Why I’m Not Excited for the Mulan Remake

So more information on the upcoming live action Mulan has been released and while I am glad that it will have an all Asian cast, I am not too thrilled on some of the other choices.

For starters, none of the songs will be featured in the new movie. Not even the iconic “Reflection” and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”. And according to the director, this movie is going to be a “a big, girly martial arts epic. It will be extremely muscular and thrilling and entertaining and moving.” And I’m not sure, but there are doubts as to whether Mushu or Li Shang will be in the movie.

*Face palm*

Remember how I said that Disney should refrain from making any more Princess movies? This is why. They feel the need to inject pseudo-feminism into all their new princesses. “Ooh, this princess isn’t like those old weak and useless princess. This is the hip NEW princess who will kick your ass who don’t need no man and will get mad at you for even calling her a princess but is still oh so quirky and relatable!” This is why I couldn’t get invested in Moana’s character, and am extremely anxious to watch the new Beauty and the Beast because apparently they couldn’t leave Belle well enough alone.

See, the reason why Mulan is so special is because it’s about a young woman struggling with her gender, her duty to her family, and her place in the world. I hate this description of it being a ‘girly martial arts epic’. The whole point of Mulan is that she’s NOT girly, nor a tomboy. She’s in between. She can fit the role of both a man and a woman, or be her own unique identity, and that she can still save China and be loved by her family. The action scenes make the film exciting, but they’re not the main focus of the original. That’s why “Reflection” and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” are so important. Aside from being fantastic songs, they also convey the core themes of the movie, how Mulan struggles to fit as either gender. I can see why they wouldn’t want to make this a full fledged musical (the original movie had only about four songs, not really enough to sustain one), but why did they have to cut them out entirely?

So yes, this current description of the movie is really rubbing me the wrong way. I’m afraid that they’re going to take a movie that has empowered people of all genders into a shallow action fake girl power movie. The director did take on a description that it would be ‘moving’ but after all this, that’s hard to fully appreciate and believe. I guess we’ll have to wait and see, but I’m in no rush to see it. I’m just glad the original film will always be a classic that will be appreciated for years to come.

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Animated Movies That Should Be Stage Shows

It seems that animated musicals converted into live stage musicals is a pretty solid business. Disney on Broadway is well know for taking some of their most beloved movies and giving them the stage treatment, but that doesn’t mean other movies (Disney or not) can’t share the spotlight either.

Recently, Anastasia became a stage musical and debuted at the Hartford Stage and is eyeing a Broadway performance. The Prince of Egypt is also expected to become a stage musical as well (which would be bloody brilliant) and Frozen is arriving on Broadway in the not-to-distant future whether we like it or not. The Hunchback of Notre Dame has been made into a stage musical but I’m not sure if it’s going to reach Broadway or not. There was a Broadway musical of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the 1970s and I think it would be amazing if they revived it but I’m not sure if that will happen.

Here are some other films that I believe deserve the stage treatment.

1: The Book of Life

This movie is a pure spectacle and doesn’t nearly get the recognition it deserves. A stage musical would not only help it gain more traction, but would also be a real treat. I can totally see the audience clapping and singing along and having a lot of fun with the performance. It would also be a great way to show Mexican/Latinx talent and culture.

2: The Nightmare Before Christmas

There have been a few live performances (such as HERE and HERE) to show that one of a bigger budget and grander scale could work. It’s widely popular and the movie is one of the best animated musicals out there so it makes sense that it should head to Broadway. It might be a little hard, but they should get around it.

3: Hercules

Simply put, the Gospel music and the Greek style would be amazing on Broadway.

4: Mulan

“LET’S GET DOWN TO BUSINESS / TO DEFEAT THE HUNS!” “WE ARE MEN! / YOU MUST BE SWIFT AS THE COURSING RIVER!” That song along would be utterly awesome live. The movie doesn’t have a lot of songs so new ones will need to be added, and I wouldn’t mind that.

5: Pocahontas

Yeah this is a problematic fave but maybe a musical (which often changes the source material) will be a chance to redeem it. You can keep the beautiful music and visuals but alter it to make it more accurate/less offensive. More than anything, “Colors of the Wind” would look amazing and “If I Never Knew You” would be a powerful performance live.

