Imagine my happiness when I, an Asian-American girl, was told that one of my favorite childhood movies, Mulan, was about to be interpreted into a live-action movie for me to enjoy again. Mulan represents a strong, independent, prideful woman- a revolutionary figure in the face of what Chinese culture demands of girls.
Now imagine that happiness turning into dust when I heard all the issues behind this film.
The Los Angeles Times has a summary of the issues behind this film, and reading it hurts me since I can’t see a childhood hero come to life without betraying my morals.
If you look on the news, you can see the pure horror that Hong Kong is experiencing under China’s new imposing stance on them, including a startling incident of a police man tackling a 12-year old girl. However, the lead actress of this film, Yifei Liu, also known as Crystal Liu, has demonstrated her clear support for the Hong Kong police, inciting a wave of backlash from the general public. This very demonstration encouraged pro-democracy activists to demand a boycott of the film.
Another rising issue is the concentration camps where Uighur Muslims are being detained and treated in an inhuman way. Viewers of the film have noticed that the credits mention and thank “the Turpan public security bureau… [which] is on the U.S. Commerce Department’s sanctions list for participating” in the abuse, as cited from the Los Angeles Times. This bureau runs a minimum of 14 camps, and this is only one of several departments who have contributed to the abuse.
Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy defends this as she notes that although most of the filming was done in New Zealand, some shots were done in China for “authentication” and thus it was important to thank the country’s government for allowing them to do so. However, this does not excuse the exploitation of camp locations, and defending their choice around the concept of “diplomacy” emphasizes the little care production has for things other than money.
Many Asian Americans, including myself, had hoped that this film would be another rare Asian American contribution to Hollywood, where we see so little representation of ourselves. On the surface, if you’re only looking at the cast, there is a great amount of Asian representation with all the droves of men depicting the Chinese army and the main cast. However, once you look at the cast and crew list on IMDB, there is only one Asian man, ironically from Hong Kong, as a producer on this movie. From the producers, to the music, to the very directors of the film, none of them are East Asian people. It raises the question of their ability to create a film that is mindful of the meaning it holds to its audience, particularly the East Asian community.
To many, especially viewers in China, this movie does not do Mulan and her message justice. The Los Angeles Times reports that despite all of the big name stars in the film, like Donnie Yen, “the film scored only 4.7/10 on Douban, a popular Chinese movie rating site” with one user stating that “‘the shell was Chinese but the soul was still foreign,’” depicting how surface level the representation of Chinese culture and story really was.
So, in case anyone was planning to watch this film on a movie night, I hope these controversies surrounding the film have convinced you to boycott it as well- if the ridiculous price hasn’t done so already.