In response to Deborah Ross’s arguments in her article “Escape From Wonderland: Disney and Female Imagination ? (2004) against The Little Mermaid (1989) and Alice in Wonderland (1951), Mulan (1998) embodies a more realistic and valuable theme of Disney. Ross predominantly claims that Walt Disney’s movies influence and brainwash girls by showing them princesses that act out of folly and pursues fantasies that are far out of reach. However, Disney’s motion picture movie, Mulan, has inspired many girls across the globe to become women with high merit.
Its representation of gender allows the audience to recognize the reality that women face as traditional cultured descendants. For instance, in the movie, Fa-Mulan, the protagonist, grew up in a family where marriage was arranged, family honor was respected and society was male-centered. She went against these cultural values with actions such as disobeying her parents, fighting in a war, and in a way arranging her own marriage. Each of her actions was justified with an understandable reason, which will be explained further.
Moreover, Mulan exemplifies the depiction of women, moral principle, and unconditional love with actions such as taking her father’s place in the war. Although it was against her culture and values, she took her father’s place in absolute respect and protection of her family. With the Chinese culture in Mulan’s timeframe, sending a family in the war was an obligation, and Mulan fulfilled that duty as a sign of strength and courage. The setting takes place in Han, China during a time of danger.
In preparation for the Mongolian Huns invasion, the emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, demanded that all men from each family in Han must partake in the forthcoming battle. Fa Mulan’s father and war veteran, Fa-Zhou, was the only man in his family that could report for duty, however he has aged and suffered from his first injury in a past war. Though he had respectfully accepted the emperor’s request, Mulan worried that his condition would worsen. Fa Mulan, strong-headed and stubborn, refused to let her father go.
Mulan’s mother, Fa Li, and Grandma Fa struggled to accept Fa-Zhou’s decision. Mulan spoke up, telling her father that he should not have to fulfill the emperor’s request when there are hundreds of young men to do so. In disagreement, Fa-Zhou claims that he will gladly serve for his country and die in honor. When Mulan made her last effort to convince him to stay, he furiously told her that his decision is final. The tension in the family deepened and Mulan was left frustrated and defenseless. In addition, Fa Li felt as strongly as Mulan did about Fa-Zhou’s resolution.
Not only does it seem as if he did not take their opinion into consideration, but it shows that women outlook holds little to no significance to men. The traditional Chinese culture entirely makes women submissive which is denoted throughout Mulan. The movie begins with Mulan preparing for her meeting with the matchmaker for her arranged marriage. In the first song, “Honor To Us All ?, Mulan is “beautified ? as an ideal bride by her mother and other women glamorizing her with excessive makeup and a tightfitting gown.
The song sends out the message that claims women are only good for looks and marriage. However, after greatly disappointing the matchmaker with her unintended clumsiness and impolite mannerism, Mulan realized that being an ideal bride was not her role in society. Her parents and grandma felt helpless rather than disappointed. As Mulan struggled with her self-identity, she came up with the impulsive idea of taking her father’s place. As a result, she chose to disguise herself as his hypothetical “son ?, impersonate herself as a soldier and name herself “Ping ?.
This differs from Ross’s arguments because rather than “escaping boredom ? and “satisfying curiosity ? (Ross 58), she does a deed out of moral principle. In Ross’s article, she pointed out in The Little Mermaid (1989) that Ariel chased a fantasy that was foolish (58). Ariel, in this case, ended up sacrificing her life for a man whereas a Mulan sacrifices her life for her family, an asset that is far more valuable. In Mulan, impersonation of a soldier especially by a woman was against the law. Though Fa Mulan disobeyed the rules, she followed moral principle, which in this case was to protect her father.
She nervously went into training camp blinded and was overwhelmed by the challenges of masculinity. The other men did not quite find her suspicious, but they thought “Ping ? was undoubtedly odd. Throughout the movie, Mulan tries to prove herself to the men in war. In the beginning, she was seen as one of the weak soldiers. At one point, Li Shang, the captain, sent Mulan home because she was unable to keep up with the other men. With strong work ethic and perseverance, she began to prove herself. Mulan refused to settle for what felt like failure. For instance, one task highlighted during training was the arrow retrieval.
