Boy, is the movie Mulan having a rough year. It started ages ago with Mike Pence’s comments about the movie’s “secret message,” and now a supposedly leaked Disney spec script has everyone in an uproar about a potential whitewashing controversy. In an open letter that was written anonymously on the blog “Angry Asian Man,” the author purports to have read the spec script Disney originally purchased for it’s live action Mulan remake and discovered a few features of the story that did not sit well.
Primarily, that Mulan was apparently being replaced as the hero in her own story and overshadowed by a white explorer who would then serve as the cliche white savior character that so many modern films include (hi, Matt Damon). The letter lays out the situation thusly, and if true these details definitely point to a problematic decision making process by Disney.
The man is a 30-something European trader who initially cares only for the pleasure of women and money. The only reason why he and his entourage decide to help the Chinese Imperial Army is because he sets eyes on Mulan. That’s right. Our white savior has come to the aid of Ancient China due to a classic case of Yellow Fever. In this script written by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin, more than half of its pages are dedicated to this merchant who develops a mutual attraction with Mulan and fights to protect her in the ensuing battles. To top it all off, this man gets the honor of defeating the primary enemy of China, not Mulan.
Almost immediately after the letter was published, the internet went into an uproar about the potential catastrophe of a casting mistake on top of an already terrible-sounding script mock-up. Many united under the hashtag #MakeMulanRight, and made some great points in regards to modern movie making. Including calling out just how gorgeous Shang is in the animated film and how keeping a live action version of him out of the live action version in favor of a white love interest is not only a terrible idea but also completely unfair.
However, the outrage might be a bit too soon as the script that these observations are coming from looks to be the original spec script that Disney purchased once they committed to the project in the first place. Since then, that work up of the story (which will be a combination of the original Ballad of Mulan legend and the animated film) has been rewritten and will probably be tweaked multiple times as casting and pre-production proceeds.
That doesn’t mean any upset fans aren’t completely misguided in their worry though. Disney is promising that they are opening up their casting search for Chinese actresses that could fulfill the fierceness and heroic qualities of the warrior that saves China. But since the cast isn’t solidified yet, fans are right to make their voices heard before Disney makes a mistake. It’s a lot easier to push for diverse casting before any whitewashing actually happens. Whatever comes next in this live action reboot’s journey, at least the studio knows exactly where fans stand when it comes to the casting of Mulan and Shang and the overall storyline.
#MakeMulanRight, Disney. If there are going to be endless live action remakes, they should be done to the best of the studio’s abilities and not just for another few dollars at the box office.