The live action remake of the 1998 movie Mulan has been a craze since Disney announced it in Feb. 2017, with production beginning in Aug. 2018, and its eventual delayed release in Sept. 2020. The thought of watching yet another live action remake of a Disney classic made me grow weary; in other words, I was not particularly excited about this movie.
However, many were thrilled to see a more accurate portrayal of the actual Legend of Hua Mulan and Chinese culture, as this movie had a majority Asian cast.
Other people, conversely, were distraught over the disappearance of some of their favorite characters from the original animated version, such as Mushu the dragon and Captain Shang, in an attempt to accurately represent the legend.
The hype for this movie was understandable — this would be the first time there would be a live action Disney movie with an Asian cast. It was a big step for representation in the media, and a symbol of the empowerment of people of color.
Much of my indifference but hopefulness towards the movie has now been replaced with shock, disappointment, and indignation as the movie production continued to progress under the tense political environment of China.
For the past few years, there have been a series of anti-Communist protests in China. From the Umbrella Movement of 2014 to the Hong Kong protests in 2020, people are protesting what they believe is the return of the Communist party in China through restrictive legislation.
These protests were attended by the police, who were accused of using excessive force on protesters. They were reported to have used water cannons and tear gas against protesters, which was a decision supported by the government.
For those who don’t know, Mulan is a movie following a young woman’s military journey as she pretends to be a man to take her ailing father’s place in the army. At the end of the movie, she is recognized as the savior of China for fighting against tyranny and oppression.
The message of the movie is to fight for what you believe in, despite the obstacles you face in your environment. The character of Mulan is meant to be an exemplary model for this theme, as she fights for the safety of her family, despite being a woman in a male-dominated environment.
With this knowledge, it may be surprising and odd for people to hear that the lead actress, Liu Yifei, had sided with what many consider to be a tyrannical and oppressive state.
Yifei expressed her support for the Hong Kong police, stating on a Chinese social media platform, “I also support Hong Kong police.”
The purpose of movies is to bring to a life a theme or an idea, which is only possible if the actors are able to portray themselves in a way that shows that they believe the message of the movie. By showing support for the police, Yifei essentially told Mulan fans that she did not believe in the message of the movie.
Due to this support of the Hong Kong police, many people have called for the boycott of the film, even going as far as making it trend on Twitter: #BoycottMulan.
China has been engaging in the ethnic cleansing of Uighurs, a minority group residing in the province of Xinjiang. Since 2018, millions of Uighurs have been in what China refers to as “re-education camps.” These camps have been reported to commit numerous human rights violation including torture, sexual assault, and religious persecution against those who are forced to live there.
Parts of the movie were filmed in Xinjiang province. I find it ridiculously hypocritical for Disney to be filming a movie about the importance of fighting for freedom and justice in a place where millions are wrongfully held captive and war crimes have been committed.
This discovery of the dark history behind the production of Mulan raises many questions. Should people go see this movie, knowing what hides behind the surface? Is Disney a company that should be supported and praised for the efforts in diversity and inclusion, at the cost of ignoring the atrocities being committed in China?
More than anything, I believe that it is important for people to be informed before they make decisions. It is beneficial for each and every person planning to view this movie to reflect on its message, and the deeper implications of its production and viewpoints of those who worked on the movie.
To me, it is a movie whose means are not worth the end they produce, and it is a perfect example of how diversity and inclusion are often superficial and performative.