On Sept. 4, Disney’s “Mulan” came out as a live-action remake of the beloved 1998 film by the same name which was revered for its cultural representation and important themes. There was a lot of anticipation for this movie, as well as a few concerns. Some of these had to do with serious controversy surrounding the film location and actors’ beliefs that eventually led to a call for a boycott of the movie entirely.
It began when the lead actress playing the warrior protagonist of the movie, Yifiei Liu, made remarks on the Chinese social media website Webio in August 2019 supporting the Hong Kong police. “I also support the Hong Kong police,” Liu had written. “You can beat me up now.”
This statement caused outrage because it was made in a time when the Hong Kong police were being accused of human rights violations against pro-democracy protestors in the country. The protests were because of an extradition bill which would have allowed “criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China under certain circumstances,” according to BBC news, which caused fear that journalists and activists would be targeted.
The protests that followed succeeded in getting the bill repealed in October 2019, however they continued afterwards because of alleged police brutality issues during the initial rallies. In response, the Hong Kong police have grown unpopular in the eyes of the public, which is why this was such a controversial statement for Liu to make in support of them, and it sparked many of the first cries to boycott the new film.
“Mulan” was released on the Friday before Labor Day weekend for members willing to pay an extra $29.99 on Disney+. It had already been receiving substantial backlash from fans who were calling out the company for partly filming the movie in Xinjiang, China. This is a region where Uighur Muslims are being detained in mass internment camps, according to The New York Times.
It only got worse when fans also noticed that in the “Special Thanks” section of the credits. Disney thanked multiple government entities located in Xinjiang, including some accused of spreading propaganda like the Turpan Municipal Bureau of Public Security and the Publicity Department of CPC Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomy Region Committee. “Mulan specifically thanked the publicity department of CPC Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region committee in the credits,” popular British novelist Jeanette Ng tweeted. “You know, the place where the cultural genocide is happening.”
“It’s sufficiently astonishing that it bears repeating: Disney has thanked four propaganda departments and a public security bureau in Xinjiang, a region in northwest China that is the site of one of the world’s worst human rights abuses happening today,” The Washington Post columnist Isaac Stone Fish wrote.
All the controversy aside, the public also seems to have resolved that the new “Mulan” just isn’t that great even on a cinematic level, with many believing that though it seems to shoot more for realism and accuracy, it really doesn’t quite seem to get there in terms of story and character.
“Mulan delivers a straightforwardly heroic narrative of a capable woman battling her way to respect,” The Atlantic critic David Sims said. “It just doesn’t have much else to add.”
Remakes in general, especially by Disney, seem to have grown stale in the eye of the public, and people are calling for more original content.
As of Sept. 14, “Mulan” made only $7.5 million out of the $200 million it cost to make the film. From outcry at comments from the lead actress to controversy revolving around the film location and who Disney chose to show appreciation to in the credits, “Mulan” has been, all-around, a bit of a disaster from start to finish. Which is a shame considering the potential it had to reinvigorate the much-loved 1998 film.