As part of its attempt to make live-action versions of every single animated film it has every produced, Disney will be releasing a new Mulan, set to hit theaters in 2018. Regardless of where you stand on Disney making live-action everything instead of writing new freakin’ movies, there is one major concern to plague your mind: will the cast of this film be Chinese, or another Hollywood white-wash disaster?
Thankfully, Disney wants you to not worry, and is saying that the cast will be Chinese, including the actress who plays Mulan, and whoever plays her love interest. While we should not even have to question whether or not a major film company will appropriately cast a Chinese actress for a Chinese character, there are too many valid reasons to be concerned.
One: The script for Legend of Mulan called for a totally different story than Disney’s original adaptation of the Chinese Hua Mulan legend. The story was about a European trader who fights in the war with the Chinese Imperial Army in attempts to gain Mulan’s affection. Sounds like a super less cool version of the story with a white protagonist, huh?
Two: Hollywood has a pretty ugly history with Asian Erasure. Even when a script should specifically call for an actor of color, the business still throws a white person in and calls it a day. Look at films like Aloha, Ghost in the Shell, and Doctor Strange, even A Very Potter Musical, all have casted white women to play women from Asian or Pacific Island regions. And this doesn’t even include yellow face, and other ways Asian exploitation grabs a hold of Hollywood. And with all these things, actual Asian characters become limited to gross stereotyping.
Well count your lucky stars, because Disney knows that making a movie like that would be totally uncalled for! Apparently, they plan on making major changes to this script and the main characters (and let’s hope the WHOLE cast considering it takes place in CHINA!) will be Chinese.
If Disney opted otherwise, they would be literally going out of their own way to make a film that is just white washing and male-heroism, when the point of Mulan is that she is a bad-ass woman fighting in the Chinese war. By making a white man have to “save” or “woo” her is offensive to a classic story that works well. Not to mention, Mulan is one of the few stories that has an incredible woman of color lead, AND we know this story works! We know people like the strong Mulan we know, why change it in such a regressive way? It would be absolutely unacceptable.
But here’s to hoping that Disney will follow through on its casting promises. And perhaps the rest of the industry will follow suit. And maybe this will lead to not just inclusive casting, but even pushing to have more people of color take the lead role in films.