The Controversy Over Mulan

Sep 16, 2020 By Lauren T
Lauren T's picture

This fall, after several delays, Disney’s remake of its classic 1998 animated film Mulan is finally out.

Jampacked with magic and epic battle scenes, the remake is a spin on the original story of a brave girl who disguises herself as a man and defends her country by enlisting in the army.

Despite all the hoopla, Mulan is now facing considerable backlash from viewers and human rights activists, and there are calls to boycott the film.


Early Controversy in 2019

The controversy surrounding Mulan stretches way back to August 2019, when lead actress Liu Yifei came under fire for her support of the crackdown by Hong Kong police on protestors. To learn more about the Hong Kong protests, read this earlier article.

Liu had quoted the words of a Chinese reporter Fu Guohao who said: “I support the Hong Kong police. You can all attack me now”. Fu had been cornered and beaten by pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, and his words have become a defining statement among supporters of the Chinese government, who consider the protestors violent radicals. However, it also sparked a backlash from proponents of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement and the hashtag #BoycottMulan quickly emerged on Twitter.

And when the official movie trailer was released December 5, 2019, some fans of the original 1998 animated film were disappointed. Two popular characters, Mulan’s love interest General Li Shang and the comical miniature dragon Mushu, made no appearance. All songs, including the iconic “Reflection” and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, had also been removed. Meanwhile, viewers in China criticized the movie’s depiction of Chinese culture, reflected in the architecture, furniture, and clothing.

However, that wasn’t all the dragon fire Mulan had to face!

Controversy Over Human Rights

The second round of backlash ignited when viewers noticed Mulan’s final credits, in which Disney thanked eight major government bodies in Xinjiang, a province in western China. 

Xinjiang has drawn attention in recent years for its detention camps for the “reeducation” of the ethnic Muslim Uighurs and other minorities. Human rights organizations have denounced this program as an attempt by the Chinese government to repress Uighurs and their culture through detention, brainwashing, family separation, torture, abuse, and forced sterilization.

The organizations mentioned by Disney included prominent propaganda departments in Xinjiang, and most significantly, the Turpan police security bureau, which runs several Uighur internment camps and is listed as involved in “human rights violations and abuses” by the U.S. Government.

Human rights organization Amnesty International has called on Disney to reveal its human rights diligence report. And Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri has questioned Disney’s connections to the Chinese government and asked whether Disney is aware of human rights violations in Xinjiang.

At a press conference. Disney's Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy defended Disney’s actions. She said that the movie was filmed in 20 locations in China to maintain diverse and historically accurate scenery, and that acknowledging national and local governments that provided permission is standard practice.

What do you think of the controversy? Are you planning to watch the movie or boycott it?

Sources: NY Times, CNN, Vox, Guardian, Time, Fox News

Comments's picture November 9, 2020 - 6:07am
jhh245's picture
jhh245 October 31, 2020 - 8:30pm
The wi-fi here isn't good sometimes.
Belinda_Lopez_1's picture
Belinda_Lopez_1 October 1, 2020 - 4:48am
I couldn't watch the video
smalltiger's picture
smalltiger September 17, 2020 - 8:09am
Destiny D.'s picture
Destiny D. September 16, 2020 - 2:49pm
Oh wow!
YaNOOBZ's picture
YaNOOBZ September 16, 2020 - 9:58am
Vicky's picture
Vicky September 16, 2020 - 11:33am
I don't get how this is cool with all the protests, violence, and backlash. I feel like after all the effort put into this movie, it's not going to be watched a lot
dhritideepak's picture
dhritideepak October 5, 2020 - 1:05pm
no, they might watch it just to say negative things about it