An Asian 'Mulan' Cast Should Be a Given -- Not Something We Have to Beg Disney For

Walt Disney's Mulan

When Disney released Mulan back in 1998, it was truly a film before its time. Grossing over $300 million worldwide, Mulan challenged gender roles by showing young girls they can kick ass (regardless of what society says) and by giving us an amazing Asian heroine -- which is something we don't often see. These are some of the many reasons why Mulan is so incredible -- and why so many are petitioning against the 2018 live-action film with #MakeMulanRight. Taking creative leeway is one thing, but whitewashing has got to stop. Thankfully, it looks like this time, Disney listened.

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This whole debacle came to light when the website Angry Asian Man featured an open letter to Disney after coming across an initial draft of the upcoming remake that would've shifted the focus from Mulan, the Asian heroine, to a white European man. As the letter says:

The man is a 30-something European trader who initially cares only for the pleasure of women and money. The only reason why he and his entourage decide to help the Chinese Imperial Army is because he sets eyes on Mulan. That's right. Our white savior has come to the aid of Ancient China due to a classic case of Yellow Fever. In this script written by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin, more than half of its pages are dedicated to this merchant who develops a mutual attraction with Mulan and fights to protect her in the ensuing battles. To top it all off, this man gets the honor of defeating the primary enemy of China, not Mulan. Way to steal a girl's thunder.

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Actor Joel de la Fuente quickly backed up claims on Twitter of Disney's initial plans to make a more Eurocentric live-action Mulan movie.

Although reports now indicate that Disney plans to cast an Asian love interest, fans of Mulan are holding those involved with the remake accountable -- by asking them to fix the draft and hire Asian writers -- with the viral hashtag #MakeMulanRight.

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A Mulan that changes the story of a young girl fighting in her father's place and protecting her country to one where a European sailor saves the day and strips the woman of the lead hero role in her own movie is not a Mulan we want to see.

Plus, how are you gonna just dismiss Li Shang like that?

As much as I ride for diversity, I also believe representation is important, too.

It's estimated that Asian actors only account for one percent of Hollywood roles. This is yet another reason why so many question why Emma Stone played an Asian and Hawaiian woman in a movie, why Scarlet Johannson got cast as a Japanese character in an upcoming film based on a manga, why Tilda Swinton is the preferred choice to play a Tibetan monk in Doctor Strange, or why Matt Damon is China's chosen savior in The Great Wall.

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As with all things in Hollywood, I'm sure this new Mulan movie is going to take its creative liberties. I can only hope it does not evolve into a film that strips the cultural elements -- and gender-defying significance -- of the original for the sake of relevance, or in fear a movie about an Asian heroine won't sell tickets without a white lead male.

Mulan kicked major butt at the box office as an animated film about an Asian-focused story. The live-action movie deserves the same leeway without watering down the ethnic significance or turning it into a major love story.

 

Image via Walt Disney Studios

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