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Mulan: Just Another Princess MAG
“Mulan,” the animated Disney movie based on the ancient Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, is just another racist, sexist product of this giant corporation. As a child, Mulan was my all-time favorite movie – finally a Disney title character who wasn't blond-haired and blue-eyed! I could identify with Mulan because she looked like me. Although I am Korean rather than Chinese, I felt represented in this movie. As a five-year-old, I loved that Mulan wasn't waiting in a tower for her prince to save her.
I reveled in the fact that her life goal wasn't to go to some medieval version
of the prom and wear glass slippers.
Recently, I watched the movie again with the knowledge I have today. Lo and behold, I was disappointed in both the movie and myself for ever believing it was feminist or politically correct. Sure, the graphics are great. The setting is made with Disney's trademark precision and beauty. But even so, I was appalled.
Don't get me wrong, “Mulan” is a giant step forward in terms of feminism and racial equality … for Disney, that is. For the rest of the world? Not so much.
First of all, every character has a similar appearance: slanted eyes, short limbs, and a flat nose. The only factors that differentiate them are gender and hair style. Also, China's arch-nemesis, Shan-Yu, and the rest of his Hun buddies have faces that are rather more … ethnic. They have eyes you can barely see, gray skin, and a sickly appearance. They are either hulkingly huge or way too skinny. The appearance of all these characters, in my opinion, perpetuates Western stereotypes of Asians. According to Disney, all Asians look the same. In addition, if an Asian character is evil, he will simply look even more Asian.
Aside from the mild racism in “Mulan,” there is also a bit of sexism mixed in. “Mulan” has been hailed as a feminist Disney movie because it showcases a young woman who leads China to victory using her quick wit, pride, and a strong sense of family honor – all while masquerading as a man named Ping. Even though Mulan (as Ping) gains the respect of the army commander and her comrades, once they discover that she is a woman, her army commander and potential love-interest, Shang, loses respect for her and even hates her.
“Ping” had been doing an even better job than Shang, but when Shang finds out Ping is a woman, his stupid male ego breaks on impact. Mulan is sentenced to death, and Shang, the macho man of the film, ultimately gets to decide her fate. The only reason she survives is because Shang decides he'd rather just send her home. Wow. To add insult to injury, at the end of the film, Shang fixes up his shattered ego by claiming Mulan as a suitor.
Even as Mulan is being praised and cheered in the Forbidden City after she almost single-handedly saves China (this time, as a woman), at the end of the film, the audience is reminded that Mulan is really just another woman looking for a man. Mulan's real victory isn't saving her country from invasion. No, it's marrying Shang.
The fact that this is a movie I grew up idolizing makes me sad. All in all, “Mulan” perpetuates Western stereotypes of Asian culture and very quietly shows that even a successful woman will need a man at the end of the day. This movie is, admittedly, much better in terms of gender equality and world cultures than previous Disney movies, but that doesn't change its subtle messages. As a proud Asian girl, I'd like to inform Disney that my family's honor does not come from marriage, but from our achievements.