Mulan

mulan

Mulan
Rating: G
Run Time: 88 minutes
Released: 1998
Director: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook

Cultural Ratingpawpawpaw

Overall, this film does an excellent job of questioning rigid gender roles regarding femininity. Further, although the film may generalize “Chinese culture,” it does present a culture that is rarely represented in the media.

 Summary

To save her father from serving in the war against the Huns, Mulan disguises herself as a man to take her father’s place and ultimately proves herself to be an honorable Chinese warrior.


Ratings

Language: poo

  • Name-calling: “loser,” “creature,” “treacherous snake”

Violence: poo

  • No gore
  • Strangling
  • Tossing
  • Punching
  • War-like scenes
  • Weapons-arrows, rockets, swords
  • A village is destroyed, bodies strewn across the ground- no gore

Sex: poo

  • Mulan is undressed behind a curtain—silhouette of her body is visible
  • Kissing
  • Voluptuous snow women in sexy poses
  • Mushu says, “My eyes can see straight through your armor,” as he looks at Mulan. Mulan then covers her chest.
  • Mulan, still disguised as a man, bathes in the lake with the other soldiers.

Drugs and Alcohol: 0 poo(s)


Cultural Analysis

Pros:

Gender:

  • In the end, Mulan proves herself to be not only an honorable warrior, but an honorable daughter.
  • Mulan plays with rigid gender constructions by convincingly performing masculinity. For example, Mulan convinces her fellow warriors that she is a male warrior by altering her appearance (cuts her hair, wears “masculine” clothing) and demeanor (lowers voice). Also, the male warriors perform femininity which helps them defeat the Huns. For example, the male warriors cross-dress by wearing make-up and feminine robes.
  • Throughout the film, Mulan is shown as using her mind (intelligence) whereas the male warriors are shown using their body (strength) to solve various problems. Mulan’s method is depicted as superior.
  • Most of the male warriors are not hegemonically masculine, but they are still considered honorable warriors. For example, one warrior is fat-bodied and sensitive, but he is still considered noble.

Race:

  • The audience experiences a non-Western culture.
  • Not overtly racist or stereotypical Mushu (voiced by Eddie Murphy), in terms of speech and religious affiliation, appears to be “Black American.”

Sexual Orientation– N/A

Disability:

  • Mulan’s father walks with a limp as a result of a war injury, and he is depicted as a very respected and capable person. This is important because it challenges dominant media narratives surrounding people with disabilities.

Body:

  • The fat-bodied warrior is depicted as kind and “saves the day” multiple times. This challenges dominant media narratives surrounding the fat-bodied person as the fat-bodied person is usually depicted as lazy or evil.
  • Mulan, though thin and attractive, is not sexualized.

Cons:

Gender:

  • “Girl,” and/or “woman” are often used as insults on masculinity.
  • Every song in the film perpetuates gender stereotypes regarding masculinity and femininity. For example, in “Honor to us All” “proper” women are depicted in traditionally feminine ways as women are expected to be calm, obedient, thin, and good for breeding. Further, it is suggested that finding a man is the only way for a woman to bring honor to the family. Also, in “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” traditional masculinity is reinforced. For example, the song suggests that men are swift, forceful, strong, and mysterious. Additionally, in “A Girl Worth Fighting For” traditional masculinity and femininity are reinforced as the men want a girl who is pale and who can cook.
  • According to the film, in order to be an honorable woman in China, the woman must be hegemonically feminine and, ultimately, find a mate and reproduce. For example, even though Mulan saves China, Mulan’s grandma wishes she brought home a man.
  • At one point, two little boys tease (active) a little girl (passive) and take her doll.
  • Shang represents hegemonic masculinity and is the one who is made out to be the most desirable male in the film as he is muscular, athletic, and attractive.
  • Cross-gender performance is depicted as a problem or tragic when it is performed convincingly (Mulan as a warrior). Also, cross-gender performance is depicted as comical when it is done unconvincingly (Matchmaker with mustache, warriors dressed as concubines). This is problematic because these depictions adhere to dominant media narratives surrounding cross-gender performance as it is often depicted as tragic or comical.

Race:

  • Some of the characters are reminiscent of racist depictions of Asian peoples. For example, one of the character’s eyes do not appear to open.
  • The Huns, people of Mongolian descent, are all depicted as evil and are darker in skin tone and clothing compared to the other characters. Further, the Huns’ animals are also a darker hue. Oftentimes, dark colors are used to signify evilness in the media.
  • They have reduced multiple different Chinese cultures (dynasties; over 2000 years of culture) into one reductionist portrayal of “Chinese culture.”

Sexual Orientation:

Disability: N/A

Body:

  • The Matchmaker for Mulan is fat-bodied and is depicted as mean. Also, the Matchmaker is used for comedic relief. This is problematic because fat-bodied people are often stereotyped as lazy or mean and fatness is regularly used for comedic relief in the media.

Suggested talking points

  • A common theme in Disney films is romantic love between a man and a woman. This can be problematic on two levels as romantic love is depicted as necessary for happiness and also as heterosexuality is a prerequisite for romantic love.
  • A common theme in Disney films is that a hero is male, muscular, and usually stereotypically attractive. It is important to discuss with your children that heroes come in all shapes and sizes (and genders).
  • Because gender is a constructed concept Mulan is able to pass as a man by adopting stereotypical characteristics of men. This is an example of how gender is something that is not a natural distinction but something created by society. For example, in contemporary society boys are expected to wear blue and girls are expected to wear pink, and masculinity in the 18th century included wearing tights and wigs.
  • Although Mulan is not transgender, it is important to understand appropriate terminology when talking about someone who identifies as transgender. For more information on gender identity and politically correct terminology, please see: http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender

Image: Amazon.com

Keywords: mulan, disney, princess, race, gender, cross dress, music, musical, family, animated,

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