Disney’s Mulan: Fact or Fiction?

Yes, the talking dragon is also an inaccuracy.

Yes, the talking dragon is also an inaccuracy.

      Mulan is probably best known as a Disney animated film about a girl that goes off to fight the Huns in order to save her father. What many people probably don’t pay attention to is how accurate (or inaccurate) the facts about Imperial China are. Admittedly, if I were not assigned to do so, I would never have noticed all the facts they put in, and inaccuracies they included. It was interesting to observe similarities and differences between the film and what we learned about political development, economic development, and philosophy in Imperial China. Obviously, a major inaccuracy was that they spoke English, and not Chinese.

Most of the things about political development were accurate, for the Han or Sui Dynasty that it was supposed to take place in. The government apparently ran on an aristocracy, because the generals were selected on a basis of their military lineage, rather than on their fighting or leading expertise. Also, the Emperor’s closest advisor is a scholar, who says lots of stuff related to Neo-Confucianist ideals.

Philosophy was also well-portrayed in this film, because there were many references to ideals that were important in medieval China. One of the main reasons it is such a big deal that Mulan disguises herself as a man and goes off to join the army is that Neo-Confucianism dictated that women were inferior. In fact, everyone likes her when she saves them from the Mongols (who, by the way, looked ugly and vicious, though in reality they looked very much like the northern Chinese), but when the Captain finds out she is a woman, he is expected to kill her. Also, honor is stressed in this movie, as it was back then. Everybody’s goal back then was to bring honor to their family, and dishonoring your family was a terrible thing to do.

Economic development was the last major thing we were prompted to pay attention to. The film included many accuracies in regard to Chinese innovations, such as gunpowder (used in cannons, fireworks, and rockets), paper, and the game of checkers. They also had shrines to the ancestors, and the houses were accurate, but one inaccuracy was that the Forbidden City was not built at the time of the story, yet it was shown in the film.

Over all, I found it very fun to watch this movie, especially during MCAS week, and it was also a very interesting experience to analyze the facts and fictions in it. It isn’t every day that one gets to watch a movie in class, let alone learn a lot from it.

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