Is Mulan a Special Disney Classic Character?

Published: 2021-09-01 00:25:11
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She was a remarkable woman who totally changed the views of ancient Chinese women and encouraged them to pursue their dreams and to do what they want to do. However, throughout the years, the story of Fa Mu Lan has changed from storyteller to storyteller, each with its own dramatic difference. To illustrate the dramatic changes that occur among storytellers, one can compare Kingston’s interpretation of Fa Mu Lan’s story to Disney’s Mulan. Although changing some parts of the original story is necessary for the film producer to make a fantastic movie, the adaptation of Disney’s Mulan loses the essence of this legendary woman. Mulan” still falls into the Disney classic princesses’ stereotype. Although Mulan totally changes the classic princess face, which is highly curved bright female body, big breasts, tiny waist, fluttering eyelashes etc, the story of “Mulan” is still similar to those classic princess movies. Disney embraces normative gender roles and promotes marriages. Because the market tends to favor the classic spirits of those traditional princess, the semi-change of Mulan is just for getting into Chinese market and gets more attention from the public.
The Chinese market is quite attractive to western companies, including the Disney Company. However, Chinese children are not like American kids who have spent time with Disney cartoons, Disney toys, and Disneyland. So the Disney Company decided to make a film to get into the Chinese market. However, the Chinese government hates the Disney’s princess’s images terribly, because Chinese people suffered for thousands of years’ domination under of the royalty. The idea of royalty is not worth of being praised in China.
In Shu Ping’s article, she points out that Chinese government was afraid that any emotions towards royalty would lead people nostalgia about the past, the royalty lives, which would influence the peace of the new country (97). For these reasons, Disney Company had to make a special and new style of the Disney princess, a non-royalty blooded woman, Mulan. In 1998, Disney’s Mulan helped Disney Company successfully got into the Chinese market. Generally, Mulan looks different from the classic princesses.
Because she is Asian, she is not a blond, and she is not really a princess in China. In addition, she has no talent for housework. She cannot cook, or weave. She cannot even remember those rules for taking care of men. She was not born in a wealthy and high status family. On the surface, Disney makes a lot of effort to correct their stereotype that women can only be blond and pretty and good housewives and that only those born in wealthy families, can be a great princess, who absolutely deserves people’s love and recognition.
Disney did a lot to modify this Chinese princess, and wanted to inspire girls all over the world, just like how Mulan’s legend inspires Chinese women from one generation to the next. The Disney movie producers attempted to make Mulan to be a new image of the Disney princess, but the story possesses a lot of stereotypes that classic Disney princesses usually have, which leads the image of this legendary woman to fade. For example, in the legend, Mulan did not fall in love with any man, but in the film, it indicates the romance between Mulan and Sheng Li (Zhang Renjie).
In traditional Disney movies, some romance is always added in the cartoon so that children will begin learning traditional courtship rituals, and that little girls will learn that marriage is the most important ending for a story. In a classic Disney movie is that princesses always want to meet their princes and get married with them so that they can live happily ever after. In fact, the similar scene just happens in “Mulan”. In “Mulan”, Sheng Li appears at Mulan’s house and prepares to give her a big surprise. Later, Sheng Li with Mulan’s family has a great dinner, and Mulan looks so pretty nearby him.
Although the movie does not directly tell the audience that these two will get married, its strong implication makes people believe that this movie’s happy ending should be these two people finally can get together without war. This guess is not unreliable. In the later comic series about “Mulan”, these two are a real happy couple (Beth Hannan Rimmels). Obviously, Disney’s “Mulan” is just another version of classic princess story. But this time, it is not about prince and princess, but the captain and female warrior.
The only way to make Disney producers satisfied is always to let the main characters get married. Whether it is Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty, Ariel or Mulan, the princess’s beautiful life always has her handsome prince. If adding romance was not enough to place Mulan as a classic Disney princess, Disney also misrepresented her family and discarded important history in the film. One such drastic difference is that of how Mulan enters the war. In Disney’s version of this myth, Mulan is at home at the time of her father’s conscription into the army.
