Disney’s ‘Mulan’ Remake: Why the Disney Live-Action is Sparking Controversy

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Disney’s remake of ‘Mulan’ comes with significant baggage. The controversy began when Disney’s long-awaited live-action remark of fan-favourite ‘Mulan’ was released in early September on Disney+. A year ago, the main actor for the film, Liu Yifei, shared that she supported the Hong Kong Police and began the spiral of international criticism against the 1998 remake.

Alongside Liu Yifei’s support to the Hong Kong police, the film was partly filmed in the Xinjiang region. This fact has sparked controversy as it has contained detention camps for Muslin ethnic minorities.

Before the current worldwide pandemic of COVID-19, this film was set for a March 2020 release. Due to the outbreak, the release date was postponed three times in total.

Despite many promoting the boycott of the Disney remake, there was 68 per cent increase in downloads of the Disney+ app after the premiere was announced.

The controversy put aside; Disney’s live-action remake is one of the first Hollywood blockbuster releases we have received since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced many theatres world-wide to shut their doors.

With a substantial price of $29.99, you can watch the film on Disney+ before it is released fully later this year.

The Lui Yifei Criticism

Credit: Getty Images for Disney

“I support Hong Kong police. You can beat me now. What a shame for Hong Kong.”

Above is part of the post that has sparked significant controversy for the Mulan remake. Lead actor Lui Yifei posted this on Weibo in August of 2019 as she shared a People’s Daily’s, a Chinese newspaper, post. In this article, the quote above, from Fu Guohao, a Chinese Global Times reporter, was featured.

The hashtag #BoycottMulan was started as a response to this action, which many believed reflected poorly on the film due to the significant force, brutality and violence the Hong Kong police have been accused of using towards pro-democracy protesters.

The actor, in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter in February 2020, has tried to explain her actions, stating:

“I think it’s obviously a very complicated situation, and I’m not an expert. I just really hope this gets resolved soon.”

The Xinjiang Controversy

‘Mulan’ opens with a fight scene that takes place in front of what Disney claims in an epic backdrop. However, the reality is that this scene, along with other scenes throughout the movie, takes place in a very different, unsettling location.

Xinjian Provence has been revealed as an area filled with mass internment camps, where the Chinese Communist Party contained people they deemed a threat to China. This massive network was found to contain 1 million Kazakhs, Uighurs and other Muslim peoples.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed: “Uighur residents have reported being subjected to gruelling political indoctrination regimens, forced labour, and forced sterilization – part of an alleged government program to suppress birth rates in the Muslim population.” Since this statement has been released, they have reached out for a comment from Disney on this issue.

Joshua Wong, a significant activist in Hong Kong has tweeted: “It just keeps getting worse! Now, when you watch #Mulan, not only are you turning a blind eye to police brutality and racial injustice (due to what the lead actors stand for), you’re also potentially complicit in the mass incarceration of Muslim Uyghurs. #BoycottMulan.”

The Racial Criticism

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 09: Yifei Liu attends the premiere of Disney’s “Mulan” at Dolby Theatre on March 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

On top of the controversy surrounding Lui Yufei and the location the film was shot, there is further controversy over the lack of Asian talent behind the camera. Many agree that it is not enough for Disney to place Asian actors in front of the camera, that there needs to be better Chinese representation.

A Twitter user has commented on the issue, stating “you cannot just plop Asian actors in front of a camera & call it a day.” Another states “There needs to be Chinese people”.

Costumer designers, directors, or screenwriters are not of Chinese descent.

A sociologist at Biola University’s School of Cinema and Media Arts, Nancy Wang Yuen, told NBC News that is appears Hollywood is experiencing growing pains in relation to cinematic inclusivity. They are becoming inclusive in terms of storytelling, but they continue to underrepresent behind the scenes.

Many have remarked that, while the film is beautiful and arguably the best of Disney’s live-action remakes, it does not live up to the animated original, nor does it live up to the expectations of Disney fans in relation to inclusivity, politics and casting.

Despite all the controversy the film has released, it will be available for free on Disney+ from December 4.