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Mulan Causing Controversy Overseas

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

by Max Allen

In 2020 a remake of Disney’s original Mulan was released, a PG-13 “action/adventure” movie. The film differed from the original comedic cartoon- while there were differing opinions on the changes of characters and plot in the newer movie, the true controversy lies in the ethical issues, historical inaccuracy, and those involved with the movie.

Mulan was filmed in about 20 different locations in China, and in the credits of the movie, among the Chinese institutions that were thanked were, “four Chinese Communist Party propaganda departments… as well as the Public Security Bureau of the city of Turpan in the same region” (Washington Post). Both controversial groups are located in Xinjiang, a region known for their “re-education” camps as well as their oppression and abuse of minority groups.

The cartoon Mulan was loosely based on the original poem, “The Ballad of Mulan”. The newer movie attempted to adhere closer to the historical poem but in the original text, Hua Mulan was most likely not Han Chinese as the movie portrays. Rather she was a part of the Touba Clan, who ruled part of North China from 386 to 534. But the Touba Clan was not loyal to the emperor, as they followed their Khan. A piece written by a historian Kelly Hammond claims, “By erasing Mulan's ethnic identity… Disney is helping to rewrite Chinese history in line with Chinese state-driven narratives.” Mulan’s people are now a minority group in China.

#boycottmulan and #notmymulan movements started in China around August of 2019 when the lead actress, Liu Yifei, began supporting the Hong Kong police on social media. Pro-democracy protesters quickly started the movement. CNN quoted an activist from Hong Kong named Joshua Wong who spoke out against the movie, ‘"[B]ecause Disney kowtows to Beijing, and because Liu Yifei openly and proudly endorses police brutality in Hong Kong, I urge everyone who believes in human rights to #BoycottMulan."’ The movement also caused China to censor any content about Mulan from social media sites.

Due to Disney’s disregard of the original story, as well as their willingness to work with communist parties and an actress who supports strongly disputed police, their actions were not able to be ignored by many across the seas, as well as here in America.


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