Disney’s New Mulan Movie by Cindy Dai

Mulan‘s leading acress, Liu Yifei, at the 2016 Harper’s Bazaar China Charity Night (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

Disney’s live action adaptation of the 1998 animation film, Mulan, is one of the most controversial movies of 2020. The 1998 version of Mulan is a childhood favorite of many: female heroine Mulan’s courage and independence continues to inspire viewers. When word of a live action adaptation of the film first spread, many fans were excited and thrilled. However, as more details were revealed, different voices emerged, some in support of and some in opposition to the adaptation.

Opinions differ regarding the price of the film. Evidently, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the majority of movie theaters in the United States have been closed to promote social distancing and ensure public safety. As a result of this unexpected change, the premiere date for Mulan was pushed back from the originally scheduled March 27 to September 4. In addition, around August, a month before the release, Disney made the major decision that Mulan would not be playing in theaters. Instead, the film would be an exclusive feature on Disney Plus, a member-based online video streaming service similar to Netflix and Hulu. As a result, Mulan viewers must pay the monthly Disney Plus subscription fee of $6.99, followed by a fee of $29.99 for “premier access” to the film. Combining the costs, one has to spend close to 40 dollars to watch Mulan. While some complain about this high price, others assert that they are willing to pay for quality content.   

Another point of discussion revolves around the leading actress. Main character Mulan is played by Liu Yifei, or Crystal Liu, a 33-year-old, Chinese-born American actress. Many are currently boycotting Mulan because of Liu’s political views concerning the Hong Kong protests, which were catalyzed in 2019 by the proposal of the Fugitive Offenders Amendment Bill, a controversial extradition law, and have since led to tensions between Hong Kong’s police and protestors. When mass protests turned violent, in August of 2019, Liu spoke out on social media in solidarity with the police. She immediately received backlash for her statement, as many felt that she failed to acknowledge perceived police brutality in Hong Kong, but Disney ignored this backlash and continued movie production. After the release of Mulan, her support for Hong Kong police caught public attention again, and some feel that they cannot support a movie featuring an actress who supports Hong Kong’s police.

Lastly, Disney’s decision to omit some original characters from the new movie and the company’s attempt to make the adaptation more historically accurate might have led to a significant loss in viewership. Fans of the 1998 animation film were disappointed to hear that the iconic magic dragon Mushu is excluded from the new movie. Additionally, many Chinese viewers are frustrated because they feel that Mulan is disrespectful of Chinese history and culture. The story of Mulan is based on Chinese historical figure Hua Mu Lan; she is estimated to have been born during the Northern Wei dynasty (386 to 534 CE). While Mulan’s costume designer studied many historical documents in an endeavor to craft pieces that reflect Chinese clothing and fashion styles, she primarily referenced clothing styles from the Tang Dynasty, a much later time period; thus, the movie’s costuming is inaccurate.

Besides its role as a source of entertainment, Mulan has stirred up discussions concerning politics and cultural history. On the grounds that there is so much controversy surrounding Mulan, it is certainly a movie worth viewing!

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