Disney mixes up Chinese elements in 'Mulan' trailer: net users

By Zhang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/9 18:43:40

The promotional material of Mulan Photo: Twitter account of @DisneyMulan

The 90-second live-action trailer for Mulan, a remake with real people of the popular 1998 Disney animated movie, proved a hit on Chinese social media, but its random appropriation of Chinese characteristics left some audience members debating the correct and incorrect artistic approach to representing Chinese culture and history.

The trailer released by Disney China on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo platform received 34 million views and Weibo hashtag #DisneyMulan had 320 million reads as of press time. 

The film tells the story of a young woman who pretends to be a man in order to fulfill her father's military service and protect the country, adapted from an ancient Chinese story from the Northern Dynasties (386-581).

Some sharp-eyed net users found the houses, makeup and dress more characteristic of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), "the most well-known image of ancient China," as film critic Shi Wenxue noted. 

Others pointed out the fight scenes combined some ninja gestures from Japan while the furniture style came from later times. 

The trailer provided an example of how the West misunderstands and misrepresents China, Shi told the Global Times on Tuesday, noting such a depiction appropriates Chinese culture to serve the Western imagination of China based on stereotypes.

Shi noted that "although it is understandable that a foreign crew lacks the capability to do solid historical research, whether such a portrayal would win a Chinese audience's heart remains to be seen."  

A Western audience may not care about the true story and expect certain Oriental "must-haves" in a movie about China, such as martial arts and historical costumes, the Beijing critic believed. 

Some net users did not mind the mixed-up Chinese elements and were confident that the richness of Chinese culture would not be harmed. Others warned such errors might hurt the Disney movie at the box office. 

Weibo user Yunheqiluo, a fan of the 1998 Disney movie, posted "the mix-up of Chinese elements makes it hard for me to indulge in the story."        

Another Weibo user identified another potentially sensitive issue for Chinese mainlanders and overseas Chinese.

 "I'm glad Disney used Asian faces, but it is a bit weird, if not offensive, to have characters speak bad English." 

The trailer reminded some net users of Burberry's New Year promotion that portrayed a supposed happy family in a creepy way, another example of misrepresentation of Chinese culture.
Newspaper headline: Disney mixes up Chinese elements in 'Mulan'

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