Mulan and the Issue of Sexuality

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Mulan is an animated film created by Walt Disney Pictures which was released in 1998. The film is inspired by Chinese mythology, detailing the story of a young girl named Fa Mulan. In the film, the Huns, led by a callous man named Shan Yu, attempt to take over China. In response, China sends their army to fight back. Mulan’s father, Fa Zhou is a member of the Chinese army. However, his health is deteriorating. Concerned about his welfare, Mulan decides to join the army in his place, although it is not legal for a woman to join in the military in China. In fact, the punishment for breaking this law is death. Despite this enormous risk, Mulan dresses in her father’s armor and enters the army herself posing as a man.

 

By risking her life to save her father, Mulan has reached a unique level of gravitas. She is far from a stereotypical Asian female character; she is courageous, a fighter and a rule-breaker. She also demonstrates persistence in the movie; her fighting skills are not initially good, but she keeps at it. When fighting the Huns, Mulan uses a cannon to cause an avalanche to fall on the enemy soldiers, killing many of them. She also gets slashed by an enemy soldier in the process, but survives. This act is incredibly courageous for many reasons, one being that she was willing to go against the whole army’s wishes to do what was best and two because she survived truly dangerous combat. Mulan has certainly transcended conventional expectations at this point.

 

Mulan’s daring behavior continues: when it is found out that she is actually a woman, she is banned from the army (though thankfully not executed). Despite being removed from the group, Mulan heads back to the palace to save the emperor, who is in danger of being murdered by the remaining enemy soldiers. With a little help from her friends, Mulan battles the Huns and reigns victorious. She is then properly recognized by her country for her efforts. It is worth noting that she did have to risk her life numerous times to achieve this recognition.

 

The treatment of Mulan also brings to light the tremendous double-standards which have applied to many women throughout history. Had a man done what Mulan did, he would have been awarded immediately and certainly never expelled from any group. However, a woman accomplishing the same act of nobility is still ostracized. This treatment has occurred throughout human history and it is hard to explain or fathom exactly why. It is no doubt at least partially-related to the traditional gender roles in human history: the man is supposed to be the hunter, and the woman is supposed to stay home and take care of the children. This mentality seems to stay prevalent despite much evidence of it being a misconception.

 

Through her courageous behavior and unwavering commitment to doing the right thing, Mulan has in a sense transcended gender. Her heroic acts are more evident than the fact she is female. This is important because it shows that good deeds are independent of sociopolitical factors such as gender and race. In an ideal world, people are evaluated based upon their actions, their personalities and their character rather than their appearance. Mulan not only captured glory, she stood up for what was right and broke barriers which should not have existed in the first place. This movie shines the light on the truth and forces the viewer to view Mulan not just as a woman, but as a human being.

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