Mulan Movie Review

Caitlin Keohane
LIT 3103(Monday Night 5:00-7:45)
Term Paper (Mulan)
Mulan may be a Disney cartoon but it contains all of the components of a great
epic. The Chinese culture is absolutely present throughout her journey. She also has
Mushu (small lizard-like dragon ancestor) and Cri-kee (lucky cricket from her
grandmother) to be her guides and friends along the way. Her goal is to go to war with
the Huns in her father’s place because he is not well enough to attend. Only men can fight
in this war so she must convince the soldiers and higher ranking officials that she is a
man. The one major thing that makes this epic different from the ones we have read in
class is that Mulan is a woman and she is in fact the main character of this epic.
The directors and writers made this epic family friendly because it is in fact a
cartoon but Mulan still went through many of the same things the main characters in the
epics we read in class went through. Her family wants her to be a proper Chinese woman
as you see at the beginning. Her parents and grandmother have her get dressed up to go to
the matchmaker. If the matchmaker is impressed with Mulan(as well as any other woman
of Mulans age) she sets her up with a man that will bring her family honor. Mulan looks
the part but does not impress the matchmaker and she tells Mulan that she “may look like
Caitlin Keohane
LIT 3103(Monday Night 5:00-7:45)
Term Paper (Mulan)
a bride but you will NEVER bring her family honor.” This drives Mulan to take her
father’s place in the draft.
Cultural aspects are essential in epics of any kind (books, movies, poems etc.).
Mulans grandmother gives her good luck charms before presenting herself to the
matchmaker. “An apple for serenity, a pendant for balance, beads of jade for
beauty…now add a cricket just for luck.” Also throughout that particular scene the
audience is reminded of the woman’s role in Chinese culture with things being said like,
“A girl can bring her family great honor in one way by striking a good match and this
could be the day.” As well as, “Men want girls with good taste, calm, obedient, who work
fast-paced with good breeding and a tiny waste, You'll bring honor to us all.” These
quotes from Honor to Us All show that women’s only option for bringing honor to her
family is to get an honorable man.
Another way that the cultural aspects play a role in this epic is Mulan speaking to
her ancestors before meeting the matchmaker she states “Ancestors, hear my plea help
me not to make a fool of me and to not uproot my family tree keep my father standing
tall.” Her ancestors also come to her aid when she takes her father’s place in the draft by
Caitlin Keohane
LIT 3103(Monday Night 5:00-7:45)
Term Paper (Mulan)
pretending to be a man. They are awakened by her grandmother praying to the ancestors
to keep Mulan safe. The traditional way to have dinner in China is also showcased in the
beginning as well. The Fa family is sitting on the floor without shoes with tea at dinner
Mulan is joined by Mushu, Cri-kee and her horse Khan. The ancestors are under
the impression that the great stone dragon will be bringing Mulan home safely but Mushu
accidently breaks the great stone dragon (in his stone form) and deceives the ancestors by
pretending to be him. Other epics we have explored in class all seem to have friends or
guides that support the main character. Mushu teaches Mulan to act as if she were
actually a man so she can fit in without anyone knowing. If anyone were to find out that
she was a woman in the army she would be killed and her family would receive ultimate
dishonor. Cri-kee’s place in this epic is to bring Mulan luck, but Cri-kee is sort of a lucky
cricket in training. Mushu and Cri-kee also get her into a little bit of trouble along the
way. He gets Mulan into brawls with other soldiers as well as accidentally lighting a
cannon on fire exposing the soldiers position to the Huns.
Caitlin Keohane
LIT 3103(Monday Night 5:00-7:45)
Term Paper (Mulan)
Throughout Mulans journey in the army she is put through a series of training with
the other men and they all fail miserably at the beginning. But Mulan is the first to climb
to the top of the pole to retrieve the arrow after she spends all night trying. Next thing
you know she is ahead of everyone in training because of how hard she is working. When
I saw that particular scene I thought of some of the epic heroes we have read about in
class. Shan Yu is the captain who trains all the men to fight the Huns. Mulan secretly
falls in love with Shan Yu but of course she cannot show it because Shan Yu thinks she’s
a man. The constant hiding of her true identity is something that makes this epic different
from others we have read. She feels very awkward when the men speak about wanting a
girl worth fighting for. They speak of beautiful women that can cook and she says “a girl
who’s got a brain who always speaks her mind.” They disagree completely as if that is
completely unimportant.
Mulan is exposed as her true self by the captain after she is injured and should be
sentenced to death but Shan Yu does not kill her because she saved his life at battle with
the Huns. She is kicked out of the army but she still follows the army back to the city
where there are fireworks and a parade because everyone (other than Mulan) believes the
Caitlin Keohane
LIT 3103(Monday Night 5:00-7:45)
Term Paper (Mulan)
Huns are dead from the Avalanche. Nobody will believe her because she’s now exposed
as a woman and women should not speak unless spoken to. None of the soldiers will
believe her either because she lied to them by pretending to be a man. The Huns arrive at
the celebration and try to kidnap and assassinate the emperor. Mulan helps the soldiers
dress like women to get access to the palace to save the emperor.
“She’s a woman she will never be worth anything” That was said about Mulan
even after she saved China. Most epic heroes do not have to go through such
discrimination since most of them are men. When they achieve something they usually
get immediate gratification for that achievement but since Mulan is a woman in a culture
where being a woman is somewhat frowned upon she has to deal with people who
disagree with what she’s doing because they believe in strict gender roles. The emperor
offers her position in his council but she respectfully declines because she would like to
go home to her family. The emperor gives her the crest of the emperor and the sword of
Shan Yu to show her family what she has done for him and what she has done for China.
The emperor tells Shan Yu that “you don’t meet a girl like Mulan every dynasty.” So
Caitlin Keohane
LIT 3103(Monday Night 5:00-7:45)
Term Paper (Mulan)
Shan Yu goes after Mulan in the end and this epic turns into sort of a twisted love story.
He then returns home and approaches her father with the crest and sword and he puts
them both aside to embrace Mulan. Her father says “the greatest gift and honor is having
you as a daughter.”
Overall Mulan is a lot like a normal epic hero. She has courage, she achieves all
she sets out to and more, she goes through a journey with help from friends, and her
Chinese culture is immensely present throughout the epic. It is a little different that she
falls in love with her captain. I think this choice was made by screen writers because it is
a Disney movie and little girls live to see a good love story. It’s also different that she’s a
woman and is also the main character. Traditionally epics seemed to me like a story of a
man’s journey. I didn’t understand how a woman’s journey could fit into its criteria but
Mulan absolutely fits even though it is a Disney movie with a lot of girly aspects such as
the beginning with the matchmaker.