Mulan: Just Another Princess | Teen Ink

Mulan: Just Another Princess MAG

January 21, 2011
By Sobriquet BRONZE, Buffalo Grove, Illinois
Sobriquet BRONZE, Buffalo Grove, Illinois
1 article 2 photos 9 comments

“Mulan,” the animated Disney movie based on the ancient Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, is just another racist, sexist product of this giant corporation. As a child, Mulan was my all-time favorite movie – finally a ­Disney title character who wasn't blond-haired and blue-eyed! I could identify with Mulan because she looked like me. Although I am Korean rather than Chinese, I felt represented in this movie. As a five-year-old, I loved that Mulan wasn't waiting in a tower for her prince to save her.
I reveled in the fact that her life goal wasn't to go to some medieval version
of the prom and wear glass slippers.

Recently, I watched the movie again with the knowledge I have today. Lo and behold, I was disappointed in both the movie and myself for ever believing it was feminist or politically correct. Sure, the graphics are great. The setting is made with Disney's trademark precision and beauty. But even so, I was ­appalled.

Don't get me wrong, “Mulan” is a giant step forward in terms of feminism and racial equality … for Disney, that is. For the rest of the world? Not so much.

First of all, every character has a similar appearance: slanted eyes, short limbs, and a flat nose. The only factors that differentiate them are gender and hair style. Also, China's arch-nemesis, Shan-Yu, and the rest of his Hun buddies have faces that are rather more … ethnic. They have eyes you can barely see, gray skin, and a sickly appearance. They are either hulkingly huge or way too skinny. The appearance of all these characters, in my opinion, perpetuates Western stereotypes of Asians. According to Disney, all Asians look the same. In addition, if an Asian character is evil, he will simply look even more Asian.

Aside from the mild racism in “Mulan,” there is also a bit of sexism mixed in. “Mulan” has been hailed as a feminist Disney movie because it showcases a young woman who leads China to victory using her quick wit, pride, and a strong sense of family honor – all while masquerading as a man named Ping. Even though Mulan (as Ping) gains the respect of the army commander and her comrades, once they discover that she is a woman, her army commander and potential love-interest, Shang, loses respect for her and even hates her.

“Ping” had been doing an even better job than Shang, but when Shang finds out Ping is a woman, his stupid male ego breaks on impact. Mulan is sentenced to death, and Shang, the macho man of the film, ultimately gets to decide her fate. The only reason she survives is because Shang decides he'd rather just send her home. Wow. To add insult to ­injury, at the end of the film, Shang fixes up his shattered ego by claiming Mulan as a suitor.

Even as Mulan is being praised and cheered in the Forbidden City after she almost single-handedly saves China (this time, as a woman), at the end of the film, the audience is reminded that Mulan is really just another woman looking for a man. Mulan's real victory isn't saving her country from invasion. No, it's marrying Shang.

The fact that this is a movie I grew up idolizing makes me sad. All in all, “Mulan” perpetuates Western stereotypes of Asian culture and very quietly shows that even a successful woman will need a man at the end of the day. This movie is, admittedly, much better in terms of gender equality and world cultures than previous Disney movies, but that doesn't change its subtle messages. As a proud Asian girl, I'd like to inform Disney that my family's honor does not come from marriage, but from our achievements.

The author's comments:
I originally wrote this for my journalistic writing class for our movie review unit, but I decided to submit it here, instead.

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This article has 23 comments.

WeLookAlike said...
on Sep. 15 2016 at 8:37 am
You just said that Koreans look like Chinese people in your first paragraph then say that Westerners think all Asians look alike. Well, they do in the same way that white people look alike and black people look alike because they both have white and black skin @Sobriquet

alaska said...
on Aug. 21 2016 at 11:26 pm
I don't think that the movie promotes gender stereotypes, but rather that it raises awareness of social norms in history. Also, just because Mulan loves Shang and needs doesn't mean that she's weak. She still cares for other things, such as her family. She seems fine after her dad accepts her, even without Shang standing by her side. Plus, in the end, Shang finds Mulan, so while you may say this movie shows girls needing a man in their life, it isn't exactly sexist, because he cares for her as well. I do agree with you on the Huns part though. I noticed that in the movie as well, and was pretty annoyed. But other than that, the characters don't really look the same. Their noses and face shapes are all different, even though Mulan and her mom do look the same. I agree with the eye thing, but having "Asian" eyes isn't a bad thing or anything. I could go ahead and say that Disney has stereotyped all European girls as doe-eyed damsels instead, instead of bad-asses like Mulan. Anyways, your article was really well written, and I can tell you're a great writer so keep writing!