Li Shang ordered all men to reach an arrow at the top of a wooden pole hundreds of feet high with weights of “strength ? and “discipline ? on each arm. All of the men failed to complete the task. Just as Mulan was packed up to leave, Mulan approached the pole on her own when all the men were asleep. The morning after, all the men saw her sitting on top of the pole and flung the arrow in front of Li Shang. She amazed her captain and troop men. From this moment on, Mulan positively encouraged and motivated her mates who all eventually completed their training successfully.
Again, this highlights the amount of strength that Mulan retained as a woman. Ariel was unwise in making sacrifices for Prince Eric, but Mulan had a greater purpose for her decision. In “Escape From Wonderland: Disney and Female Imagination ?, she states ” ¦many acts of self-torture earn her a slight reprieve as she is turned into a spirit of the air, instead of sea-foam, and given a chance to gain a soul by performing more selfless deeds ? regarding The Little Mermaid (Ross 59). Mulan’s determination led her to not only fight successfully in placement of her father, but she saved Li Shang, the emperor, and all of China.
Coincidentally, Mulan fell in love with Li Shang and vice-versa. The admiration found in Mulan is that, it is not a typical Disney movie where a princess chases her prince charming in what we call a fairy tale. Instead, she found herself a role that she was content in and ultimately proud of, a legendary female warrior. Her reward was her own accomplishment, not a man. Lastly, Mulan is set apart from most Disney movies because it emphasizes the importance of family. Disney’s motive in the following classics heaved in a tragic death to allow the audience to feel sorry for the main character.
In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951), and The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning prequel (2008), tragic deaths of either one or both parents occur. In Snow White and Cinderella, both parents pass away due to an unknown cause. In Alice in Wonderland, she is characterized as an orphan and her parents are not even slightly mentioned. Furthermore in The Little Mermaid, Ariel’s mother gets hit by a ship and sadly dies. Though Mulan had her moments of despair, she did not have to face tragic death.
In the beginning, Fa-Zhou neglects Mulan’s opinion regarding the war, but when she returns home after fighting in his place, he accepts her. His acceptance of his daughter’s role demonstrates such unconditional love and value parenthood whereas the previous examples listed lack that quality. Additionally, Fa-Li and Grandma Fa are also supportive of Mulan’s decisions. Children who grow up watching Disney movies should not have to feel remorseful for the protagonist; they should feel inspired and positively influenced. Toward the end of the movie, Mulan faced women subordination once again.
After Mulan fired a canon at a snow mound, she successfully caused an avalanche over the hundreds of Huns. During her fire, Mulan was injured by one of the charging Huns. When she is taken to a doctor for treatment, she is forced to uncover her true identity. Several moments later as Shang and the troop men left her behind, she noticed that there are still Huns alive who are not finished with their agenda. When Mulan rushed back to town to the “victory ? celebration, she tried to find someone who will believe that the Huns are still alive.
The men proceeded to the ceremony and received their recognition without giving Mulan any credit. In this scene, it showed that women were inferior. Even when she found Shang and the troop men and tried to persuade them of her finding, no one believed her. When she was Ping, she was trusted but when she returned to being Mulan, her voice was ignored. Later, China witnessed that Shan-Yu, the captain of the Huns, captured the emperor just as he was honoring Li Shang. When the men realized that Mulan was not lying, they helped Mulan in defeating the remaining Huns.
As a result, the emperor rewarded Mulan his crest and Shan-Yu’s sword as a symbol of great honor and achievement. When the rest of China observes the emperor’s gesture, the scene ends with all of China bowing down to her embracing their veneration towards her. Mulan demonstrates a great deal of strength, intelligence, and bravery. Alice and Ariel showed independence, but not for the justified reasons that Mulan did. I agree with Ross that they merely went on their own exploration out of boredom but to refute her overall claims, Mulan developed herself and applied her skills to situations that rewarded her with excellence.
It may seem as if Fa-Mulan only did deeds to please her family, she surprised herself with her hidden capabilities. However, culture should not be ignored. The traditional society in Mulan embraces family honor. She was committed to achieving her goal with the rational purpose of defending her loved ones. She went to war in place of her father and protected her family like a true soldier as a female. Fa-Mulan’s character is exceptionally impressive and favorable because she represents the limitless potential in women, qualities that Ross failed to mention.