As an Asian person who lives in America, I am always excited to see big-screen movies that come out with an Asian-led cast. Representation matters because minorities should be able to see themselves as leads in movies. When there is little representation and we are sidelined as sidekicks, we see that our narratives are not as measured as important as others are. When Mulan was announced, many that I knew were excited about the prospect of a live-action movie with characters that looked like them. We can actually see ourselves in them as Doua Moua is of Hmong descent. Simply based on this, this movie helps to celebrate who we are and how we fit into the realm of American movies. However, the movie falls flat of actually empowering Asians through its narrative.
The movie itself lacks candor, strong relationships, and character growth. They decide not to include any humor, songs, and magicality in the movie, leaving behind a mostly dramatic movie that lacks any of the charms of the original. And to add insult to injury, they do not develop Mulan or her relationships with anyone, leaving the audience to not care for her struggle. In the new movie, she is already a force to be reckoned with at a young age and must shed her lies to reveal her true self, meaning there was no character development. We do not see her overcome anything and there is no dramatic weight to the film because we are never made to feel as if she has a strong relationship with the romantic lead or her father. Even the coterie of soldiers do not feel like a band of friends because they do not do anything together. Although all the actors were Asian, behind the scenes, many of the decisions were made by a mostly White crew, which I felt did not do the movie justice.
The movie had four White writers, and this may have been a reason why the movie didn’t have a strong Asian feel to it. Does every ethnic movie need to have an ethnic writer behind it? No, but if there are four writers, why is not at least one Asian? I think the writers failed to really embellish on what an Asian fantasy movie could be. They did away with the ancestors and Mushu of the original, but opted for a phoenix that only Mulan could see instead, which held little cultural significance. There is a lot of wonderful mysticism that is deeply embedded in many Asian cultures and none of this was brought out. Instead, we got a white-washed version of honor, family, and truth. The music that is supposed to imbue us with feeling is painfully non-Asian, showing that this movie was really made by White people for White people. When the writers, the costume designer, the music composer, most of the producers, and the director are all white in a movie that is supposed to celebrate Asianess , how can I see myself in it?