Growing Up With Mulan

Word came out earlier this week that Disney plans to make a live-action film of the 1998 animated film Mulan. My gut reaction was, “Yes, it’s our time! I love Mulan!” I was Mulan for Halloween three years in a row in first through third grade: two years as Mulan in the pink dress and one year as Mulan the warrior. I even had the Mulan DVD in Chinese.   some_text

Perhaps my exposure to Mulan at a young age makes me not so critical of Mulan. Some claim that Mulan is a white feminist who rejects her Asian culture, while other parts of the internet tell me that Mulan is a real Chinese legend from the 6th century. Through my 7-year old self, I saw a hero worth admiring for her wits and strength, but most importantly, someone who looked like me. My own Chinese culture seemed cooler to me when I saw Mulan speaking Chinese on my TV screen. My mom bought many the Disney movies with Chinese subs and dubs in hopes that I would practice my Chinese more, but it always seemed unnatural watching Ariel with red hair speaking Chinese. Mulan just made being Chinese that much more awesome. It also helped that the Mulan soundtrack was well received.

When I went to back to Disney this past winter break for the first time since I was 7 years old, I rushed to Epcot to see Mulan. The Mulan I had in mind was not the Mulan who greeted me in the China section of Epcot. This Mulan had a black wig on (well, all Disney princesses wear wigs so…), blue eyeshadow, thin eyebrows, and tan Asian skin. I watched Mulan before I even knew what an Asian American was. Mulan is Chinese, she never was meant to be Asian American. Subconsciously imposing stereotypical Asian beauty standards (pale skin, thick natural eyebrows, and natural black hair) on Mulan did not seem fair to her, yet I left Epcot without a picture with “Mulan” and slight disappointment. This raises the question of who should be casted as Mulan for the upcoming live-action film. Now that I am older and more aware of Asian and Asian American media representation in the USA, I feel conflicted in finding actors who are “American” enough to bring in the box office and “Asian” enough to satisfy the true story. Such a cast probably does not exist, but these are who I would cast for the live-action film:


Mulan: Grace Huang

Shang: Chris Pang

Mushu: Justin Chon

Ling: Eugene Yang

Chien-Po: Randall Park



Mulan’s Mom: Michelle Yeoh

Mulan’s Dad: Russell Wong

Mulan’s Grandma: Cheng Pei-Pei

Shan Yu: Rich Ting

Emperor: Al Leong