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BWW Blog: The New Mulan Made Me Cry... And Not in a Good Way

Warning: Some spoilers ahead!

BWW Blog: The New Mulan Made Me Cry... And Not in a Good Way

Mulan was my favorite princess growing up. Though I still struggled with fully identifying myself as Asian, something inside of me glowed when I watched that movie, probably, unconsciously feeling a sense of belonging as I saw someone that had East Asian features gobbling rice from a bowl and being loyal to her family. I loudly sang along to "Reflection" and "Make a Man Out of You," filled with the joy of seeing a character that looked more like me rather than the typical Eurocentric features considered "beautiful." But Mulan wasn't only bypassing that form of beauty, she was redefining it.

She redefined beauty as she smashed through gender norms, and proved she could be loyal, brave, true, and strong. She became so much more than just someone with physically beautiful features, but she became someone with a beautiful soul. For me, she broke through the typical Asian female stereotypes that I always saw in western movies of being submissive or exotic or a "dragon lady". For the first time, I didn't feel trapped within myself as I watched her in the animation. The animation has some problems, of course... Like the talking dragon named after a Chinese dish rather than having an actual name for instance...

But the live action Mulan was different, because with this, I felt as if all the stereotypes that the animation didn't have were suddenly there. We were being forced to see them for the 2 hours that had promised us joy, and instead gave us this.

BWW Blog: The New Mulan Made Me Cry... And Not in a Good Way When I first saw the trailer for the new Mulan movie, I cried, because her story was so important to me as a child, and even now. When I watched the new movie, I did cry. I cried a lot. But they weren't happy tears. They were tears of disappointment and anger.

Again, the same feeling I would get from watching Memoirs of a Geisha or some western Kung Fu film with an exotic dragon lady, I felt watching Mulan-like the creators were showcasing their western belief that an Asian story must be mystical and exotic in order to exist, as if an Asian person is a westerner's mystery to solve. From the very beginning, when they introduced Mulan supposedly having so much Chi that she could do backflips and kicks off of a roof from the age of 8, I instantly knew there was something off about this movie. I thought back on the animation and remembered distinctly that Mulan was clumsy before she became strong; she was more realistic. Then seeing one of the villains as a magical witch that could transform to a bird and seeing a random phoenix that flew above Mulan, I became even more confused.

Disney had said they wanted to create a more authentic, more realistic version of Mulan, right? In fact, Disney had stated they were basing this new movie off of the original source: "The Ballad of Mulan," which is known for having no supernatural elements.

... So why did their "realistic" version of a Chinese story have to be saturated with so much magic, fantasy, and exoticism?

Halfway through the movie, I began to feel discomfort coursing through me as the witch used her magic to possess other people's bodies. I felt disappointment as I watched my favorite childhood story be suddenly full of East Asian stereotypes, and I felt trapped sitting there watching it. Once I realized the emotions I was having, I decided to research who had written this screenplay, and I discovered that none of the crew behind the creation of the movie were Chinese or Asian. They were all white. The question now comes to why Disney didn't hire a Chinese creative team for the film? From seeing Asian representation behind more successful movies like Crazy Rich Asians and Parasite, you'd think Disney would've jumped at the chance. It would've been easier for Disney, in fact, if they had hired an actual Chinese director who understood how to tell Chinese stories on the screen without stereotypes, rather than a director that could probably never understand the significance of Mulan's story for not only Chinese audiences, but Asian audiences.

As I sat there crying, extremely disappointed after watching the full movie, I asked out loud: why couldn't Mulan's story be enough? Why couldn't an Asian woman's story be enough? A story of a brave woman who disguises herself as a male, breaking gender stereotypes, and proves she's loyal, brave, true, and strong without magic or mysticism. After this, I realized that the industry still has a long, long way to go and it won't change unless we lead the change. So let's do it.

Because I think we all know Mulan's story was enough.

And I think we all know that an Asian story is enough.

Disney, can you hear me?

I am enough.

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