tirsdag 22. september 2020

Mulan: why it was a missed opportunity to create a strong Asian woman on screen

As a child who grew up in China with little exposure to Disney until I was eight, the idea of a princess marrying a prince and living happily ever after was something entirely foreign. I was more familiar with the fox and snake spirits in Chinese folklore that transformed into beautiful women and sorceresses, and the cross-dressing heroines of wuxia martial-arts TV shows of the 90s.

It’s no surprise, then, that Disney’s 1998 film Mulan was more relatable than Sleeping Beauty. Mulan was not only Chinese but had a mission greater than marriage – to save her father and country – and she didn’t need saving herself. For Disney, she was the first “non-princess” who did not end up marrying a prince. It was a mortal’s story: there were no spells or supernatural forces to help her fight her battles, and she did not levitate off rooftops like the wuxia women. Her only celestial remedy was a plump, cheering squad of ancestor spirits and a funny little serpent called Mushu.