Aladdin is a great movie for a number of reasons. Great songs, great characters, great cast, awesome pets and a pretty great villain.
Jafar really is just an awful human being. I don't like him, at all. But I do respect him for his brain, his amount of internal evil, and his ability to seamlessly disguise himself as a fellow prisoner yet still know all the ins and outs of the prison (not shady at all).
Now, I could go into this article talking about how the Sultan wasn't the best leader for Agrabah. He was old, zany and would rather play with toy animals than rule a country. Heck, he couldn't even keep his daughter in line. But, that's not how I'm going to roll with this article. I've got another plan.
Has anyone hear ever read the play Othello? If you have, you can probably see where I'm going with this. If you haven't, let me summarize it to you.
There's a wide ranging cast of people with a mix of love and hate brewing between all of them. But where does all this love and hate come from? Well, one person in particular. This one person is manipulative and will do anything to get what he wants. In this case, he breaks up a marriage, kills his own wife, kills a random man and brings about the downfall of one of the greatest Venetian military officers of the time. Who is this character? No, his name is not Othello. His name is Iago.
As we've seen with both Lion King movies, Disney takes a good amount of their information and plot from Shakespearean plays. Now, this is not entirely the case here, but I think there are some merits to this.
The Iago in Agrabah is nothing more than a bird. A sarcastic bird with a high intellect, yes, but that shows no merit in this world. He could never find himself a place in a ruling position.
Jafar, however, can. And Iago is always with Jafar throughout the entire movie. Even if he's not physically standing on Jafar's shoulder, he is there to help Jafar in any way possible. Until we get to the end. The part right where Jafar gets sucked into the lamp. That's when Iago tries to leave. We know Jafar takes him down with him because he's evil, but I think there's a little more to their dynamic than what we're shown.
This movie shows a lot of manipulation. Jafar manipulates the Sultan into doing his bidding. Jafar manipulates Aladdin into getting the lamp. Aladdin manipulates the Genie into leaving the Cave of Wonders. Jasmine manipulates Jafar so Aladdin can sneak in. Aladdin manipulates Jafar into becoming a genie.
Now, in Othello, all the manipulation comes from one person. In Aladdin, we've got an entire cast of people manipulating each other. But only one of them is deemed evil for it.
What I'm about to say next may not seem realistic or plausible, so if you don't agree, don't be mean about it.
I think that Iago manipulates Jafar throughout the entire film.
Hear me out, okay.
I'm not saying Jafar isn't evil in his own right. He is beyond evil. He's probably insane, too. Despite overthrowing the Sultan and getting Jasmine out of the way, he still wants to marry her. It's almost on the level of pedophilia. And remember that disguise he wore? How thin he truly was? That's absolutely disgusting.
I am not saying Jafar couldn't have done any of this on his own. He is more than capable. He is the royal vizier after all, he's really smart and has that awesome brain-washing staff of his.
What I am saying is that Iago influenced Jafar's decisions more than we thought. There is that one scene where Iago suggests marrying Jasmine to become Sultan. This gives us a glimpse at the evil inside Iago, but not much of one.
Iago was constantly in Jafar's ear, always telling giving him advice. He may have seemed to be just another henchman, but Iago is far more than that. He was able to foresee Jafar's rise to power and knew to ally himself with Jafar. He may not have known when enough was enough, but he was very powerful. It's hard to tell how long Iago was truly manipulating Jafar. It's possible he was there all along, for all of Jafar's life. That could explain for Jafar's intelligence and desire for power. He gained that from Iago.
Iago used Jafar as a means to an end. But what was his goal? He knew he was meant for much more than just "Polly wanna cracker?" But he also knew he was just a bird.
Iago is a Successful Disney Villain
All Iago ever wanted was to have the merits of a human and work alongside the Sultan. Jafar saw him as nothing more than a companion, but he wasn't just a bird. Aladdin, the Sultan and Jasmine all learned the truth behind this after Jafar took over, so he had no more need to hide in plain sight.
But then he gets sucked into the lamp. Now, I know what you're thinking. That's not very successful. And you're right. However, there are two sequels to Aladdin and also a television series. And in all three of those, Iago is a part of those worlds. And who's side is he on? Yup, Aladdin's.
He doesn't have to manipulate anyone anymore the way he did Jafar. He got to the place he wanted to be. Humans saw him as an equal, to an extent. He no longer had to pretend he was a stupid bird. And he was living the high life.
Aladdin would not have been a success without Iago. If Iago weren't there, I most certainly would hate every aspect of Jafar. But, I still don't think he was much of a villain. He was more of a freeloader. But that's just me, what do you think?