It feels like they’re taking massive shortcuts with Mulan compared to what they did with Sleeping Beauty (Maleficent), Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast.
Songs aside, I think my biggest concern is that the exclusion of Shang and the inclusion of Chen changes the perception of Mulan’s achievements.
Chen, from the short character description revealed, is a fellow soldier and Ping’s rival in the army until he realizes “he’s” a woman and develops romantic feelings for Mulan.
Shang, Ping’s superior, begins to trust and admire Ping after he proves himself in training and combat, and only develops romantic feelings long after the reveal (which, by the way, was a breach of trust and that’s why he chose to send Mulan away after sparing her life instead of sexism. He already put his neck on the line by sparing her life– it’s clearly against the law for Mulan to be in the army at all.) Post-Mulan 1, Mulan makes the choice to continue seeing Shang and works with him in a team.
(Obviously we don’t have any more information about Chen, but that’s all that’s literally in his character description.)
It should be clear from what information we have about Chen that his role is quite different from Shang’s role in the original film.
Why does Mulan need a rival-turned-love interest? Why does she need a rival besides the Huns, period?
Any rivals she might have had in the army (ie, Yao, Li, and Chien Po, who initially spurned Mulan) were won over by Mulan’s perseverance and good spirit. The songs, in my opinion, are integral to making it clear that this is the case, showing her rejection of traditional Chinese female roles, showing her mental strength and physical adeptness, and showing her journey of personal growth.
What does it mean when Chen has feelings of rivalry for Mulan when he’s under the belief that she’s a man, and has feelings of love for her when he knows she’s a woman? Why is that dichotomy something the writers are introducing?
Isn’t it more important that Mulan and Shang, her superior, gain a relationship of mutual respect and admiration?
Mulan shows the empowerment of a smart Chinese woman who rises in the army by the beat of her own drum, and there should never need to be a rival (especially not a male rival) to combat her efforts.?
And while I’m at it, appropriation, which is such a hot topic nowadays:
There are people who think that Disney’s Mulan is cultural appropriation (in the sense of disrespect) and who want Hua Mulan’s legend to be represented accurately in the live action, but as a Chinese person, I’m not at all offended by Disney’s portrayal of Mulan.
(I digress, but Chinese people do have sense of humor, and did even in Ancient China– I don’t find the “lack” of seriousness in Disney’s portrayal disrespectful to the original legend. While the story is set in warfare, in my opinion the relative lightheartedness of Disney’s Mulan was important in showing Mulan’s effect on the situation.)
Mulan is a major window into Chinese culture for westerners. What does the average American know about China beyond takeout, laundromats, and communism? What do they know of Chinese people beyond those? To have Mulan, an animated movie aimed at people of all ages, that gives westerners insight into the rich history and dutiful/family-oriented culture that pervades Chinese society.
The fact that, in this historic Chinese setting, a strong independent female character rises from feeling like she can’t fit into her family’s expectations for her to finding her way and becoming a warrior who is respected and loved by her family and ALL OF CHINA is important! She proves herself time and time again to be intelligent and humble, gaining others’ respect for her prowess.
(copied from my twitter thread on this subject)
Mulan doesn’t need a rival to suddenly take deeper romantic interest in her just because he finds out she’s not a man.
She’s too busy kicking Hun ass and she deserves better than a sudden change of heart (therefore feminine validation) from the likes of Chen Honghui, her purported “rival.”
Mulan (1998) is not strictly faithful to the legend of Hua Mulan, but is still an important window into the China most Westerners forget existed and exists.
It still remains to be seen whether more redeeming information about the 2018 Mulan remake will emerge, but as Disney’s only film that represents China and Chinese people, it is massively important to me that it is done justice and is treated with the respect that Disney’s other blockbuster remakes are.
“I’ve heard a great deal about you, Fa Mulan. You stole your father’s armor, ran away from home, impersonated a soldier, deceived your commanding officer, dishonored the Chinese Army, destroyed my palace, and… you have saved us all.”
Movies Meme: [1/5] Animated Movies → Mulan (1998)
↳ “I’ve heard a great deal about you, Fa Mulan. You stole your father’s armor, ran away from home, impersonated a soldier, deceived your commanding officer, dishonored the Chinese army, destroyed my palace and you have saved us all.”
I’ve heard a great deal about you, Fa Mulan. You stole your father’s armor, ran away from home, impersonated a soldier, deceived your commanding officer, dishonored the Chinese Army, destroyed my palace, and…you have saved us all.