Mulan is the #2 trending topic worldwide right now on Twitter, at least that’s what it says on my feed, right underneath #TrumpIsALaughingStock.
Mulan is trending because a new trailer was released… and I love it, I love it so much. I love it so much I cried at my desk. I’m not sure that’s the unanimous reaction though. This is not a straight live action adaptation of the animated feature. This is a reimagining of Mulan’s story. There is no Mushu. Some people are pissed that there is no Mushu. Seriously?
There’s GONG LI.
GONG LI is worth a million Mushus. What the f-ck is the problem?!
If you’ve been visiting this site a while, you may have read what I’ve written in the past about Gong Li and what she means to Chinese cinema. She’s a legend – and it’s amazing to see her in this role, possibly as the Big Bad. And if we’re looking for a loose equivalent here, it’s like Charlize Theron’s Ravenna in Snow White and the Huntsman, only imbued with all kinds of Chinese historical and supernatural Chinese fairy tale-ing. This already, at least to me, feels fresh and modern …
But as Sarah asked, though she thinks Mulan looks great, who is this for?
Some have pointed out that what I see as fresh may not be fresh to Chinese audiences who have access to films like Mulan and for Western audiences, since they only care about the songs and Mushu, will they care? I hope they care. Naively and optimistically, I hope they care for something different, I hope they want to see a film that’s inspired by a familiar idea that’s been turned into a new story, with a new perspective. Kind of like the way Watchmen has been adapted into a television series that retains a certain spirit of the graphic novel but addresses more timely issues that we’re socially wrestling with? I guess that’s almost a setup for disappointment. And if that’s the case…
Maybe Mulan is for me?
I am both. I am Chinese raised in North America. I am bonded to my culture but also bound to the environment in which I built my identity. I live in two languages – thinking, reading, and writing in English but communicating so many ideas rooted in the teachings of Confucius and filial piety, a child’s duty to honour family and ancestral name. So I feel those scenes, when Mulan is with her family, when she watches her father, weakened by age, stepping up to assume responsibility even though, clearly, he can’t possibly fulfill that duty. If viewed through a certain lens of immigration, this is also a metaphor for the parents who left what was safe for the sake of family, as unprepared as they may have been for a new environment, knowing the difficulty, even the impossibility, and ready to make that sacrifice anyway. I don’t think Disney put all that money into the small comparative percentage of us who take that reading from this story but I’d like to pretend they did? I am all over this movie. Warning ahead for 2020 – you’re getting a LOT of Mulan content.