Mulan is one of my favorite animated movies. Not gonna lie, I caught myself singing along basically the entire movie. A cross-dressing soldier, a talking dragon, and a sassy grandma with some awesome musical numbers equals a great movie.
The constant theme throughout the movie is to uphold the family honor. According to Chinese tradition, for a girl to be bring honor to her family she must marry well and bear sons. The first song, “Honor to Us All,” spells this out with lyrics like “A man by bearing arms, a girl by bearing sons.”
However, this doesn’t work out for Mulan at all. As seen in the matchmaker scene, Mulan doesn’t really fit the mold of a stereotypical Chinese bride. I mean she can’t even pour a cup of tea and she really struggles with staying quiet.
According to the matchmaker, Mulan will never bring her family honor. This forces Mulan to reflect (aka sing the song “Reflection”) about what she’s supposed to do now that she’ll never find a man. What does she do? Runs off and joins an army full of men of course!
Every hero needs a comedic sidekick right? Enter Mushu aka “the demoted one.” Like Mulan, he also struggles to do what is expected of him. He can’t even do his job of ringing the gong right. Mushu helps Mulan get into trouble and provides us with comic relief throughout.
While Mulan isn’t the stereotypical Chinese bride, she is still a girl. I mean she seriously gawks at the pretty boy when he takes his shirt off. Then when it comes to climbing for the arrow, she works smarter not harder unlike the men that expect to succeed through pure strength.
I never really understood how no one notice Mulan is a girl? She does a terrible job of hiding it, but that might just be me.
I really love the irony of the songs “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” and “A Girl Worth Fighting For.” First, there is no way Li is going to make Mulan into a man no matter how many buckets he makes her carry. Second, Mulan IS a girl worth fighting for.
Mulan saves her unit and buries the Huns, but because she’s a girl that’s not honorable. Left to die, she sees her country is still in trouble rushes to save it even though it rejected her.
One of my favorite parts is when they reprise “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” and the lyrics “be a man” are sung right when they show off the other cross dressers.
Instead of the guy getting the girl, the girl gets the guy. You go Mulan!
Mulan shows that you don’t have to do the same thing everyone else has done before you. She breaks tradition and brings more honor to her family by saving China than she could ever hope to by marrying well and bearing sons.
The movie has several great songs and quite a bit of humor thrown in (thanks Mushu). Also it teaches girl power and the importance of being yourself. A funny, entertaining, lesson teaching movie, it can’t get much better than that.