Patriotic theme in Mulan film shouldn’t be politicized

By Li Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/10 19:57:43

"She appears solemn and resolute: Mulan is a now robotic warrior… It feels like Disney is waving a big red flag in everyone's faces in its desperation to secure success at the Chinese box office." This is an excerpt from a review published in The Guardian's website on Monday. The review, written by Jingan Young, focused on Disney's official Mulan trailer. The article said Mulan has been transformed into a "patriotic saga."

Chinese people do not want to politicize the Disney film, but some Western people insist on politicizing it. It seems that some people tend to politicize everything involving China. Now that the movie is tagged "patriotic," as if it should not have been, let us see how the Chinese folksong "Ballad of Mulan" originally described Hua Mulan, a girl from the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386-589) who disguised as a man and took her father's place in the army.

"For miles and miles the army marched along, and crossed the mountain barriers as in flight… In ten years they've lost many captains strong, but battle-hardened warriors come back in delight." This is an excerpt from an English version of the old Chinese ballad. These lines show the Chinese traditional spirit of protecting their homeland and resisting foreign aggression. Such noble spirit concerns a country's destiny and has been one of the roots of traditional Chinese culture.

According to a report from, an online magazine on entertainment industry news, the Mulan trailer reached 175.1 million online views within its first 24 hours, making it the seventh-highest trailer launch of all time. Why is it highly expected by so many people worldwide? The main reason is the story is attractive. The sword fights and acrobatics performed by Liu Yifei, widely known as "fairy sister" in China, are also an important reason. People love to see the Chinese elements in the trailer, which also includes the above-mentioned Chinese spirit.

To say that "Disney is bowing to China's nationalistic agenda" is absurd. Hua Mulan is a legendary Chinese warrior who loves her homeland. Thus, every version of Mulan is supposed to be naturally endowed with patriotism to be in line with the authentic story. But in Disney's 1998 animated Mulan, Americans intentionally weakened the patriotic spirit and intensified gender equality and female independence. Isn't this "bowing to" Western ideology?

If Disney wants to appropriately tell the story, patriotism should and must be included. Patriotism is natural, and it also explains why the story has been eulogized for more than a thousand years in China. There is nothing wrong for Hua Mulan to appear "solemn and resolute," because this is how people will appear when they are in a life-or-death war and this is also the spirit of Chinese warriors. 

Soaked in the Western environment, many Western people failed to notice that Hua Mulan is a legendary in China who is brave enough to protect her family and her homeland. She is a hero, not a so-called robotic warrior. Mulan is scheduled to be released in 2020, but there have already been extensive discussions online. We hope the discussions will trigger people's attention to Chinese culture and tradition. This is an important factor to understand today's China.

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