Sargun said...
on Jan. 15 2015 at 7:20 pm
I get your point but I kinda have to disagree. I'm a 14 year old Sikh and in our religion women are seen to have more divine qualities than men do (no offence to all guys out there). So I would like to point out a few flaws in this well written article. First of all Sure the characters all have similar features but how else is disney going to portray a movie with an Asian background. Trust me it's very hard for a cartoonist to portray a certain ethnic background if they don't have the most common and distinguishable features of that background. Second of all there is not many gender stereotypes in this film. In that time period women were not seen as capable as men. When Mulan dresses up as a man you see that her comrades respect her. The significance of this is to show what their beliefs where in that time period. When it is later revealed that she is a woman it doesn't actually say that they didn't respect her they were shocked and hurt because she lied to them. Their ego was shattered but they also realised that women were just as capable as men because let's face it every soldier was bowing down to Mulan's bad-assery. Shang was hurt especially because he had trusted her so fully. You would be hurt too if the person you trusted lied to you about themselves. When you said that Shang "claimed" Mulan as his suitor I definitely didn't agree with that. It was more like he was enamoured with her. Mulan and Shang's relationship is actually based on mutual trust admiration for each other rather than lust or love at first sight. All this talk about Mulan not needing a man, can't a woman love a man. You can still be independent because love doesn't make you dependant.In this movie she brought family honour because of her achievements it's only her grandmother who thought that she needed a man. Her father, her mother even the emperor didn't think she needed a man to give her family honour. I quote from Fa Zhou "The greatest honour is having you as a daughter". But I loved your article all the same because it was well written and it had a very firm opinion. You're probably going to get a lot of negative feedback but I encourage you to stick to your opinion as much as you can unless you feel that the other side is right. I am currently writing a story about a woman warrior and I'll take in your opinions of this movie and make my story as less gender stereotyped as possible. Already I've decided that she should turn up to the camp as a women and not dress as a man at all.

Missock said...
on Oct. 19 2014 at 6:59 pm
I don't understand your miff over the Mulan-Shang relationship. Are strong, independent and capable women not allowed to fall in love?

AliciaH SILVER said...
on Aug. 8 2012 at 11:46 am
AliciaH SILVER, Bronx, New York
7 articles 0 photos 11 comments
Even though it is an entertaining movie, it's definitely nice to know that other people pick up on how problematic it is. And I think it's great that your essay has inspired so much discussion!

on Jul. 30 2012 at 3:01 pm
Sobriquet BRONZE, Buffalo Grove, Illinois
1 article 2 photos 9 comments

Thanks so much! 

I thought I was the only one that held this opinion hahaha I couldn't find many others with the same views! 

on Jul. 30 2012 at 3:00 pm
Sobriquet BRONZE, Buffalo Grove, Illinois
1 article 2 photos 9 comments

Eep! These comments hurt for someone who's used to peope sugar coating everything XD 

Thanks for the insight, everyone! I'll use your tips to create better articles for the future!

on Jan. 23 2012 at 4:58 am
Sobriquet BRONZE, Buffalo Grove, Illinois
1 article 2 photos 9 comments
Yes, it truly was not a "complement". Yo, it's "compliment". Also, that was a compliment because the original commenter was very respectful and kind about my writing abilities.

Sandra said...
on Jan. 4 2012 at 7:28 pm
that was not fully a complement.

