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I was excited when I heard about the Mulan casting, because of course Fairytaleland needs more kickass APA women, but at the same time, I felt a little strange, and after watching this episode, I think I may have pinpointed why ...

I didn't like Mulan.

I didn't DISlike her, either, and I definitely liked a lot of the bits that made up Mulan. I like the actress, I like how competent and kickass the character is, I like that she's knowledgeable and smart and so on and so forth. And if the show ends up shipping her with Aurora (unlikely, but I've seen a few gifsets floating around tumblr paralleling her and Aurora's first meeting with Charming and Snow's first meeting, and it could happen), then I'm pretty sure most of my concerns will fly out the window, but ...

And here's the thing. There's nothing concrete that I can pin my finger down on why I didn't like Mulan, but I had an awful lot of concerns.

1. I don't like this whole Aurora-Philip-Mulan implied love triangle. I don't like that Mulan is supposed to be some interloper, I don't like that the show made it ambiguous who Philip said "I love you" to because I feel like the show is going to do some jealousy-ridden, angst-ridden, love triangle where Mulan deserves fucking better. She does not deserve to be cast as the other woman who "ruined" the pure and lily-white love of Disney, and there is absolutely NOTHING in her story, any bit of it, that would have or should have implied this.

And frankly, I'm sick of this idea of the Asian American woman falling for this white Prince Charming, or pining away for him, because -- well, there's a lot of baggage here that I won't discuss, because that will launch into an Asian American Media Representations 101 lecture, and this isn't a lecture to educate, this is a rant. You either know what I'm talking about (regardless of whether you agree with me) or you don't.

Also, it reminds me of the original concept for Mulan that was scrapped (thank god), where the story focused on a Chinese delicate princess who was rescued by a Western (white) Prince Charming.

2. I don't actually like the inclusion of romantic love in this storyline at all. Mulan is probably the only Disney Princess whose movie is NOT about love. Her movie is NOT a love story, and she doesn't even technically or officially end up with a guy at the end. (IIRC, they don't even kiss.)

Mulan is a story about one thing first and foremost: Filial Piety.

(Okay, arguably, it is equally about women being as kickass as men.)

When the Chinese movie about Mulan came out (the one with Zhao Wei), I watched the Chinese trailer and the international trailer. There was this bit where different character traits flashed across the screen, followed by a scene. You know the kind -- Loyalty! Courage! Conviction! Etc., with each scene demonstrating said character traits.

All of the English traits were translations of the Chinese traits except for one.

The Chinese trailer had one that was 孝, or Filial Piety. The English trailer translated it as something else, because even if international English-speaking audiences (where I'm mostly assuming U.S., because that's the audience I know best) has no heartstring-tugging association with the term, or the concept.

But Filial Piety is the underpinning of Mulan's character. She goes to war to spare her father, she doesn't try to sacrifice herself so that her "romantic love" can live and be with his love. Any other Disney movie can be summed up as some variation of "Girl Meets Boy; They Fall In Love And Get Married" EXCEPT Mulan, and you manage to turn it into a love story anyways? There are other Disney movies you can turn to for that!

3. And I think this is what bothered me the most, before I'd even watched this episode, but which especially struck me while I was watching it.

Mulan is not a fairy tale.

Not to me. Before this movie was even the seed of an idea in some animator's head, I was hearing stories about Mulan at my grandmother's knee. Mulan was my favorite folk hero before she was a Disney Princess, and she's not a fairytale. I firmly believe that Mulan was a real woman in history, whose story was told and re-told, written and re-written, until it because more myth and legend than reality, but I was told this story by my grandmother as history, not fantasy, so part of me is really annoyed that she's in Fairytaleland.

And China has plenty of fairy tales! Just look at all the legends about shen xian. Notably, Mulan's story does not have any shen xian, because it's not a fairy tale. She's on par with King Arthur, or Charlemagne, or Anastasia, but not with Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, or Snow White.


In the end, I will continue watching OUAT because I will of course support Asian American actors and actresses in whatever role they play (although I don't have a TV, and even if I did, I doubt it has the Nielsen-tracker-thingy attached, so really I'm just supporting by upping the viewcount on Hulu), and I will keep my fingers crossed. They could do right by Mulan (I doubt it). They could address my concerns. They could (please) forget about Philip and never bring him up again (as they did with that hunter-dude half a season ago), and they could give Mulan a strong storyline and backstory (any storyline, as long as it is strong!) that does right by her.

I doubt I'll be satisfied, no matter what they do, though. You know why?

BECAUSE WHEN YOU ONLY HAVE ONE FUCKING ASIAN AMERICAN CHARACTER ON YOUR SHOW, you will NEVER satisfy me. There is no way they can write her that doesn't slot her in some trope or stereotype, because that's what stereotypes are! When you only have one character, you're only telling one story, and when you only tell one story about any group of people, that's racist (or, you know, any other relevant -ist). When I say, this, I'm looking at YOU, Looper!

Date: 2012-10-03 04:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I was disappointed in that part for the same reasons. I really disliked how both Aurora and Mulan's characters were developed entirely around the unnecessary triangle, but I'm hopeful that now that he's gone they'll move past that quickly.

The inclusions of both Mulan and Lancelot are a, to me. Peter Pan and Wonderland are relatively recent additions to cultural fantasy (as compared to the other stories being used, most of which are several hundred years old and only acquired their best known versions centuries after they were first told when they were written down starting in the late 18th century) but they fit in with the cultural idea and role of a fairy tale. Lancelot, though, is part of a sprawling mythic cycle (the original Gary Stu really, added after the legends had been around for centuries and the French decided that they liked it but thought they needed representation) and Mulan is a folk hero who is most likely based on a real woman, and while I highly approve of the addition of any POC (Especially since Sydney is busy in Revolution, and so will probably barely show up, if at all. And Regina's actress is Latina, but I'm pretty sure we're expected to read her as white. I will be very happy to be wrong about both of these things, though.) especially as protagonists, but I'd rather they had more fairy tale characters be POC instead of having this all-white society where all the POC are from foreign lands. (Though, who knows where Lancelot is from.)

Date: 2012-10-03 10:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You summed up precisely what I was feeling. I love that the character is a strong Asian American woman - and yet, they're doing exactly what I'd feared they would do when I first read the spoilers, and making her weaker by doing all of this love triangle nonsense. It's possible for women to fight for what they thinks is right, fight for the love of family, and not ever have those situations turn into opportunities for possible "romances". That Disney doesn't recognize this shouldn't be surprising, I suppose, but it's still disappointing.

On a side note, Aurora came across as whiny and kind of pathetic, so I almost hope they don't take a nontraditional shipping stance with her and Mulan. If they're absolutely determined to throw Mulan into a relationship, then give her a love interest as strong and awesome as she is - someone who wouldn't fall in love with an Aurora-type character in the first place.


This. Also, it's genetically infeasible. They can't honestly think that there would be all of those white people with just one Asian and one or two other POC in the entire fairytale land? Genetics don't work like that. I get that it's a show, and not a reflection on reality, but it still grates. Do they honestly not think white people would be comfortable seeing a truer representation of the world on any show? That's insulting to everyone involved, honestly, but especially to those actors who aren't even being given a chance simply because they don't have the right "look". /soapbox

Edited for grammar. Probably not completely fixed, but I caught what I could.
Edited Date: 2012-10-03 10:38 am (UTC)


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