There are a lot of others (such as The Jungle Book and pretty much every Disney musical) but those are the major top five I can think of, considering there are a LOT of animated musicals of varying quality that may or may not work live.

Out of curiosity (and self indulgence) I wouldn’t mind seeing stage shows of Zootopia and Big Hero 6 (musical or not). Maybe not on Broadway, but maybe at a Disney Park. That would be cute at least.

So those are some of my picks. If you have an ideas, let me know!

 

A New Franchise For Disney?

So I was on Tumblr (as I always am) and I came across this picture:

disneymoviesanywhere:
“You too can save the day with these heroic Disney movies, now available at a special price.
”

For a split second, I thought it was fan made, but then I saw that it was part of an official post from the official Tumblr page of disneymovieseverywhere, with the following caption: “You too can save the day with these heroic Disney movies, now available at a special price.

If you click the link in the quote, you can see it lead to a webpage that is indeed dedicated to “Disney Heroes”. So far, the movies listed in this new category are Mulan (and it’s sequel for some reason), Atlantis: The Lost Empire (and it’s sequel, again, for some reason), The Sword in the Stone, Robin Hood, Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph, and Hercules. All of these movies have their followings (well, except for the sequels), and a lot of them are considered underrated (in other words, not universally hated).

When I saw this, I was pleasantly surprised (especially over the fact that Mulan is actually shown in her blue dress and as a hero, not a princess), but also very confused. For a company that’s mostly about Disney Princesses, Frozen, Star Wars, and Marvel right now, it’s really interesting to see them make a special page and offer dedicated to movies they barely acknowledge anymore. Why is that now, all of a sudden, we’re seeing a Disney Heroes collection? Is it going to feature a wider arrange of films (mainly Tarzan and Aladdin, movies which practically beg to be called “Disney Hero” films)? And, most of all, is this going to become a potential marketing franchise, like the Disney Princesses?

To be honest, I hope it does. Mainly because, I think children deserve a broader range of Disney-related products to play with and read. It would also give older fans a chance to buy products related to their new and old faves/not be swamped with the same merch from the same movies all the time.

I think they did have a previous Disney Heroes lineup a long time ago, focused on male hero leads, but died out due to the overwhelming popularity of the Disney Princess lineup. I could have sworn I saw a toy with a blue Disney Heroes label and mentions of it online but I can’t find any official info (if you have any, please let me know). So I wonder if this means they’re reviving it.I hope it becomes more successful at any rate.

I’m totally curious to see what they’re going to do with it. I think the best thing to do is to buy the movies offered to show Disney that people love them and would like to see more of them, and maybe Disney will do something from there. I really hope this leads to something, especially for Mulan (I don’t want her to be pigeonholed into just wearing glittery dresses and looking pretty and demure), Big Hero 6 (which is practically begging for a franchise; I just hope with its upcoming TV series we’ll see something more out of it) and Wreck-It Ralph (which has been almost completely forgotten, which is a shame given how good it is). I just hope it doesn’t mean that these are movies that Disney doesn’t care about and is lumping them together to sell them cheap for a limited time.

Is Mulan Non-Binary?

NOTE: For this post, I am referring SOLELY to the Disney movie. 

Out of the official Disney Princesses, I think the one most popular among fans is Mulan. Her narrative doesn’t entirely drive on her getting a man, she can hold her own in a fight, saves an entire nation, and is pretty relatable in her own right.

But one thing I found out through Tumblr and other social media is that she is very popular with trans and non-binary people. To the point where a lot of people headcanon her as such. Yet I’m starting to wonder if she actually might be non-binary in canon.

We all know that in the movie she’s very socially awkward and very clever, but you’ll also notice she’s not very competent with interacting with men or women. She doesn’t seem to have any friends beyond her family and animal companions.

We see that she feels very uncomfortable being overly feminine. She looks almost horrified seeing herself made up in the mirror, and throughout getting dressed and ready she doesn’t look too happy. She’s only really doing it in the hope of getting her family honour (needing notes in order to feel prepared to present) but throughout the whole thing she is extremely uncomfortable (the runaway cricket didn’t help). And then when it all goes south, there comes the famous song.

