For young age children, Disney movies has always played a big part in their childhood. For many people when watching movies such as Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella, they only see it as family films with the same message, the princess getting her happy ending by marrying her prince charming who helped her in distress.
These movies basically convey the message that women are not strong enough and have the courage to overcome certain obstacles within their lives without a man. But the movie, “Mulan” breaks this gender stereotype as it portrays a woman with a more masculine personality, opposes feminine stereotypes, and challenges the idea of men being more intellectual than women. When one hears the word masculinity, the idea of men being dominant, powerful, and strong comes to mind. A woman possessing these characteristics would have the general public in blur. But, in the case of Mulan, she redefined the stereotypical idea of masculinity.
All throughout the movie Mulan was looked upon as just another girl in the Chinese culture that must fulfill her family honor by being able to achieve certain characteristics to be accepted for marriage. In the beginning of the movie, Mulan is shown engaging in conversion with her mother about the matchmaker pairing her up with a man who could potentially be her future husband. From that point Mulan meets up with the matchmaker and makes a complete fool of herself. At this point it is shown that the marriage lifestyle isn’t cut out for Mulan. This is surprising when making a connection with reality, for most woman it is their dream to grow up and get married. Going to war wouldn’t necessarily be a dream for Mulan, but it would be a mission.
As a woman aside from being a man, to be eligible to fight in the army she would have to possess some type of physical strength. According to Soren Hough, “women must be physically strong and, if possible, they must defeat men in combat to prove how strong they are” (Hough). In other words, because women are known as the weaker gender, for them to be labeled as strong they must be able to defeat a man. Defeating the Huns leader, Shan Yu took a great challenge. Though Mulan didn’t possess the actual physical strength to defeat Shan Yu, she was able to still be assertive and determined.
Her determination was highlighted at the Imperial Army training camp. All the exercises that the other men weren’t able to master, through hard work and dedication Mulan was able to achieve them. Though men were the only gender worthy to take part in the army. Mulan contradicted this stereotype and proved that women can do anything that men can do.
All throughout the movie feminine stereotypes were displayed. The ultimate goal that Mulan’s family placed upon her was to honor the family by getting married. The song “Honor to Us All” states, “A girl can bring her family great honor in one way, by striking a match”. Striking the match is another way of saying marriage. With this many were able to see that the Chinese culture is big on the idea of daughters getting married and that’s really all they are known for.
But, Mulan opposes this stereotype when she feels that she can’t live up to societies expectations and enlists herself in the Chinese army. The moment Mulan heard her father’s name called, the look on her face was disappointed, scared, and fearful. She didn’t know how to avoid her father leaving to go fight, so her only option was to go to war in her father’s place. Not knowing how everything will play out Mulan steals her father’s armor and runs away from home where she then goes into war later on in the movie. This decision took a great deal of courage, one that many women would not have decided to do or even be able to do according to the Chinese rule. Since she was a woman, Mulan was known to be unimportant and worthless.
This is portrayed in the scene where Captain. Li Shang and Chi-Fu gets in an argument. After Mulan helps save the city by defeating the Huns, Li Shang considers her as a hero. But, Chi-Fu responds by saying, “she’s a woman, she’ll never be worth anything.” Also, when Mulan returns home with the sword that the emperor gave her, her grandmother makes a statement which states, “Great she brings home a sword. If you ask me she should have brought home a man”.
From here it proves that even though she performed a heroic act by saving the city, she still didn’t honor the family’s expectations. But, even though Mulan was able to oppose the feminism stereotype that women are able to perform a male’s role and succeed. Being able to defeat the Huns and save the city took great intellectual thinking. Walking through the snowy mountains Mushu, which is Mulan’s guider, accidently sets off a cannon which discloses their location. As the Huns hear the cannon they immediately attack. They were also outnumbered.
Running all out of options Mulan fires the last cannon at the mountainside, which causes an avalanche and buries all the Huns. Many wouldn’t approve of Mulan coming up with this idea being that she is a female. Usually men tends to be the heroes with their brilliant ideas. Society generally labels men as being smarter than women.
Society doesn’t expect women to be knowledgeable because they are known to only cook, clean, and fulfill female duties. To conclude, Mulan displayed a great act of bravery. Joining the Chinese Army did not only cost her to dishonor her family, but also could have cost her life. As Mushu (Mulan’s protector) stated, if the Chinese Army found out that she was a man her punishment would be death. Being that Mulan helped save the city and brought honor to the family’s name through another alternative, instead of marriage. A message that can be taken away from this movie is that at times it’s alright to break gender norms.
There are many ways that woman can contribute to society without having to meet the requirements of finding a man, getting married, and fulfilling the requirements that a man prefers in a woman. But, to be able to provide for her city as a woman she still has to disguise herself as a man. Breaking gender roles in films tend to be uncommon. But, once the breakage of gender norm is displayed it’s easy to realize it. Even though Mulan revealed herself towards the end of the movie society still viewed her as a typical woman. This shows how hard it is for a woman to succeed at owning a male role.