With the recent release of Disney’s Mulan, the film has drawn much criticism from the Asian community and with good reason. Many believe that, of the myriad of live-action remakes based on Disney’s original animated classics and released over the last decade or so, this one badly misses the mark.
In a recent review of the film, the author who simply refers to himself as A Naga of the Nusantara decries this new Mulan, stating it brings “dishonour to us all”. It’s a clever nod to the animated musical film’s song “Honor To Us All” which implies that the latest iteration of Mulan fails to do justice to the legendary story of the renowned female Chinese warrior.
The Naga asks, “How is it that there are way more Chinese people involved in this new version of Mulan and we still end up with a less culturally-reverent movie?”
It’s a legitimate question that warrants careful attention. The Naga’s review breaks it down for us, noting cultural inaccuracies and the imposition of Western concepts and viewpoints on what should be a strictly Chinese story. It’s well worth the read, especially for those of us who are outsiders to Chinese history and culture.
As screenwriter and director Faith Elizabeth points out, there actually was a well-made 2009 live-action film version of the Chinese legend already in existence long before Disney’s attempt.
Directed by Jing-Le Ma and starring Zhao Wei, Mulan: Rise of a Warrior was completely created by an all-Chinese team — a fact that clearly lends cultural authenticity and realism to the film and adds much more depth to it.
As Asian audiences chime in with their thoughts, the underlying point of the critiques and pushback is this: when it comes to Asian stories like that of Mulan, it’s clear we need to listen to what actual Asians are saying regarding how and by whom those stories are being told and the way they are portrayed to a global audience.
It’s no secret that despite strides to increase visibility and representation for Asians both on-screen and behind the scenes, it is still heavily lacking on both ends, which leaves a lot of room for insensitive errors and misrepresentation, as is evidently the case with this new live-action Mulan.
That’s why it’s so important for us to support original content made by Asians themselves. We need to amplify the voices of those who are able to identify any issues in the content being created, and work to ensure the industry learns from its mistakes so it can provide more opportunities for Asian artists and creators across the board to tell their own stories.
No one can tell the stories of a specific culture better than the very people to whom those stories belong. So it’s time Hollywood gave Asians a chance to tell theirs.
If Mulan 2020 isn’t your cup of tea, you can check out the trailer for Mulan: Rise of a Warrior below and view the full film with a subscription on Funimation.