Kids’ movies are a formative influence. Anyone can tell you that. Everyone has that one movie they watched to death when they were young, practically memorising the entire script and score, absorbing the main characters into their personality and wearing down the video tapes until they caught fire. Among other things, this is why it’s so important to create good role models (for girls and boys alike) and powerful stories within these movies, especially if you’re a big influential studio like Disney, who lately has a weird habit of simultaneously capitalising on and denying the existence of their star female characters.
Mulan was my movie and Disney heroine of choice. Conventional princesses were all very well, but I never really connected with them, or superficially admired their tales that much. I looked up to Mulan, not only for being clever and strong and being able to handle a cool sword but because I watched it with my dad a lot, and I think on some level I sort of saw us in the story. Given his Chinese linguistics and history background and involvement in martial arts, I think he enjoyed it too, more than other Disney movies he was, as a gracious parent, inevitably forced to watch ad nauseum. And Mulan deeply admires and loves her father, then goes and protects him like a total boss, and young me really dug that. But, on a less personal level, I think I just enjoyed Mulan because dad-plot or not it was a gosh-darn girl power story, about her and how much ass she kicked.
I could go on forever about the infinite kickassery of this movie and Mulan herself and in doing so revert to my eight-year-old self, but I want to come back to the business of titles: immediately it’s evident, from looking at it, that this story is about Mulan. As well as driving it, it belongs to her, with her name emblazoned on everything and brought up in glowing full-screen glory in the opening credits. There was no question anywhere, this was a film about a kickass lady and Disney was not afraid to tell anyone that. Continue reading