ChelseaH said...
on Dec. 7 2011 at 12:13 am
I also do agree with your opinion but in my perspective, I always see Disney movies as a source of entertainment for the young audiences but if you actually take the time to see how the filmmakers portray each characters, perhaps you'll might understand why she posted this. Besides, there are many students who are required to find a children's movie and write/critique on the piece of entertainment. 

on Jul. 28 2011 at 12:31 pm
Sobriquet BRONZE, Buffalo Grove, Illinois
1 article 2 photos 9 comments
Thank you :)

TheJust ELITE said...
on Jul. 27 2011 at 8:25 pm
TheJust ELITE, Ellenton, Florida
254 articles 202 photos 945 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I feel that a hero is somebody who will stand up for their values and what they believe in and that can take any form. People that have values and have thought them through rather than those who just do what they’re told."-Skandar Keynes

"When it’

I didn't mean in anyway to offend you. I'm simply stating my opinion. :)

on Jul. 27 2011 at 7:12 pm
Sobriquet BRONZE, Buffalo Grove, Illinois
1 article 2 photos 9 comments
Thanks for the feedback :) While it's true that girls were considered baby machines that were owned by men, I still hold my original opinion. Disney could have made this anything they wanted to make it. They're never very accurate, anyway (Pocahontas haha). But that's a very good point.

on Jul. 27 2011 at 7:10 pm
Sobriquet BRONZE, Buffalo Grove, Illinois
1 article 2 photos 9 comments
Eh. I get your point, but at the same time, it's not like they made Jasmine extra-hairy or extra nose-y or the black princess (I forgot her name, but she was in the one with the frog) with giant lips/nose/afro. Sorry if I'm offending anyone with this, but I'm just stating stereotypes. Anyway, it seems that they only exaggerate the Asian features, although I might have to brush up on my Disney knowledge a bit more :p

on Jul. 27 2011 at 7:08 pm
Sobriquet BRONZE, Buffalo Grove, Illinois
1 article 2 photos 9 comments

Thanks for the feedback! I never saw it that way, but that does make a lot of sense, although I still think it was mostly because she was a woman.

Dang, I didn't even know my story was in the magazine haha Anyway, yeah, I totally get your point.

TaHa404 SILVER said...
on Jul. 3 2011 at 2:10 pm
TaHa404 SILVER, Midlothian, Virginia
8 articles 0 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them."
~Lemony Snicket (Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid)

I completely disagree with your article. I am also Korean, and, similarly to you, I felt a special connection with this movie because Mulan was the first and only Asian Disney princess. I think that the movie demonstrated how a girl could overcome sexism and anti-feminism in a very sexist, anti-feminist environment. Another thing to note: this story takes place hundreds of years ago, and these steryotypes and "unwritten laws" are much less common in China today. Another note: Shang admires Mulan, and continues to fight alongside her in "Mulan II"! The reason that Shang let her live, was because she had saved his life! Again, it was ILLEGAL for women to fight in the army, so Mulan was breaking the law. I respect your opinions, but I don't really understand where you're coming from, and I was upset to see this published in the magazine.

AliciaH SILVER said...
on Jul. 3 2011 at 1:02 am
AliciaH SILVER, Bronx, New York
7 articles 0 photos 11 comments
I really enjoyed this article -- I think it shows a lot of thought and insight, and I agree that Mulan does promote negative images of Asia. (And of course, I can relate to the experience of growing up and taking issue with this particular movie ;])

on Jul. 2 2011 at 7:06 pm
freeflow23 GOLD, Durham, North Carolina
15 articles 0 photos 96 comments

Favorite Quote:
Saul saw Goliath as too big to kill. David saw he was too big to miss.

Very well written and thorough (even though I disagree a bit).

mikey2.0 said...
on Apr. 29 2011 at 9:49 am
They weren't mad at her for being a woman. They were mad at her for lying to them. So, what? You wouldn't be hurt if you found out that your best friend or someone you trust had been lying to you the whole time they knew you? I highly doubt it. They were hurt and they reacted the wrong way. 

Mydagirl GOLD said...
on Apr. 27 2011 at 4:31 am
Mydagirl GOLD, London, Other
18 articles 1 photo 16 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Because these things will change Can you feel it now? These walls that they put up to hold us back will fall down This revolution, the time will come
For us to finally win"-Taylor swift-Change

i agree with the original coment, women were opressed for centuarys and we needed to break free