Why Disney’s Mulan Is Relevant Today


Ella Beyreis, Contributor

Why Disney’s Mulan is Relevant Today

Ella Beyreis ’21, Contributor


Several months ago, I came to the realization that sophomore year is, in fact, as bad as everyone says it is. It was a Sunday evening, it was raining, and I still had a mountain of homework to do. Naturally, like the good student I am, I decided to throw a blanket over it and watch a movie instead (Yes, it was a literal pile of papers that I covered up so I wouldn’t feel like it was judging me. I cannot possibly be the only person who has done this). So, I decided to dig up a beloved classic from my childhood: Mulan.

I am aware that for some of you this movie has been ruined by the 8th grade talent show performance of “Girl Worth Fighting For” that featured random cow noises and what can only be described as “unmotivated” choreography, but hear me out.

Mulan is an outlier in Disney’s canon. Other films feature a heroine who faces persecution but takes solace in her dreams of a glittering future, and then a prince with perfect hair swoops down in a pumpkin and takes her off to a big fancy castle. Mulan was the predecessor to other Disney films in which the heroine creates the story line, such as The Princess and the Frog and Frozen. The film was also Disney’s first movie centered around Chinese culture. However, I would like to draw your attention to one specific character in Mulan: the grandmother.

The elderly are often depicted in commercials and movies as helpless or out of sync with society. There is a tendency to view them as invisible. Old age is something everyone will inevitably experience, so it’s unclear why our society is obsessed with staying young and concealing signs of age.

However, the creators of Mulan decided to abandon all stereotypes when creating Mulan’s grandmother. Feisty, somewhat batty, and very protective, Fa Grandma is the only character who encourages Mulan to be herself (and find a husband while she’s at it). When Mulan comes home from saving China, she presents her father with a sword. While that’s all very sweet, Grandma has some other concerns.

Before the release of Mulan, Disney had several setbacks with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules, which were not as popular as the revolutionary The Lion King. Despite the limited amount of time and money spent on promoting the movie, Mulan grossed $22.8 million in its opening weekend. Unlike previous releases, Mulan was an international success as well, notably in England and France. An overall success that prevailed over gender roles, age discrimination, and cultural barriers, Mulan has earned its place as a staple Disney film.