Last year it was announced that Disney was moving ahead with a live action version of Mulan. After hearing the news, Jezebel posted an article called Who Would Be The Worst White Mulan? Candidates included Scarlett Johansson, Anne Hathaway, Megan Fox, and Emma Stone.
This week, Disney confirmed that the live action Mulan project would be fast-tracked for release November 2018 and that “a global casting search will soon be underway to find a Chinese actress for the role of Mulan”…and people were relieved. Which in and of itself is f-cked up. That the first reaction to this news would be relief, or even gratitude. It’s like being relieved and grateful if someone walks up to you and doesn’t punch you in the face. Because the normal way to behave would be to NOT punch someone in the face when you walk up to them. And yet, it’s become so normal for Hollywood to punch us in the face when they cast white actors for roles meant for people of colour that when they actually don’t cast white actors, we’re all like, OMG, isn’t this so great?! Well, sure. They’ve met the expectation. If meeting the expectation is the new standard for applause, ok, yeah, this is so great.
I love Mulan. One of the things I love most about Mulan is that she was motivated by filial piety, the Confucian concept of parental honour that is considered one of the cornerstones of Chinese culture. We are taught, from the very, very beginning, that our priority in life is to respect our elders, to protect the family above all else. Confucius believed that filial piety should govern all our decisions and all of our desires. For Confucius, filial piety was key to spiritual enlightenment and essential to a whole and just society. Few things are more “Chinese” than filial piety. And while the concept of filial piety, and how it’s been historically interpreted, might not necessarily be congruent with a Western sensibility, there is value in the unfamiliar. There is value in meeting what you don’t know. Yesterday I read a piece at Salon about “Luke Cage and the racial empathy gap”. Because Luke Cage, the show, is so unapologetically black, which apparently makes some people on Twitter uncomfortable – they are conditioned to seeing a much whiter America and when an alternative one (that’s very much real for other people) was presented to them, they were outraged by the unfamiliarity. The thing about unfamiliarity though is that once it’s challenged, it’s not meant to last. The nature of unfamiliarity is that as soon as you identify it, it starts to expire.
Yours in gossip,