Op-Ed: Is My Jafar Costume Cultural Appropriation?


With Halloween quickly approaching, I’ve begun to engage in my typical late-October activities. I’ve bought the candy, put up some spooky decorations in my room, and brushed the dust off of my beloved Jafar costume. But this year, every time I’ve walked down the halls of John Jay, I’ve been confronted with bulletin boards describing cultural appropriation and how to avoid it as Halloween draws near. This has caused me to ponder for the very first time: is my Jafar costume cultural appropriation?

When I first found myself asking this question I was taken aback. I’ve been donning the turban and scepter every Halloween since I was 6 years old, after all, and it’s never brought anything but delight to every one of my friends in Greenwich, Connecticut.

I hadn’t realized that the baritone British accent and scarlet macaw plush I’d flaunted were aspects of Arabic culture I’d grossly misrepresented. Without understanding the significance of Gilbert Gottfried in the Middle East, I couldn’t comprehend how my strutting around with Iago the Parrot perched on my shoulder might be an offensive reminder of my complicity in colonial power structures.

I’ve neglected to face the reality that an animated musical adventure rom-com written by 4 white  men named Ron, John, Teddy, and Terry is not simply a costume — it’s a culture. A culture that I am only further oppressing by demeaning its rich history into a convenient outfit.

After taking the time to educate myself on the real Magic Royal Vizier of Agrabah, I’ve come to the conclusion that my beloved Jafar costume might not have a place in this modern world and that maybe it’s time to put those curly red slippers away for good. This year, I’ll be taking a  much different approach to my Halloween garb, and will instead be going as a sexy Walt Disney Pictures Executive Producer.

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