Film Review: MULAN (2020 film) - Victim of Cancel Culture & US-CHINA Cold War 影評 《花木蘭》

Updated: Jul 25

#FilmReview #SupportMULAN #花木蘭 #影評 #2020

FILE PHOTO: #SupportMULAN (2020) ©Walt Disney Pictures; composite/ Ryota Nakanishi
FILE PHOTO: #SupportMULAN (2020) ©Walt Disney Pictures; composite/ Ryota Nakanishi

Right or left wing crusaders of ''Political Correctness'' can authorise themselves to freely violate other people's human rights without any ethical considerations and due responsibility? No, it's completely another aspect of issue that it has nothing to do with specific ideologies themselves. It's all about behaviours of individuals. Thus criticising historical mishandling of characters and story setting is appropriate yet demonising MULAN for ''political correctness'' is inappropriate at all.

#BoycottMulan is politically disgusting and filled with nihilistic emptiness of today's digitalised, astroturfed social atmosphere. Furthermore it is commercially unfair for Disney (they made the animated version in 1998 and made various changes for marketing considerations, such as the addition of witch Xianniang and the removal of considered LGBTQ icon Li Shang and Mulan's sidekick Mushu etc.) and Chinese American casts who starred in the most expensive film made by a female director in history which astronomically cost about 200 million USD budget.

I personally enjoyed the film during the harshest boycott campaign against this film, and I objectively think it is dialectical synthesis of Chinese martial arts film legacies from King Hu's Come Drink with Me (starring Cheng Pei-pei; 1966) to Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (co-written by one of my mentors Kuo Jung Tsai; 2002). It's cutting edged technical achievement is undoubted, and there is no one can compete with this at present in terms of film technology.

Unlike ''jidaigeki'' the Japanese costume play samurai genre, Chinese martial arts film genre is highly cross-cultural, cross-regional film genre thus Disney could seek overseas talented English-spoken-Chinese filmmakers and actors around the world for this co-production film project. However someone would oppose this claim by referring to Akira Kurosawa or US-Japan co-production projects in the past like The Last Samurai (2003) and Shōgun (1980 TV miniseries) specifically as similar phenomena of the Hollywood ''multiculturalist'' approach to the oriental world. The major difference is not pseudo-diversification among their crew (basically all of them are white), and local cultural depiction is always alienated. In fact, all of them are full of stereotyped tropes projected on the locals by outside westerners. However one thing is quite different practically that it's harder to find notable Japanese American stars or talented diaspora Japanese filmmakers and actors outside of Japan. In other words, it's the critical difference with Chinese filmmakers and actors.

On the contrary, Chinese people have the vast global network of talented diaspora Chinese filmmakers and stars outside of China. That successfully makes their specific film genre a cross-regional genre which can be made with promised high quality and secured box office hit. One of producers of this film Jason T. Reed said in October of 2018:

The traditional Disney audience and the diaspora Asian audience viewed the movie in one way, and the traditional Chinese in China audience viewed a slightly different way. So we really dug in to try and make sure that we were addressing both of those audiences in a thoughtful way.  And I think that we—I hope, knock on wood—I think we found a way to tie the way they look at the movie together.” (1)

During preproduction, Jason T. Reed mentioned their marketing strategy of this film that filmmakers must meet political and cultural standards of Disney, American, and local Chinese markets multiculturally as a Hollywood blockbuster. This ironically means that it's more acceptable for culturally neutralised audiences of the third country markets outside of the ongoing US-China disputes if we abstractly consider this issue without counting devastating economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in it.

Meanwhile, like any other Hollywood films, it promotes democrat progressive liberal ideology ''social justice warrior'' on racial diversity, feminism, LGBTQ etc. and capitalist individualism ''bringing honour to your house''(the protagonist Mulan's major motive and goal). Obviously, it has nothing to do with traditional CCP ideology. It's purely a US propaganda entertainment disguised in Chinese martial arts genre film with Chinese American actors and white crew.

Among all films released for 2020, this film is a paragon of Hollywood's questionable ''multiculturalism'' and the most important topic to discuss from the point of view of ''commercial co-production film projects.''

Unfortunately, Disney's well-made Chinese martial arts flick, Mulan (Dir. Niki Caro; 2020) got ''cancelled'' by both China and Hong Kong audience due to its failure to meet ''political correctness'' in geopolitics.

Disney and Niki Caro offended Chinese audience of both warring political camps. For the central government, patriots or ''pro-establishment'' camp, leading actress Liu Yifei's voiced support on Hong Kong police via Weibo was the origin of antagonism from anti-China forces in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and other overseas Chinese communities against Mulan (Dir. Niki Caro; 2020), thus it also triggered temporary and mechanical support from the central government, patriots or ''pro-establishment'' camp until it caused another political dispute between US and China on their highly controversial location shooting in Xinjiang, and suspected governmental interventions from China on this project. CNN reported it on August 16, 2019:

"I support the Hong Kong police. You can all attack me now. What a shame for Hong Kong," she posted on Weibo, a Twitter-like Chinese social media platform.

Immediately, people began posting #BoycottMulan on Twitter -- which is banned in China. Hours later, the hashtag was trending in Hong Kong and the United States with 37,700 tweets posted at time of writing. Twitter users accused the actress of supporting police brutality, and called out the fact that she's an American citizen. (2)

Indeed, Liu Yifei is brave enough to stand with Hong Kong police under the most devastating ''cancel culture'' and ''social justice mobs'' online which created by Silicon Valley US tech giants and their allied global marketing advertising networks, which Disney and entire Hollywood business highly depend on. Therefore Liu Yifei's political expression as part of the global ruling establishment is suicidal for celebrities themselves. It proved that she is more heroic than the purely fictional character Mulan she played.

FILE PHOTO: Screening of MULAN (2020) in Hong Kong on September 29, 2020.  ©Ryota Nakanishi