Oh I know what you are thinking.
How the hell could feminists take issue with a movie that is about a women defying all traditional gender roles, becoming a skilled soldier, and saving her whole country?
Apparently they manage to take a lot of issue with it. *eye roll*
So here’s the deal.
Feminists look so close at a piece of entertainment that they end up only seeing the brushstrokes and missing out on the whole image. In many ways that’s where feminists find problems in Disney movies and Mulan in particular. They are so busy looking at a single line in a single song, that they forget that the target audience isn’t seeing sexism in the film.
Ask a little girl if the scene where they sing “A Girl Worth Fighting For” where Mulan says “a girl who speaks her mind” and the men respond “Nah!” is supposed to be taken seriously, 99.99% of them will look at you like your crazy.
“No, because Mulan is a girl. So it’s supposed to be funny, because the guys like when Ping speaks HIS mind and he’s really a girl!” They will say…and then they will look at you like they think your brain is dribbling out your ears.
I know this from experience. Children can cope far better with the world than the average feminist.
Oh, Mulan. She’s meant to be non-offensive, and she ends up being not-anything. Despite claims to the contrary, she’s not a feminist hero. She has to dress as a boy to achieve selfhood, and refuses political influence in order to return to the domestic constraints of her father and husband-to-be. The movie itself doesn’t even pass the Bechdel test, if you consider that the only topic the other female characters discuss is Mulan’s marriageability – a hypothetical relationship with a man. The final defeat of the antagonist is achieved by the male Mushu riding on a phallic firecracker, as Mulan flails helplessly at his feet. Positive female role model? Case closed.
This movie was also the subject of comment from feminist critics. Mimi Nguyen says the film “pokes fun at the ultimately repressive gender roles that seek to make Mulan a domesticated creature.” Nadya Labi agrees, saying “there is a lyric in the film that gives the lie to the bravado of the entire girl-power movement.” She pointed out that she needed to become a boy to do it. Kathleen Karlyn, an assistant professor of English at the University of Oregon, criticizes it suggesting “In order to even imagine female heroism, we’re placing it in the realm of fantasy”. Pam Coats, producer of Mulan, aimed to produce a character that exhibits both masculine and feminine influences, being both physically and mentally strong.
Okay, hold up.Which way do feminists want it? Women to be dressed like women (isn’t that sexist to assume that women have to dress ‘feminine’) or that women should dress however they want and will get the job done?
No female soldier in this day and age goes to war in a dress, heels, and pearls anyway. Show me one military (besides North Korea) where the women dress in heels to do maneuvers and I’ll give you this point. Soldiers dress like soldiers, because dressing any other way would be impractical.
It’s also explained very well that women were not allowed to fight in the military, so of course she had pretend to be a man. In fact, the story would be quite boring if she hadn’t had to disguise herself. The irony, of course, being that she was finally able to be more like herself while in disguise.
And aren’t we forgetting that Mulan and her friends all accomplish their final victory over Shan Yu…while dressed as women?
Yes, even the men were dressed as women.
And that’s how they saved the emperor.
Every citizen who witnessed that moment were aware that a woman had not only saved the emperor, but also saved the entire country.
But here’s something they seem to be missing. This is a woman from a culture put stock in women being subservient and homemakers and respectful of their family, but Mulan broke the rules in order to protect her father and ended up bringing more honor to her family’s name than she ever could have just as a wife.
How is it not feminist for a movie to show a woman breaking out of her culture traditional role for her and being successful at doing so?
Then there’s this nonsense about the Bechdel test. Of course there aren’t two women talking about anything other than a man in this film. Literally the only scene where Mulan is conversing with other women is when she’s being prepared to meet her matchmaker! She spends the rest of the movie with an annoying cricket, a talking “dragon”, and a bunch of men. She has plenty of conversations with the other soldiers that don’t involve getting her man.
Why is it that she has so few conversations with women? Oh, that’s right, she’s pretending to be a man and she’s at war. Where exactly did she have the opportunity to converse with other women in a setting that wouldn’t look completely contrived?
Several feminist blogs make points about “anti-feminist” lyrics in the songs as well.
“Did they send me daughters, when I asked for sons” and a few others.
I think that, as with Snow White, feminists are missing the key point that the lyrics are making a mockery of the anti-women traditions of the era. How can they not catch the irony that the best soldier in the entire platoon is a woman, pretending to be a man. The most anti-female character of them all is also probably the most “metrosexual” male of the lot and it’s clear he’s a joke.
“Did they send me daughters?” Yeah, they sure as hell did and you’d better be grateful for that.
For my final piece of analysis I wanted to look at the ending after Mulan saved the entire city from the Hun’s. She is offered a job by the Emperor as the Emperor’s consul in which she refuses so she can return home and be with her family. This was the most shocking moment because she had the chance to be empowered beyond many men and yet she decided to return home. This gave me the speculation of her in the end playing into the stereotype of what women should be like: homemakers.
Okay, here’s another point. Bitch Flicks and DiaDL both make commentary about how Mulan turns down political power in the form of being counselor to the emperor.
Here’s the deal, Mulan didn’t do what she did for the reward. That was never her point. She did what she did, at first, to protect her father from dying at war. Then near the end she is fighting for “what is right”, which was the same reason her father was going to go to war. Mulan became much wiser over the course of the war, but she was also wise enough to know that she didn’t have the qualifications to be a consul to the emperor.
In many ways that makes her more intelligent than many of our modern day politicians.
As I said before, Mulan didn’t do what she did for a reward and in the end she just wanted to return home to her very worried family.
And for those that freak out about the fact that Mulan got the guy in the end anyway, let’s consider this.
On the one hand she could have ended up married to some man she probably didn’t care about at all, while the Huns were sacking China…or she could end up with a man who she’d grown to love and who had worked with her to save the country…
Somehow I don’t think she was feeling too put upon.
In the end, not only does the emperor of China bow down to Mulan, but most importantly she is finally able to be true to herself, while gaining the respect of her family and friends.
What in the world could be more feminist than that?