To prevent her father from dying in battle, she steals his armor and weaponry, and enters the war as his only son, having had no previous battle experience ( Shen Qi 667). It is just like the “Beauty and Beast”; in the name of saving father, Bella decides to go alone to meet the beast secretly. Because the love from daughter towards father is touching for audience, the Disney cartoon uses this trap in every film, including “Mulan”. However, Kingston’s story of Fa Mu Lan’s entrance into war is quite different. Fa Mu Lan has been off training to be a warrior for 15 years before she returns home to take her father’s place in war.
In the myth, the reason that she went to war is that she wanted to. This special Chinese girl loved to practice Kongfu and was a professional warrior after fifteen years training under her father’s instruction (Zhang Renjie 781). Instead of using this amazing fact, Disney changed the story to make “Mulan” unique for being brave enough for sacrificing herself for saving her dearest father. The reason Mulan became Chinese legend is that she was unique, because she wanted to fight for the country, not because she had to.
Fa Mu la is the best representative of the bravest women, who was not afraid of going to the war. The reason why she was a remarkable woman is that she had the strongest desire to save her country and thousands of families. If Disney intended to show the brave woman through “Mulan”, they have not succeeded. It is true that Mulan is a masculine among those other Disney princesses, because she went to war and saved the country. Usually, Disney princesses are well protected and far away from the war, and always the ones who need to be saved by their horse-riding princes.
However, the ugly truth is that Disney just does not want to admit the fact that Mulan had masculine tendencies, so Disney gives Mulan the excuse that she has to go to the war so that she had to be disguised as a man. At the end of the movie, it still shows how cute Mulan is, the girlish and pink inside of her heart. Mulan wears a pink dress under the tree and smiles shyly towards Sheng Li. This completely shows a girly side of Mulan, which interprets by Disney producer that this is supposed to be Mulan’s original side. According to the history, this is not the case.
The truth is that Mulan started to practice Kongfu at the age of three and had fifteen years training after went to the war. Disney uses different ways to get rid of the fact that women are not all born in feminine way. Masculine girls deserve people’s love, too, just like Mulan. Disney always wants to deny the fact that their movies persuade girls to be pink and cute by adding different features. However, it always ends at the same. Disney pushes normative gender roles in “Mulan” , just how they did to the Disney princesses’ movies.
Disney princess movies are almost imaginary. They are not real. However, Mulan was a real woman, but the Disney company still produces her story as fantasy. Just like the Snow White, who will be woken up by a kiss. Cinderella’s crystal shoes have never disappeared. Bella’s tears will change the beast’s scary face. This time, Mulan saved the whole country through lack of experience and illegal access to the war. Disney’s “Mulan” ignores some important facts of history. According to Myth, Fa Mu Lan tells her father she “will take [his] place” (Zhang Renjie 34).
Not only does her father accept that she will take his place in war, but so does most of the town. “How beautiful she looks, the people said, [as she] put on men’s clothes and armor” (Zhang renjie 36). The town accepts the fact that a woman is going into battle, and men even decide to fight under her. Although it is quite strange that “the Chinese executed women who disguised themselves as soldiers” (Zhang Renjie 39), at that special time, the government terribly needed soldiers to defend the country. However, half the young and strong men died in war.
Using women was a smart way to increase the population, because women can take some men’s places so that men could stay at home. This special time did not last a long time and disappeared immediately, but this was the main reason that Mulan could go to war. On the other hand, it shows how girls improved their social status by going to the war. At that time, there were a lot of poems to praise those women’s beautiful images when they practiced Kongfu. In”Ode to Mulan,” Zhang Renjie argues that Chinese knowledgeable man were willing to marry women, who know Kongfu, because it is also a way to show off their haracteristic that they do not choose their wives by their appearance. In addition, women were proud that they could practice Kongfu to protect themselves. (754) That means, in China, people accepted and respected women who were masculine and powerful. However, the Disney Company just treats our legendary lady as other princesses. They care more about fantasy more than the value of the real original story itself. Although Disney’s “Mulan” makes a lot of mistakes about the history and decreases the charm of Mulan, at least, the purpose of making this film is good.
No more blonde ladies, no more house cleaning with traditional folk songs, and no more princesses victimized by their families. Disney has made progress by creating this film. However, in Chinese people’s eyes, the story of Disney’s “Mulan” is too easy and simple. Disney only preserve a traditional view of women as sweet, passive and only interested in marriage. It cannot contain Mulan’s special features that she behaved like a boy and her masculine tendencies. In addition, it does not reflect how special the time for women in China to get a chance to fight with men with glory.

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