by Tucker Cholvin, re-posted from Tucker’s Blog 37th and O
Just imagine: since our birth, a major studio motion picture has been conspiring to inculcate the radical feminist agenda into our nation’s young people. It’s an animated feature, so it naturally appeals to children. It’s even a musical, for the love of God. With Donny Osmond. And at the same time, it’s pumping fringe feminist theory into our boys and girls like steroids into Alex Rodriguez. What evil plot could this be? Feminazis? Another assault in the Fox News-exposed War on Men?
Or could it be…Mulan?
Yes, friends, if Mulan is one thing, it is a work of feminism. Let me tell you why.
Right off the bat, Mulan encourages the idea that a woman can do all the work that a man can. Even the idea that a woman is entitled to do all the work a man does. The insanity! Consider Mulan as we meet her: helping her father to run the home and manage the estate. At the same time, she appears the ideal form of femininity: graceful, lithe, elegant. Nothing about Mulan’s appearance suggests that she has to be butch or masculine to do a man’s work, and do it well. She just does.
And then, about five minutes in, Mulan decides to blow patriarchy to hell. Consider this: in about the space of five minutes, Mulan gets literally struck by the government for speaking out (symbolism!), fails her appointment with the Matchmaker to make her entrance into society as a traditional debutante, and steals her father’s sword and armor to join the army. BAM. If that’s not the makings of a great experiment in gender theory, I don’t know what is.
And in Mulan, as in life, things only get interesting when the cross-dressing starts. Enter Drag-Mulan, dressed and working in society as a man, 24/7. If anyone has any problems with what this movie says about the potential role of women in society, I won’t start with the implications for transgender people. But Mulan definitely implies that women, and people in general, can dress however they want, work the jobs they like, and define their gender however they want and society will not collapse. In fact, the direct implication of Mulan seems to be that gender freedom and equality will prevent the collapse of society. Hopefully we can strive to be as advanced culturally as 10th century China.
The implications continue: When Mulan straps on the Big Golden Weight-Thingies and climbs the big ol’ Pole of Masculinity to get the Arrow of Toughness (or whatever), do you think that kids are led to believe that women should earn 70 cents on the dollar? When Mulan singlehandedly wins the battle in the mountains against the huns, is a woman’s place in the home? At the climax, when five of China’s greatest warriors put on dresses and save the country, do traditional gender roles really matter in the preservation of national greatness? I allow you to decide, dear reader.
Naturally, there are some criticisms that can be lobbed at Mulan. The song “A Girl Worth Fighting For” does not 100% avoid objectification of women. But hey, at least they’re trying to impress women and not get them drunk at parties. More seriously, it’s true that Mulan spends most of the film ‘passing’ as a woman and not acknowledging her true identity. But in the end, when she saves the country and is decorated by the Emperor? Definitely wearing a dress. Visible breasts. I think she’s alright.
There are a lot of movies, Disney or otherwise, that spend a lot of time, energy and money telling women and girls what they can do, and more often what they can’t do. Mulan tells girls that they can do whatever the hell they want, and win. That’s worth watching.