The remake of Mulan: A missed opportunity

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Lydia Zhou, Managing Editor

Mulan was one of the most anticipated Disney Remakes of the year. Audiences were thrilled that the beloved Disney princess was being portrayed on-screen, and it was set to be a massive success for the general audience. However, due to many unfortunate and disappointing circumstances, this film became one of the biggest letdowns in the history of Disney live-action. 

With an entirely Asian on-screen cast (disregarding the white producers off-camera), including the acclaimed Chinese-American actress Liu Yifei who was set to star, and a massive budget for production, the film was intended to be released in movie theaters. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Disney couldn’t traditionally release Mulan, therefore the company scrambled to find a way to find a platform for the long-awaited film. They decided to try a different method: watch the movie by paying a thirty dollar “premier access” fee along with a subscription to DisneyPlus, a popular streaming platform competing with companies like Netflix and Hulu. This ordeal was a bummer, but audiences worldwide were still eager and willing to pay to experience the highly expected film. Then another controversy popped up, regarding the lead actress who plays Hua Mulan. Liu Yifei reposted a comment on the Chinese social media platform, Weibo, supporting the Hong Kong Police and police brutality. With such a strong and controversial statement, the backlash spread like wildfire, and soon enough, the hashtag #BoycottMulan was trending on Twitter. Although she is an American citizen, she built her entire career in China. Therefore, she won’t be punished and blacklisted by the Hong Kong government like any other Chinese citizen. People are accusing her of using this to her advantage to say whatever she wants to express, which in this case is her opinion about politics. Concerning the film, people struggle to separate the actress herself with the character Mulan because her support for the government of China is controversial and people think it ultimately weakens and contrasts the message Mulan praises throughout the film: honor, sincerity, and courage. 

Growing up, I admired the animated version of Mulan immensely. The importance of the very first Chinese-American Disney Princess is unexplainable, finally, my culture was finally represented and I could fully relate to her. Mulan was unique, too, as she was a warrior. She didn’t marry into royalty like Cinderella or was born into it like Sleeping Beauty. She instead didn’t care for those titles and opted to honor her family by being the ultimate badass. This remake meant a lot to me, and I expected a lot from it too. Mainly I wished that this remake would inspire future generations of young girls to look up to this strong, confident, fighting princess as much as I did growing up. Disney had the responsibility to at least try to live up to the original, and unfortunately, it is disappointing that they missed this opportunity as it had such monumental potential. Although the remake did paint her character as a courageous female fighter, her character was built based on her own determination and wit but mainly from the literal magical powers she was born with. The Mulan from the original was inspiring in part because we could see ourselves triumphing in her shoes, while that is completely thrown away in the remake. She lost the side of personality that was bubbly, bright, and fun to watch on screen. That is another reason why I loved Mulan so much; she was relatable. She made mistakes and learned from them by being resilient and hardworking. On the other hand, the live-action Mulan character felt too rigid and perfect all the time. The failure of female empowerment, along with the detached sense of relatability, made me think that she just wasn’t the same Mulan I, and so many others, grew up watching and loving. 

Photo credit: Allstar/Walt Disney Pictures/ Jasin Boland