“Look into his eyes. Those big pretty eyes and tell me… Yes or no?” — Cypher

When in doubt, start with a quote from The Matrix. For a long time, I wasn’t quite sure how to talk about my first crush and why it had to be Aladdin. How I could intertwine the realization behind this first crush, with my own coming out, and end with a final shout-out to all the heroes, crushes and stories I needed, had, and read or made up over the years.

I think we all watched a lot of TV as children. At least, if you grew up in the early 90s as I did. Because, and let’s be honest, we had all the good children’s programs. From DuckTales to Chip ’n Dale Rescue Rangers, to Darkwing Duck, Gummi Bears, and Tom and Jerry. Later I discovered some anime shows like Pokémon, Digimon, Sailor Moon, and of course Yu-Gi-Oh! Within every one of those shows were characters I loved, liked, hated or related to — as is always the case.

All of the characters I loved from those shows have something in common. A quality, or — better — an idea, which I appreciate today as I did back in my childhood. This idea is very powerful because it can set your mind free, in a way like Morpheus suggested. The idea of being in charge of your own life. Doing what you want to do. Taking adventures whenever the opportunity arises. Not having any material goods holding you back. Sleeping under the stars. Having friends you can really trust, whatever might happen.

One person who encapsulates this idea as no other ever can or will is Aladdin. A thief wandering the streets of Agrabah. Best friends with a monkey, a flying carpet, and later on with the Genie. These characteristics alone are very intriguing. They make Aladdin more mysterious. He is kind, does anything for Abu and finally frees the Genie — after being selfish to impress the princess as “Prince Ali of Ababwa” — but nobody is perfect, right?

I don’t really remember when I first saw Aladdin, but a few months ago I rewatched it and remembered all the feelings I had as a child. It is wonderful to be able to relive those memories and feelings again as an adult. Be able to put a finger on them. Identify the idea behind those feelings and why I had to love Aladdin. To be honest, I don’t know if he even was my first crush at all. Nevertheless, since I rewatched the movie, the idea that he was my first crush is deeply embedded in my brain. Maybe this was a cue for it to reverse engineer my memories so that the assumption has to be true now. A bit like constructivism.

Since we are already talking about philosophical and psychological theories, let’s add some comic theory, shall we?

As I read through the My First Crush articles on Rogues Portal, I couldn’t help but notice some similarities: most of them are animated. This reminded me of Scott McCloud’s book “Understanding Comics”. He obviously talks a lot about the artwork, and he mentions the theory that we find cartoons and simple drawings sometimes more engaging than more detailed works. This is because, in order to “complete” the story, we have to imagine a lot more than just the missing pieces in the gutter. We need to put a lot more of our own personality into those characters. This is why I think most first crushes are animated — one way or another — and why Aladdin is mine.

He is a young, male human and since the animations weren’t that sophisticated back then, he looked rather simple, art-wise. So I could put a lot of myself into the character. Not just throughout the movie, but throughout the 80+ episodes of the TV series as well. I wanted to be like him. But let’s take it a bit further: as a child, I didn’t know what “gay” meant. I didn’t understand that the fact that I am gay would somehow put a marker on me, or that I had to have a “coming out” at some point of my life, and so on and so forth.

In addition to that, I was not really considered a thin child — I liked to eat, and not the healthy stuff. Ever since I can remember, I wanted to lose weight and just look like the other thin guys. Just look good or what was considered normal. Again, I am constructing and projecting these thoughts onto my younger self. You are not likely to be aware of those things when you are a child. Nevertheless, I am still struggling today with body-image issues, but slowly going in the right direction with my mindset. Aladdin can be a role model in that way, I think. Come what may, just deal with it in the best way you can and make the best out of every situation.

I loved and still kind of love the idea of being with Aladdin. This handsome looking guy, who could run around with basically nothing on but wide trousers and a cloth like a breath of nothing on his upper body — but I wouldn’t mind. This way one can appreciate all those muscles. Leaning back on the magic carpet, enjoying the view (of the landscape, of course) and flying right into the next adventure.

Maybe we should all think more about our fictional crushes. We can discover a lot if we are willing to look and take the matter seriously. The worst thing that can happen is that you learn something new about yourself, have a revelation. But the most important thing is: don’t forget the fun and be a child sometimes.

Plus: Since I read Samantha’s article and saw the (action) figures of princess Jasmine and Aladdin, I am very jealous and want my own Aladdin standing on my desk. Just so he can remind me of this idea that we just talked about. Let me dream while I am writing about new adventures. And maybe having some of my own…

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – Bilbo Baggins

Who was your first fictional crush? Do you want to write about them for Rogues Portal? Email pitches to Samantha! (Submissions are unpaid at this time.)

Christoph Staffl

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