Disney’s live-action retelling of its classic animated movies continues with the latest addition Mulan. The movie is based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, a brave warrior woman who takes her father’s place in the army to fight against the invading Northern Forces.
Disney’s princesses had always been the epitome of gender stereotyping. Over the years, this was criticized severely by many and Disney clearly didn’t wanted to address serious issues like gender politics in their narratives. It is in this light that we should understand that the recent retellings are not just about taking us down the nostalgia lane or rendering a perfect live-action remake of their old blockbusters. The movie studio wants to correct their past mistakes and tell stories that are more appealing now. Diversity and representation are trending topics and Disney wants its share of the buzz.
However, no matter how hard they try, it all ends up as desperate gimmicks to get attention. Recent movies like Captial Marvel (Well, you know who owns Marvel, right?) and Aladdin showcased this desperateness. Captain Marvel was introduced as the first solo woman superhero movie of their decade-old cinematic universe. The movie failed tragically in its silly attempt to project the superhero as a feminist symbol. Later, they did the same with the live-action remake of Aladdin. Rather than being just a love interest for Aladdin, the lead female character Jasmine was given a satisfying arc that didn’t stand apart from the main plot. Unfortunately, the movie was still about the male protagonist and his adventures.
With Mulan, Disney might be aiming for a full-on feminist movie. The original 1998 animated flick, directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook, itself was praised by critics for exploring and breaking conventional gender norms. The movie was released during the third wave of feminism and Disney was trying to capitalize on the trend. Despite many positive feminist images and departing from the usual “damsel in distress” storyline, the film had its troubles in staying true to its feminist thoughts.
The recent teaser that dropped appears serious in its content and lacks many Disney elements including their iconic songs. With an Asian woman in the lead role, the scope of the movie widens into territories that were once marginalized.
In the teaser, an elder woman of the family is seen explaining the traits of a ‘good wife’. These traits, of being quiet, composed, graceful, and disciplined, are the ones that Mulan’s family wants to see in her. While these traits are being told one by one, a montage of Mulan dressing up in their traditional female attire and makeup is shown juxtapositioned with her training with her sword.
The original flick may have had a hard time figuring out its feminist agenda. But, the new live-action version might focus more on its feminist core. Rather than Mulan just trying to be a man to break the gender stereotypes, we might get a Mulan who can finally embrace her female qualities to become a superior warrior. After all, the traits for a great warrior are also being quiet, composed, graceful, and disciplined.