Mulan is a Disney Princess that is possibly one of the physically and mentally strongest out of the lot. That’s not to take a knock at any of the other princesses and their hardships, but it’s no mean feat to go through war in order to protect your family and be simultaneously scared of being put to death if found out.
Another of the sidelined princesses in the past couple of years, Mulan is the last original princess before the additions start with Tiana some years later. She still has some faults, though I do not think these are her faults as opposed to the faults of her writers. The relationship she has was Shang is generally unnecessary and does nothing to flesh out her character: she’s strong enough on her own and the audience knows this. To her credit, she still does not fall head over heels like a ditz for the man, and she changes the typical roles by saving him at the end of the day.
That aside, we’re still presented with a strong heroine that rails against the patriarchy to save her father. Impetuous? For sure, but no more so that Ariel trying to change her fins to legs. Aside from at the beginning of the film, very little time is given to Mulan’s figure, the clothes she wears or her beauty, except for how she hates having her worth being placed on those values.
I know some people have placed criticism on Mulan’s issues with herself and her appearance, as seen in the song ‘Relflection’. If anything, I find it to be a stark demonstration of how the pressure of beauty standards can still oppress women that might have incredible inner strength. Much like model Cameron Russell says, some of the most insecure people in the world are models, people who should have no reason to be so compared to us ‘mere mortals’. I hope when little children see Mulan, their parents instill in them that the fear Mulan fears is real, but not one we need to be constrained by.
Another point I cannot ignore when writing of Mulan is that of her ethnicity. The whole film is set in China, depicting the clash between the Han Chinese and the Mongols. History inaccuracy aside, I think it is notable that Mulan did not perform that well at the Chinese box office, and it is also interesting that Mulan was accused of being too foreign looking. The Asian population is of course a significant percentage of the population and one that is pushed aside and underrepresented in the Disney Princess pantheon. Mulan and Pocahontas have the least obvious Disney Princess one colour design and their exposure little children has suffered as a result.
Mulan is a princess to be celebrated, one that really pushes the boundaries more to lead the way for Merida, Tiana and Elsa. Hopefully Moana will also take up on her mantle. Mulan is not without her faults, but at least provides a more rounded picture that Disney was pushing for since Belle and Ariel. If I could have multiple wishes for Christmas, one would be that more little girls would come to love Mulan and learn from the lessons she demonstrates.
(photo credit: childad.com)