When I was a small child, one of my favorite movies (or sets of movies, I guess) was Disney’s Aladdin series. I grew up with those movies, since they came out in my early years and my parents believed Disney movies were an important part of a child’s upbringing, at least for me and my older siblings. That perception had faded by the time my youngest sibling had been born, but I grew up in the 90s and watched mostly disney movies and PBS kids. And while a lot of the Disney movies can deal with a lot of heavy ideas, like losing your parents or violence, both against defenseless people and in pursuit of justice, only one such idea has stuck with me since I first heard it as a small child.
I think I was five or six when I first watched The Return of Jafar. It was an alright movie, kinda typical of the “home video release” phase Disney was going through at the time, and I was too young to really pick up on the quality changes or lack of Robin Williams as Genie, but I never forgot the climatic battle.
For those of you who aren’t familiar or maybe don’t have the scene indelibly seared into their mind (spoilers, I guess, but it’s been nearly 30 years since it came out), Aladdin, Genie, and Jasmine are trying to fight Jafar, who rips the ground apart and turns it to lava (my personal introduction to the “floor is lava” game). Things look dire for the heroes as it looks like Jafar is about to circumvent the “genies can’t kill rule” by just letting them all fall into lava when Iago, the talking bird that had previously been Jafar’s minion turns on him. Though he gets blasted by Jafar’s magic, Iago summons the strength required to kick Jafar’s lamp into the lava, destroying Jafar and undoing most of the harm of his magic. Iago, though, is still hurt and saved from the sealing ground by Aladdin who, moments later, holds the injured bird up to his allies and shares a moment of silence for their seemingly fallen unexpected ally. However, Iago shows he is still alive by taking the line Jafar used to define his plans for vengeance and using it to show them he’s still alive: “you’d be surprised what you can live through.”
As a child dealing with abuse and neglect, even at five, that idea stuck with me. I wouldn’t say it is a foundational element of my personal philosophy or anything like that, but it definitely echoes in my head a lot when I’m dealing with my worst days. Or when I’m trying to push myself to muddle through whatever is going on in my life. As someone whose core instrusive thought from my OCD is suicidal ideation, which means those thoughts tumble around my head regardless of how I feel about them or how I’m feeling at all, it’s always been sort of reassuring. Affirming, too, at times.
Taking words meant to define the incredible harm someone could do to another person and using them to defiantly cling to life… Well, I’m probably reading a bit too much into it, but we all kinda are every time we find something in a story that appeals to us. I just find it comforting at times to think that, even after everything I’ve survived and experienced, I could still be surprised by what I can live through.