A Girl Worth Fighting For: A Critical/Cultural Analysis of Disney’s Mulan Disney’s 1998 classic tale, Mulan, is renowned as a timeless film, one that inspires young girls everywhere. It is by far the most girl-power filled film in the Disney Princess franchise due to its eponymous heroine who goes to war in place of her father by impersonating a male soldier. Not only does she singlehandedly save the whole country of China, but she also manages to get a husband in the process, with whom she lives happily ever after. Although this sounds like the perfect tale of girl power, some more sinister themes lay beneath the innocuous, picturesque surface. Set in the Northern Wei dynasty of China, the gender roles of China were simple as depicted through song in Mulan.
“We all must serve our Emperor… a man by bearing arms, a girl by bearing sons.” Mulan’s one and only role in life is to marry a man, who she is deemed fit for and to bear many sons and tend to the home. She is to live a life of homely domesticity. This is perhaps one of the most obvious motifs that don’t shine a nice pretty light on Mulan. Mulan has to go to a beauty salon in order to meet the matchmaker and “bring honor” to her family. At the salon, Mulan is mercilessly soaked in a freezing bath, has her hair tied up neatly, her waist laced up, and is overloaded with excessive make-up and jewels. The potential brides, Mulan included, are thus made to look like “cultured pearls, each a perfect porcelain doll.” According to the beauty specialists, “A girl can bring her family great honor in one way, by striking a good match.” They preach that “Men want girls with good taste, calm, obedient, who work fast-paced, with good breeding and a tiny waist.” This demonstrates high and adore. However, next time, do not let yourself be so easily grabbed by the catchy musical numbers and seemingly revolutionary story that is told. Yes, Mulan is an unorthodox heroine who changes all the rules, but she does so by conforming to a flawed system and affecting change from the inside, under the guise of a man. In lieu of doing it as a woman, it is not as girl power filled as many of us would like to believe. She, for the most part, affects all of this change as a man. Once she’s discovered, all her hard work in the training and the relationships she’s forged are all tossed to the wind and she’s quickly relegated back to her place as a lowly woman. However, despite its flawed execution in being a girl power story, it embodies a quintessential feel-good, be true to your heart film that will leave you wanting to affect change in the world around you.?