“Othering is a strategy that reinforces the mainstream by differentiating individuals and groups ands relegating them to the margins according to a range of socially constructed norms.” For whatever reason an individual or group may be subjected to being described as the “other,” it can have devastating effects on those people. Many characters portrayed in Disney movies, whether they be the hero or the villain, are in some way the result of othering. I chose three prominent villains from Disney classics and provided a brief description of where they came from, which can help understand how they got to where they are.
Scar, originally named Taka, was Mufasa’s brother–shared the same royal blood that he did. When his father decided that Mufasa should be next in line for the thrown, Taka felt like an outcast. His feelings of obligation to uphold the honorable behavior of the king fell by the wayside, and he became vengeful. It wasn’t until a hunting incident where he received his scar, which would bestow his new name to him, and his now blemished appearance further separated him from the idea of honorable royalty. His experience as the other led him to become the villain so many children are terrified of.
Jafar was in the same position Aladdin was in, only because he was the bastardized son of the sultan at the time. He separated himself and then chose to live as a street rat. His experiences on the street and with his father grew hatred in his heart and led him to despise anyone in power, the motivations behind his behaviors. While Jafar made the choice to separate himself, his experiences with the lower class inspired his hateful behavior.
Finally, the Beast. One of the most iconic villains in all of Disney because he was at first no such thing. Once a prince held in high esteem, he was cursed because a witch could not find any love in his heart except for himself. Once the curse was placed upon him and he became a hideous beast, the once prince felt as though his feet had been swept out from under him. Rather than pursuing to remedy the curse, his new position as the other was so damaging for him that he grew to accept the new conditions he was being forced to live in. The absence of love in his heart was then filled with hatred and he lost hope that there was any love in the world, let alone his heart.
While Disney refrains from presenting difficulties in the ways they always appear in reality, there is an important takeaway from these villains. Ostracizing groups or individuals can take away their dignity and rather than try to reintegrate themselves into society, they often rise up with animosity. No person has the right to determine how much human dignity another person or group may have. Although the initial impact may carry little magnitude, the long term effects of othering can have damaging effects. Many of the people we see in this world that carry out heinous acts against society share a similar sentiment, “I felt alone, like I didn’t belong, like I was part of the other.”