fact, along with the power Disney holds by continuously setting records despite crises, just goes to show that Aladdin, the power of nostalgia, and countless more remakes continue to fuel our desire to understand and look for meaning. Art, one can argue, inspires contemplation on meaning. And what better way to do that than with something so nostalgic? 

With all things said and done, we can safely say that despite commercialization and relentless tapping into memories of our past selves, the magic of nostalgia brings us joy and comfort, even in the midst of mayhem. But for all of the benefits that come with, it can also seduce us into a retreat into our past – the act of which is heavily romanticized. In other words, Aladdin and the magic of nostalgia, along with the others, can be a form of trap for us.

The Nostalgia Trap

The desire for an escape can sometimes leads to forming perceptions completely out of touch with reality. The perfectly imagined world, and immersing too much in it results to dissatisfaction with reality and the present. You would rather be living in the past world. And for someone already dealing with existential crisis, societal problems, and personal pressures, that will set you back.  There is a dark side to the magic of nostalgia, one that we should not be ignoring.  Nostalgia becomes harmful because of our human tendencies – like altering memories and longing for better days, particularly those that already exist the past. All of these can make our lives more difficult. Imagine dealing with everything wrong with the world, and then dealing with dissatisfaction – too much!

Everything must be treated with caution, with perfect strikes of balance. While the general goal of Aladdin and the magic of nostalgia is to transport us back to our happy place, too much of it can lead to negative things. As you sing along to the rendition of “A Whole New World”, enjoy the moment, but keep in touch with reality, yes? Go ahead, leave the lovely task of accomplishing your assignments be for a while, and watch Disney movies. 

Aladdin and the magic of nostalgia, along with the others, can be a form of trap for us set by Disney.

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