Should I ask myself in the water what a warrior would do? Tell me, underneath my armor – am I loyal, brave and true? Oh yes, I am absolutely obsessed with this song – it’s soft but so damn powerful! And so is the message that Mulan carries. Sure, this film has flaws but everything depends on the perspective one will choose to look at it.
As much as I respect different cultures and traditions, it is beyond my understanding that in some societies, women are “designed” for one purpose only – marriage. With the additional duty of giving birth to children and being a wonderful housewife. I know that in some parts of the world, arranged marriages are still a thing and integral part of national identity, but let’s face it – for someone who lives in a completely different circle, it is… Unimaginable. Every time I think about it, I recall Little Women quote: Women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty. I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for.
We are now living in a transformative world that constantly evolves and develops new concepts. Or changes the one we know, drastically. And when it is about women “learning their places” … Now, the case is complicated. Why?! It shouldn’t be. Disclaimer for all “alfa-males” out there: calling women that want something more in life “crazy feminists” is ridiculous. Do you even know what the definition of feminism is? According to Britannica, it is the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes. Although largely originating in the West, feminism is manifested worldwide and is represented by various institutions committed to activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.
Before it premiered, I had one major objection. Actress that portrayed Mulan (Yifei Liu) seemed emotionless. Okay, one more: no Mushu? Kidding, I am kind of glad that this version was more mature and in accordance with folklore tales. After all, Disney has a new generation to educate! So, maybe that is a reason behind this trend for live action films. But hey, let’s not go there. Emotionless Mulan – yes, that was my biggest issue. But after the first screening I understood the cause and it broke my heart.
You see, when you do something that makes you happy, when you follow your passion or when you are being you… The real you, endorphins and dopamine and every other “happy hormone” does wonders. Magic. Smile, spark in your eyes… Glow. Passion does that to you. Dreams, wishing or making come true – that also works. Now imagine someone tells you, that in order to bring honor and grace to your family, you can’t ever do what makes you happy. You can never watch films. Or sing, paint. Or be a boss! Leader, influencer (not the social media kind, come on), mentor. This is a man’s world!
Mulan had to stifle her chi and learn her place as a daughter. Because she lived in society that did not cultivate female power. More, they didn’t even think of using that to their advantage. Women could not be warriors, could not be better than men.
And yet she didn’t give up. She kept on pushing and believing that things can change. Mulan was in a position, where she had nothing more to lose. How many of you can relate?
You know my reviews – they are not exactly typical reviews. That would be boring. So, I will give you my own message – well, not own-own but personal. Because the point that Mulan makes is to be loyal (to your ideals), brave (protect them, protect what you love most) and true (especially to yourself). That is the core, but what else? Never give up. Fight for what you stand for. Have courage to lead. Do not be afraid to fail. This all may sound cliché, but don’t deny it – there is a power within… Tell me, that not once you gave yourself a morning pep talk in the mirror.
Now, about my personal experience. Obvious example (obvious, but not to be disregarded) is my mum – the strongest woman I know. She gave up the career she could’ve had as a nurse to raise me and my brother. She gave up everything – her passions, friends (in a way) and dreams for me to be the person I am today. Now, she is catching up with everything, she loves her knitting and yarns, she travels to the seaside and mountains twice a year… But she had every right to do it in her youth, even with kids. My mum could’ve worked full time and still pull it off.
Yet, she and dad agreed. Both. Together – if my dad could not provide for the entire family, she would have to work. You might think that I would want to follow her footsteps, even subconsciously – but she raised me well. Better. Two years ago, when I got my job at EY, mum told me that I can’t never settle for mediocre. That I am way too good to sit at home and be the perfect housewife. Sure – being mom and wife is cool, but I should never give up career, work, dreams. And I saw in her eyes, that part of her heart regrets this life.
I know that back then, it was what she dreamt of and what she wanted. Highest sacrifice for the sake of her children. Ultimate devotion to family!
I am blessed to encounter with lots of great females, but few of them are most distinctive. Like my mum. But also, in my work environment, I have met someone truly exceptional. My second (but first real) boss – Kate. We started together in May 2018, but she was a supervisor in a different team. For a moment I felt envy of those, who she would lead. Such an energetic and fearless woman!
And then, 3 months later I was under her wings, absolutely terrified of this change. But that is the thing with Kate – she will throw you into the deep waters, but only when certain that you won’t drown. Which makes her a great character judge 😉 I watched Mulan with her on Thursday and I was already planning this post, thinking about all the times she helped me, inspired me to get what I want, to pursue my dream (with Movie Club). Transfer to her team was the best work-decision I have ever made, in my entire life.
Kate taught me work diplomacy – sometimes cooling down my bad temper towards people; strength and persistence and that sometimes it’s not worth a flying duck. At the end of the day, it’s just a job we do. And there is always tomorrow – right after that terrible day you just had.
