I was just re-watching Mulan (the Disney version) for the 100th time last night, when I started paying attention to how many stereotypes the movie perpetrates: not only gender, but also stereotypes relating to ethnicity and sexuality.

Gender stereotypes have been widely discussed.

The movie also depicts Chinese (and possibly ethnic Chinese by association) in a certain light. Chinese culture is relegated to paintings and calligraphy (the opening scene), drumming, music playing, and acrobatics. Most of the Chinese in the film are narrow-eyed, “yellow-skinned”, with stereotypical beards.

In relation to sexuality and gender roles, there were at least two instances in the film where stereotypes were present. In the scene where the ancestors argued with each other over Mulan and her actions, one ancestor points out that “no, your great granddaughter had to be a cross dresser.” Then later on in the movie, when Ling, Yao, and Chien Po scale the palace walls to save the emperor, they all dress up as women to do it.

In both instances, cross dressing is viewed as something akin to a sin, something that no one should do, yet almost laughable, like something that no one should take seriously or with respect.

Interestingly enough, though, the movie itself is used by a lot of Asian and Asian American LGBTQ as a sort of seminal story, one that really demonstrates the challenges of fitting in and living true to oneself. This may be what its lesson has consistently been, but the stereotypes in the film blunt and even call into question Disney’s sincerity towards this moral.


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