Welcome to Disney Debate!
Over the next 11 weeks, we’ll discuss each of the “official” Disney princesses. Read the information and question below and then use the comments section to join the debate. Engage with people’s comments by replying to them, and add your own points by creating a new comment. Comments must be civil to be included.
WEEK 8: MULAN
Mulan is the story of a girl who dresses as a man and joins the army to save her father’s life. Feminist critics applaud Mulan as a “girl who does the rescuing” (Variety) and one “who gets to use her wits” (Entertainment Weekly) — contrasting her favorably to the Disney princesses who came before.
Does the fact that Mulan’s success rests on her ability to live up to male expectations make her more of a strong female character, or less of one?
9 thoughts on “Disney Debate: Mulan”
Here’s a thought, Mulan isn’t the equal Feminists say she is… there is a reason she uses out of the box thinking and ingenuity. Because she knows she’s not as strong as the men.
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I think there’s something to that. But I also think she does a whole bunch of things that would be impossible for a person of her size, training, stature, etc. and those are seen as successes. (People disagree with me on this one, but that’s my take.)
I think, that right there, is a major point of what bugs me about feminism (especially in superhero or just plain heroic sort of stories). Women can’t do those things; but that doesn’t make us weaker as people.
I never liked Mulan much, this is the one I thought overtly feminist and it annoyed me (also a bit too scary for a princess movie to me). I think what bugs me is the utter stereotyped, flat characters feminists make women in such movies.
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A reply to liviepearl: If it’s of any consolation, at least the movie promoted the military and is the closest we’re ever going to get to an actual Disney film that promotes the second amendment. Plus, her father was pretty cool and not a doofus, and the only reason she ended up going to war was because her father suffered a severe war-time injury that would have basically left him a redshirt otherwise, and her dad didn’t even WANT her to go.
Besides, Mulan joining the military was technically in the original story as well (of course, it was peace times so there was that reason for why she effectively got away with it, and even became part of the court by the Emperor at the time). At least it’s better than Disney’s original pitch for the story where she joined solely due to her boyfriend joining.
I have my personal issues with the movie, though, like the fact that the good guys had to dress in drag to infiltrate the palace after Shan Yu took over.
*Clarification: The closest we’re ever going to get to a Disney Princess film that promotes the Second Amendment.
Addendum to my original post. Besides, at least Mulan was actually shown training to become a good soldier, so she at least HAS a reason for being able to pull those off by training. In the 1991 Beauty and the Beast film, there were a few times where Belle came across as having the strength and athletic agility of a Kryptonian from DC Comics despite her not even being close to athletic, being explicitly a shut-in bookworm (she managed to splash water away without even looking up from her book, not to mention apparently lifted Beast up onto Phillipe while he was unconscious, lifted Maurice up while he was unconscious, and lifted Beast up from the balcony when he was nearly killed by Gaston in the climax).
Second addendum: Heck, if there’s one good thing about Mulan, it’s that unlike her predecessors, she at least ATTEMPTS to honor her parents’ wishes by going through the matchmaking ceremony instead of refusing marriage in a crass manner, and she doesn’t bash marriage or condemn it. Come to think of it, I also noticed that Mulan’s the only Disney Princess that was made purely by Michael Eisner (as her movie was released AFTER Katzenberg left Disney, and there were no more additions to the Disney Princess lineup until I think Princess and the Frog), which makes me think that the whole anti-marriage radical feminist schlock was more Jeffrey Katzenberg’s fault than Eisner’s.
Women can do something absolutely amazing and vital to humanity that no man can do. Unfortunately, our present culture has decided that giving birth is not only unnecessary, but detrimental to the environment. Subsequently, women have become devalued in their eyes and women are rightly objecting. Movies like Mulan, however, particularly as role models, are poor compensation for denying women’s true advantages and strengths.