This is the moment that I never knew I was waiting for, for my entire life.
I was five when I watched Mulan and somewhere in my basement is a home video of me, dressed in my green Mulan warrior costume doing exaggerated karate chops around my living room to the song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.”
According to one of my friends, Mulan doesn’t count as a Disney “princess” because she isn’t technically royal, and doesn’t become royal later on. But I could care less—she’ll always be my favorite Disney princess.
My adoration of her probably comes from the fact that I can relate to her on many levels; namely, I, too, am an Asian girl living in a patriarchal society, wishing to do something else other than be a pretty blossom to be married away to some powerful, handsome warrior. While obviously our society is a lot more progressive and I’ve (thankfully) got a much brighter future than Mulan would have, there are still a lot of things that make her the realest Disney princess around.
For one, she is independent. This is already more than can be said for a lot of other beloved Disney princesses. Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella are all pretty passive princesses and, in the Disney animated versions, wait on princes to come and rescue them. Mulan is a princess that shatters and subverts everything that society expects her to do—a trailblazer, if you will, alongside the likes of Pocahontas.
This isn’t to dismiss the fact that there is a lot of room for caution in making a Mulan movie. Inherently, the Disney rendition of the film was racist at various points. An example of this is that every character who was meant to be used as comic relief in the film (the Matchmaker, Chi-Fu) all had ridiculous heavy accents, while Mulan and Captain Li had American accents. There’s also the risk of appropriating Asian culture—an example of this being the Emperor fulfilling the “wise old Asian Man stereotype…repeating [sic] fortune-cookie phrases.”
With a film that is being marketed to a primarily white American audiences, there is a lurking danger that Disney will inadvertently make a movie that pokes fun at the cultural differences rather than celebrating them. Thankfully, it seems that Disney has been quite tactful in their reboots of the animated classics; it’s my hope that Mulan will follow this positive trajectory of modern retellings.
There is no word yet on when production is set to begin—the script is still being developed, so it’s possible that we won’t be able to see the film until onwards of 2017 or 2018. But personally, I can’t wait to see my favorite Disney princess come to life.
Here’s what the voice of Mulan has to say.
— Ming-Na Wen (@MingNa) March 30, 2015