The #BoycottMulan Dilemma

By Ian Klane

September 29, 2020

  Since its announcement a few months ago and full release at the beginning of this September, Disney’s new live-action remake of Mulan has already faced harsh criticism for the exclusion of all song performances and the character of Mushu. The film’s Viewers are not only complaining about the film itself and its many inaccuracies, but are as well upset with the many other ethical dilemmas that were brought up, causing many viewers and critics to go as far as to boycott the film.

     Liu Yifei, who plays the main character Hua Mulan in the film is now under fire for some very controversial statements she has recently made regarding the horrific police brutality of protestors in Hong Kong. 

     “I support the Hong Kong police. You can all attack me now. What a shame for Hong Kong,” Yifei posted on Weibo in August 2019.

     The #BoycottMulan movement that began trending in Hong Kong on the Chinese social media site Weibo, and has spread to Twitter,  is not only trending due to the film’s many inaccuracies but is also due to the film’s shady filming locations and some controversial statements made by its leading cast member.

     Many of the locations and areas of China that Mulan is filmed in are being criticized for their controversial nature.

     Mulan, being a film about Chinese culture naturally is filmed in China, more specifically in Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in northwest China known as the home to many ethnic minority groups, including the Turkic Uyghur people. 

     Xinjiang is the location of many secretive so-called “re-education” camps where Chinese authorities have detained millions of  Uyghur people and many other ethnic minorities where they are forced to study Chinese communist propaganda through various means of psychological and physical means of torture.

     Mulan has a cast of some of China’s most popular movie stars, which would seem like a logical way to market the film to its Chinese audience. However, the film is very westernized and still features many orientalist stereotypes such as using Arabs as the invading Rouran army, featured as the dark-skinned dressed in black villains of the film.

    “Mulan feels like a watered-down version of a potentially captivating story. It’s not surprising to hear Chinese characters speaking stilted, accented English, which is standard practice for a Hollywood blockbuster set in an Asian country,” said Justin Chang in a review for NPR.

   There are many historical inaccuracies featured in the film including issues with the type of architecture featured as well as issues about Mulan’s origin. Many of the Chinese moviegoers who had learned about Mulan in the original poem about her took issue with the fact that Mulan who is from China’s northern steppe, could not possibly be living in a Fujian tulou as depicted in the film. This is because these are rural dwellings unique to the Hakka in the mountainous areas in southeastern Fujian, China.

     “The film portrays an imaginary version of China, and many Chinese audiences cannot accept this,” said Lu Hang, a Chinese film critic, and producer according to the New York Times.

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