Making Mulan Right, and the Limits of On-Screen Representation

by Oanh-Nhi Nguyen and Mark Tseng Putterman

When a leaked script revealed that Disney planned to center its live-action Legend of Mulan film around a white merchant who comes to “white knight” the hero of China, the outrage was swift and fierce. After thousands signed 18MillionRising’s petition, Disney quickly responded to assure fans that all major characters would be cast as Chinese. “Don’t worry,” one patronizing headline went so far as to say, everything’s going to be fine. And by and large, the once-raging fire of #MakeMulanRight has cooled to a few glowing embers. Asian America seems to be satisfied to know that Disney won’t turn Mulan into yet another white savior film.

It’s a win, but not exactly the sort of victory you can feel great about. We’ve been through this too many times, haven’t we?

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