So, I kept watching Mulan and thought: if a woman should lead the men’s army, it would be Kate. And when I grow up, I want to be the leader she is! I mean – she is an ultimate champion on sensing my bad (low) days. It’s not the biggest mystery though, because I wear my heart on my sleeve, but still – sometimes we have to pretend that everything is okay, that work wasn’t so hard actually and all’s good at home. Never once I felt guilty about that mood of mine, not with Kate around.
You see, it is hard to be any kind of leader. I know that now, leading the Movie Club for almost 2 years. It is one of the best experiences in my life, but also such a pain in the ass… Not long ago I learnt (the hard way, with tears of course) that I will never please EVERYONE. People will complain, because it is an Olympic sport for every human. I remember telling Kate about this and she smiled (I imagine, because it was on work chat) and she said: Ultimately, this is your club. Your idea. Own it! It’s great that you include and involve them as much as possible but… It’s your shape. Your decisions. Be their leader and take responsibility for YOUR choices.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I believe that our personal stories carry even bigger, electric messages. More relatable even – after all we talk about our own experiences. Mulan is in a way, universal. Painfully unjust for the female warrior character. Just take a look at Xianniang (Li Gong). Her chi was extremely strong and for that power, people exiled her. Sadly, there was no one around to show her the noble path. When Böri Khan (Jason Scott Lee) says When I found you on a desert steppe wandering alone, you were exiled. A scorned dog. When I sit on the throne, that dog will have a home… Deep down, she knew that even if Böri Khan would win, there would be no place for her in his kingdom. Not for a woman, who is a mighty warrior.
Actually, that piece of the plot I consider a wasted potential. But like I mentioned – I don’t want to talk about negatives. Like ridiculous pre-fight close ups, that reminded me of “class B karate films”. Or that Rourans could walk on walls. Or that Mulan’s transformation into a warrior took like 5 whole minutes.
The most important thing for Disney was to emphasize the importance of strong, independent women that could easily outsmart male warriors. Not in a brag-y way, no. In “we are equal” way. Equal access to training, opportunities and resources. The things that could be different are personal experience and skillset.
People say that being a good leader is not something one can learn. Sure – there are courses and coaches that could try and teach you. But the thing is, a true warrior comes from within… If you had such a daughter, her chi, the boundless energy of life itself, speaking through her every motion, could you tell her that only a son could wield chi? Do you see the point? Natural born leaders are the one we will follow without hesitation. Let me ask you this then: would you rather follow someone who instead of collecting university’s diplomas has wide experience, traveled around the world, read tons of books or would you rather shadow a person who is defined by their education?
Having a degree does not mean that we are smarter than those without masters in whatever. This is why the world is undergoing transformation towards softness – in skills and approach to problems. And it’s beautiful! After all, to be the leader – warrior – you don’t need higher education. It will do nothing if you lack charisma, charm, wit and this loveable-ness.
Disney’s attempt with Mulan was, for me, successful – like I mentioned, they have an entire new generation to raise – kids with noses stuck in their phones, facing unrealistic expectations about future… Addicted to Netflix or any other streaming platform, not reading as many books as we used to their age. To raise them, to support and help them face reality, we must (yes, WE!) think of tricks to sneak the messages for them to decode. And so they can grow up to be the restless warriors.
Mulan is a beautiful, full of rich colors and breathtaking landscapes, folklore tale that takes us back to China, Silk Road and love affairs that I don’t agree with. One of the best things about this film, apart from the most wonderful music by Harry Gregson-Williams is the fact that there is no direct romantic angle. No kiss, no nothing, which would ruin the purpose. What else I loved? In the animated version, Mulan cuts her hair as part of her disguise and transformation to join the imperial army. This scene wasn’t adapted to the live-action film. Historically speaking, long hair on men was very common in imperial China, so Mulan having long hair at the military camp would not have been considered unusual.
Authenticity is also a very important thing to mention – real life location is one thing, the stunts! Yifei Liu performed 90% of all her stunts as Mulan: horse riding, sword fighting, martial arts, and battle scenes. But my ultimate champion is Donnie Yen and his sword / fighting skills. Crew had to shoot his moves in a slow-motion camera, so they could actually SEE what he was doing. Suddenly, I am in the mood for all kinds of “kung-fu / karate / fighting” films!
With clear conscience, I can recommend this film to everyone, including fans of “original” version from 1998. Even though there are no songs or Mushu (Disney made that choice to ensure that the live-action remake stayed true to Chinese culture and traditions. Instead, they decided to include a phoenix – a sign of peace and prosperity), it is a wonderful tale of what it really means to be a warrior.
In 19 days Twin Peaks Café will celebrate ONE YEAR. This is crazy!!! I have some things planned for that occasion, but just for fun – why don’t we go back in time and recall my very first post? A lot has changed since then.
We watched the planes leave us behind…
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