With so much attention STILL focused on the ground-breaking phenomenon that is Frozen, let’s revisit a veteran heroine who once stole the Disney big screen: Mulan. I’m not going to form any sensational statements like, “She was the first. . . ” or “This was the first movie to. . . ” but there are a lot of wonderful things about this flick and I am going to try to highlight all of them. Let’s dig in.
1. This movie doesn’t glamorize war
There aren’t handsome soldiers (Ok. . . Shang ain’t too hard on the eyes. I see you, BD Wong), or humorous fight scenes. This movie does everything EXCEPT glamorize war. If you recall the scene where the soldiers catch up to General Li’s army, the light-hearted tune, “A Girl Worth Fighting For,” ends abruptly at the discovery of the carnage. The entire fleet is decimated, including Shang’s dad. Everyone’s all happy and then–BOOM–death. Way to keep it real, Disney. Welcome to war.
2. Mulan is a total badass
Seriously. When the girl ran away from her (comfortable, lavish) home, she didn’t leave to go “find herself” or escape a marriage/find a lover. She left for war. She left for a war that she knew would kill her father. I’d wager her goal was to survive, but the odds were against her and she knew it because a) it’s war and b) if at any point they discovered she was a girl, she’d be punished by death. Not really the ideal situation.
3. The friendships in this movie are such a big part of it (and romance is so minor)
Can we all agree that having a dragon as a best friend would be awesome (am I right, Daenerys)?! Not only does she have Mushu, but she’s got a cricket and a very intelligent, dedicated horse, Khan. Later on, as Ping, she befriends Yao, Ling, and Chien Po. Even after her identity is revealed, they still team up with her to beat the Huns. In the end, it’s a joint effort between everyone to defeat them, but Mulan and Mushu are still pretty much the best duo of all time.
4. She saves Shang
Let’s all re-visualize this scene:
Shan-Yu, preparing to kill Shang: You took away my victory!
Mulan [She throws shoe at Shan-Yu’s head]: No! [He turns to her.] I did. [She pulls her hair into Ping’s bun.]
Shan-Yu: The soldier from the mountains. . . [He runs after Mulan.]
Mulan totally crushes the idea of a “damsel in distress” and ends up being her own knight in shining armor. What a boss!
5. The movie doesn’t look down on cross-dressing
According to IMDB, the film was almost rated “PG” because they actually say “cross-dresser” in it, which is pretty ridiculous given the fact that a cross-dressing lady ultimately saves the day. I love when the army trio dresses up like the concubines, too—which is only appropriate since Mulan was a dude for most of the film. Either way, it shows that you can kick butt and look great when you’re dressed in the way that makes you feel best and strongest.
And in case those reasons aren’t enough, the characters in Mulan had some of the BEST one-liners:
The Emperor of China: You don’t meet a girl like that every dynasty.
Fa Zhou: The greatest gift and honor. . . is having you for a daughter.
(Note: ALL the feels.)
Mushu: Make a note of this: dishonor on you, dishonor on your cow, dis. . .
Mulan: [to Shang] Would you like to stay for dinner?
Grandmother Fa: [Yelling in the background] Would you like to stay forever?
So, recap: The best part about this movie is that Mulan goes from feeling like a failure (because she can’t pour tea) to saving the entire country of China—and feeling pretty darn good about herself. Is she the best female Disney character? That’s not for me to decide, but I wouldn’t be mad if my future daughter obsesses over this Disney gal, too.
Audrey Mattevi is a wife, dog-mom, animal activist, and aspiring novelist. Her hobbies include binge-watching Harry Potter, helping her dogs pen a blog (lyleeandenzo.blogspot.com), and reading books on her front porch swing. At 23, her biggest challenges include figuring out her true calling and not setting off the fire alarm when she cooks bacon.