Written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Elizabeth Martin, and Lauren Hynek
Directed by Niki Caro
Based on the Chinese folk song “Ballad of Mulan”
Starring Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Li Gong, Jason Scott Lee, and Jet Li
Released by Disney, 2020
Running time: 115 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence
As a child in the 1990s, I grew up watching animated Disney movies, and I sometimes reflect on them with a sense of nostalgia. Many friends cite these as good, wholesome material to teach their children values, but as I look back with a more critical eye, many stories are less inspirational than I remember. The 1998 animated movie Mulan was a diamond in the rough and is still my favorite Disney movie. It’s about a Chinese girl named Mulan who enrolls in the army in place of her injured father and must pretend to be male to survive. She trains, then engages with the enemy, defeating a villain and saving the empire. I empathize with the teenage coming-of-age story, with having to deal with parental and societal expectations, and with the desire to protect those I value. For the live-action remake, though, Disney writers made changes to the plot that fundamentally undermine the heroic character of Mulan as portrayed in the animated movie. . . .
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2 I would like to thank Zhāng Gēpíng, Zhaò Wénqín, and Zhāng Hǎihai, who helped provide rich context on these traditional Chinese characters.
3 孝經 Xiao Jing, “The Classic of Filial Piety 孝經,” last modified September 9, 2020, http://chinesenotes.com/xiaojing/xiaojing001.html.