On the surface, it’s a song about someone who doesn’t fit in and wants to find their place in the world, but take a close listen to the lyrics:

Now I see / that if I were truly to be myself /I would break my family’s heart /Who is that is that girl I see / staring straight back at me? / why is my reflection someone I don’t know / somehow I cannot hide who I am / though I try /when will my reflection show /who I am inside? 

And the first thing she does is take off her makeup and look at herself with confusion and sadness. But it’s now starting to sound a lot like a coming out (trans/non-binary) song.

You can listen to both the original and the extended Christina Aguilera versions with the lyrics HERE, but with lyrics like “and be loved for who I am” “I can’t fool my heart” “Must I pretend that I’m someone else for all time” and “Must there be a secret me that I’m forced to hide”.

Like…that sounds a lot more passionate and beyond just someone sick of traditional gender roles. It actually sounds like a woman coming to grips with the fact that she’s q*eer/not a real ‘woman’ and it’s tearing her up in side.

Then, when Mulan begs her father not to go to war, he tells her “I know my place! It is time you learned yours!”, she gets beyond upset. I think what’s important to note is that she doesn’t just go to her room; she hides by her family’s dragon statue in the rain. This scene can double as being both scared and sad for her father and feeling like she no longer belongs with her family.

Yet because she still loves and is loyal to her family (the original story was about familial piety, and it’s still relevant in the movie) she decides to take her father’s place. When she joins the soldiers, she learns that she’s not comfortable with masculinity either. She becomes good at learning to fight and be a soldier and seems to like it well enough, but she doesn’t like actually being a man, and finds a lot of manly habits weird and gross.

She fights and succeeds in the war, but is immediately outed in a very invasive way (a pretty common narrative in a lot of stories with trans characters). She is soon shunned and left on her own. That’s when she delivers this line:

“Maybe I didn’t go for my father. Maybe what I really wanted was to prove I could do things right. So when I looked in the mirror, I’d see someone worthwhile. But I was wrong. I see NOTHING!”

Depression and self image issues are very common with LGBT people, and while Mulan shows signs of it throughout the movie, this scene, where Mulan has essentially failed as both a man and a woman, is really poignant in hindsight.

When Mulan decides to go defeat the Huns once and for all and gets the help of her friends, she is shown somewhere between being masculine and feminine; she wears a simpler blue dress that she can still fight in, keeps her hair short, and has no makeup. She also manages to use both the sword and the fan to defeat Shan Yu. It’s at the climax, when she is accepted and seen for a hero, when she realizes that she doesn’t have to be either a man or a woman. She can be both. She can be neither.

And ultimately, when she comes home, her family accepts her for who she is. The film ends with Mulan happy with who she is and starting to get to know Shang more without immediately rushing into a relationship with him (another potential piece of evidence of her being q*eer, since during the 90s, every Disney female lead would end up in a relationship with a man at the end).

As you can see, there’s a very valid interpretation of Mulan being a q*eer narrative. And given how Beauty and the Beast has more or less been confirmed to be a q*eer narrative (since Howard Ashman, who was a gay man dying of AIDS, was heavily involved with the story and characters in addition to the songs), it’s not completely out of the question.

Now, a lot of people will have different interpretations. Some people would like to see Mulan solely as a story about a woman defying gender roles and being empowered. Others might say that Mulan’s three male friends dressing in drag is transmisogynistic and therefore would hurt a q*eer narrative for Mulan herself. Others still might say seeing Mulan as non-binary is culturally insensitive, though the movie itself isn’t really culturally or historically accurate, and non-binary genders in China do exist (and in the original poem, Mulan says “How can they tell I am he or a she?”; make what you will of that). And, ultimately, Disney has yet to come out and say if she’s non-binary.

Yet what’s important is that Mulan, no matter what gender she is, has inspired so many people. She has helped trans and non-binary people feel valid, helped cis women feel empowered, and provided a cool and unconventional female lead for cis men. She is a great role model for people of all genders, and that’s what matters the most.