I love the Disney animated feature, Mulan. Sure, it’s not a perfect adaptation of the Chinese legend. I was just happy to see Disney take on Chinese culture at the height of my “Chinese history is so awesome!!” phase. I was hyped to deep dive more into the history and culture of ancient China when I found out we were going to have an entire unit dedicated to Chinese history in my 9th grade World History class. I also knew from Chinese American friends that what Disney showed us wasn’t the actual legend; there was no fast talking dragon. American born Chinese middle school friends were like, “She kills herself in the end!” Neither did Ariel in the Little Mermaid. I figured Disney was going to Disneyfy any tale that comes their way.
Let’s get a few things out of the way here. I identify as both and Asian American – shared diaspora is a thing. I identify as Filipinx American. Lea Salonga, singing voice of Mulan and Jasmine, is a national hero. Should Epcot go forward in building a Philippines pavillion, I would love to see a Lea Salonga statue there as she was not included in my university’s alma mater’s mural honoring Filipino Americans.
It’s not the lack of Mushu, lack of musical numbers, or removal of certain characters that got to me. I was actually looking forward to a Mulan movie that looks and feels like a wuxia movie. I forgave that the director was a New Zealander who’s best known for nature pictures (Whale Rider). Maybe a second unit director…fight choreographer…art director, etc would helm that…? I even forgave that one of my favorite composers, Harry Gregson-Williams (Metal Gear series) was working the score when I can name several Chinese and East Asian composers that would have contributed to the score.
I was open to a retelling of the folktale. I was always aware that there’s different versions of the legend – befriending a gal named Xianniang, leading the army as a woman in disguise, eventually being found out but still leading the charge, taking her own life so she wouldn’t be a concubine, etc. I was wondering what Disney would keep from the original source to fully give the Legend of Fa Mulan authenticity to the culture.
And then Yifei Liu, the face of the movie, made no apologies supporting police brutality in Hong Kong while living comfortably as a Chinese American immigrant in New York. “I support the Hong Kong police. You can beat me.”
You see…Disney has not had the best track record of public relations when it comes to actors and crew members running their mouth on social media. Yifei Liu is no exception. Yifei made this post after filming was completed.
In light of the Hong Kong protests against the corrupt Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Chinese actors were allegedly told to post on their social media “One China” followed by a flag of China. Even martial arts film superstar, Jackie Chan, was supporting this social media movement. This is what is letting American netizens to believe that she was forced to. However, Crystal Liu went on to say she sided with the police in a post, “I support the Hong Kong police, you can beat me.”
While she could have posted the One China copy / paste, was it really necessary to run further with it? It’s one thing to copy / paste or share the One China post, it’s another thing to take additional action with it. While people argue, “She’s doing it to protect herself!” Yet, people don’t realize that at the very bare minimum, she could have posted the copy / paste if it were just to save face.
Jackie Chan is in full support of Beijing and makes no apologies for it. He’s gone on interviews to show his support. Crystal Liu also has family in high positions of authority and privilege in China that she benefits from. It is important to note that Crystal Liu moved to the United States at the age of 10. She currently resides in the the United States.
If you are unfamiliar or need a refresher on what’s going on in Hong Kong, you can deep dive more into the Hong Kong Protests here. It is a huge rabbit hole and there’s a ton of violent imagery that accompanies it as well. If you would like to stay updated with what’s the current state of affairs and unrest in East Asia and South East Asia, the hashtag, #MilkTeaAlliance, provides articles on the daily and sources on how you can support the people of Hong Kong.
Asian Americans are put in a rock and a hard place with 2020’s Mulan. Yes, we want representation, but representation that best shows us who we are. As an American, I am not down with police brutality worldwide. My Mulan would be fighting alongside the Hong Kong demonstrators for Democracy. Before you go on your platform and say that Mulan is a “win” for Asian American representation, it’s not. This is not my Mulan because it doesn’t have Mushu, jaunty musical numbers, etc; Mulan would never be the darling of the Chinese Communist Party.
Sorry, it’s hard to separate “art from artist” on this one.