Justice

Mulan Is Apparently Getting a White Love Interest and Twitter Is Pissed

October 10th 2016

By:
Laura Donovan

The Disney film "Mulan" is getting a live-action remake 20 years after the cartoon's 1998 release. However, the alleged script is causing a bit of an uproar on the internet.

"The Legend of Mulan," which is based on the story of historical figure Hua Mulan, reportedly includes a white male love interest for the titular character, prompting accusations that the film perpetuates the white savior complex, among other things.

An anonymous person in the film industry wrote on the blog Angry Asian Man that they had an opportunity to read the spec script that Disney bought for "The Legend of Mulan," and feel that it is "problematic it is in its current form," because it strays from important elements of the 1998 film. "Mulan" follows a young Chinese woman who poses as a man to fight the Huns so her elderly father does not have to join the army. At the time of its release, the late Roger Ebert wrote that it charted "a new direction for Disney's animation studio," and New York Times writer Janet Maslin said the film took "a sledgehammer to the subject of gender stereotyping." The movie was also called revolutionary for Disney by including an Asian main character.

Why some are angry about the film:

The anonymous blogger worries that the magic of the 1998 film will be lost in the remake, which has a white merchant save the character Mulan and win her heart:

"The man is a 30-something European trader who initially cares only for the pleasure of women and money. The only reason why he and his entourage decide to help the Chinese Imperial Army is because he sets eyes on Mulan. That's right. Our white savior has come to the aid of Ancient China due to a classic case of Yellow Fever. In this script written by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin, more than half of its pages are dedicated to this merchant who develops a mutual attraction with Mulan and fights to protect her in the ensuing battles. To top it all off, this man gets the honor of defeating the primary enemy of China, not Mulan. Way to steal a girl's thunder."

The blogger wrote that the white character's inclusion perpetuates "the myth that cultural stories are not worth telling without a western lens or star."

"Instead of seizing the opportunity to highlight a tenacious, complex female warrior, this remake diminishes her agency," the writer continued.

Angry Asian Man blog creator Phil Yu tweeted that it's possible the current script will not make it to screen, as the film has since hired more writers.

Others on Twitter shared similar feelings of frustration about the reported script:

Too soon to panic?

An unidentified source told Vulture that the film will have an Asian love interest, and that the initial script was just a "jumping off" point:

"The spec script was a jumping-off point for a new take on the story that draws from both the literary ballad of Mulan and Disney’s 1998 animated film. Mulan is and will always be the lead character in the story, and all primary roles, including the love interest, are Chinese."

ATTN: reached out to the Walt Disney Studios for comment on this controversy and will update our piece if the company has a statement.

The misconception that movies made about people of color "don't sell."

Hollywood has a known problem of eschewing people of color in film. Many Hollywood executives are also white males, and there's a widespread misconception that people of color "don't sell" onscreen. Latino performer Dylan Marron told ATTN: last year that he believes the lack of diversity in film is partially the result of people who finance movies and don't think people of color will generate interest:

"It's the people who finance movies who don't think that you can sell a movie without a famous white celebrity at the center of it. It's the directors who passed it who, especially if they're white and if it's a white storyteller, I think they're naturally going to cast people who look like them. I think this is an incredibly complex issue that deserves unpacking. But I think it's about who is telling the stories. It's also about casting with a little more creativity. For these universal stories that have nothing to do with race, what would it look like if you just depended on the story? I really believe that people go to the movies for a good story, and if you sell a movie the way these mainstream movies are being sold and you cast it with a diverse cast, I just really don't think it's going to change the perception of it. I think more importantly is that Hollywood has the power to shape the way we think about race, so if they start making a more diverse cast that actually represents the population of the world and this country, I think that they will in fact effect more change than they know."

Last year, The Washington Post writer Drew Harwell wrote that Hollywood is "ignoring a gold mine" by failing to include more people of color in film, citing data that found minorities purchased nearly half of $1.2 billion in movie tickets sold in the U.S. in 2014. Harwell also noted the phenomenal success of "Creed," "Straight Outta Compton," and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” all of which include people of color in leading roles:

"High-profile hires of actors such as Jordan in 'Creed' and John Boyega in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' have remained the exception in a Hollywood that has shown only stuttering progress over the past year in getting more-diverse talent into blockbuster roles. But that lack of diversity, long a social issue, is increasingly becoming a business issue, and analysts say the success of movies such as 'Creed' and 'Compton' could make a big difference in persuading Hollywood’s dealmakers to better reflect the multicultural country it represents."

Watch ATTN:'s video below about stereotypes about Asian men that are often depicted in film: