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Mulan movie: Disney reacts to accusations of whitewashing, sexism

(CRI Online)    13:12, October 14, 2016

Twitter users react to the news of the drastically changed leaked initial script for the new live-action adaption of Mulan that is planned for release in 2018. [Photo: Twitter]

The hashtag #MakeMulanRight took Twitter by storm when reports surfaced that Disney planned to change the script of the new live-action version of Mulan to making her only a secondary character that is saved by a white male lead. Disney has since vowed the new film will not feature a Caucasian actor as the love interest and hired new writers to work on the story.

The controversy started when the blog "Angry Asian Man" that focuses on Asian-American news and addressing Asian stereotypes found an initial draft of the upcoming 2018 live-action remake of the successful 1998 Disney film "Mulan." The new draft featured a white, European trader who comes to China and falls in love with Mulan, and then fights to protect her and becomes the hero by defeating the primary enemy of China.

In an open letter to Disney the blog wrote about the new script, "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 honour of defeating the primary enemy of China, not Mulan. Way to steal a girl's thunder."

Criticism went viral after American actor Joel de la Fuente supported the allegations in a Twitter post.

Mulan fans used the hashtag #MakeMulanRight to campaign for a script that would not whitewash Asian culture. Whitewashing refers to Hollywood practice of casting white actors in historically non-white character roles. Whitewashing can be seen from classic Hollywood movies such as "The Conqueror" where John Wayne plays Genghis Khan to new movies such as the Japanese live-action adaption of "Ghost in the Shell" with white actress Scarlett Johansson playing the lead.

Further, the new script doesn't allow Mulan to be the hero of her own story, with accusations of very sexist overtones in the new story.

The legendary Hua Mulan is an ancient woman warrior of China, known for being skilled in martial arts such as kungfu and swordplay. She is the epitome of women empowerment, and in 1998 Disney produced the animated film based on this Chinese legend that grossed over $300 million US worldwide, and received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations.

After Twitter users tweeted thousands of times about both the whitewashing of the cast and the sexist changing of the storyline, Disney finally listened.

Vulture news reported that a source close to the project confirmed that the film will feature and Asian love interest. Further, the studio producing the film will also conduct a "global casting search" to find a Chinese actress to play Mulan.

Further, new writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Jurasic World) have been hired to work on Mulan, and make sure that Mulan stays the lead character and hero of the story.


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(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Yuan Can, Bianji)

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