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Must You Make a Man Outta Me?

Mulan is probably one of my favorite childhood Disney films and the reason for that isn’t surprising for anyone who’s seen it.

At the time it came out, the general Disney film landscape looked something like this:

In comparison, Mulan was a stark and rather progressive move away from the “damsel in distress” trope and a break from the hyper-feminine, always dressed-up princesses that had started to annoy me even back then.

For a ‘princess’ to be able to look like this...

And do stuff like this...

...was something new and something that I could, and can still appreciate.

Looking back on the movie now though, it bothers me how despite everything, Mulan did have to disguise herself as a man to do all that she did; reproducing the male hegemonic narrative in the process.

Even the title track of this film, “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” (which is a banger btw 10/10 pls listen) is a 3 minute long reinforcement of the same idea that men are stronger than women, and it is desirable to be a man.

In particular, the line “Did they send me daughters, when I asked for sons?” stings me the most, especially considering the cultural relevance of this practice and how so many people desire to have sons over daughters. Given the platform Disney has, they could have challenged this idea or removed it altogether but instead they chose to reinforce it.

Despite the problematic aspects of the film and the song, part of me still likes it because it showed me that you can still:

Get ahead of men:

Fight them:

And win!

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