Mulan is a 1998 Disney movie inspired by the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan. The film was recognized and was also a success in terms of ticket sales. Over the years, it has become a true classic.
Fa Mulan is the only daughter of Fa Zhou, a former soldier in poor health. Mulan is to enter into a ceremony for arranged marriages to honor her family. Everyone is nervous at the thought of going to the ceremony because the women of her time could only anxiously hope to marry a good man who can honor her family.
Family values and the role of women as good housewives are deeply rooted in their community and there will be a lot of pressure on Mulan. But she does not feel ready; she has other hopes and expectations. Everything is about to end catastrophically, and Mulan feels guilty for disgracing the family and not fitting into society.
At the same time, the Chinese army has waged a war against the ‘Huns’. The emperor demands that a man from each family should go and fight in the war. In the Mulan family, the only man is her father. He was therefore forced to leave to serve the country.
Mulan hates the idea that her sick father should leave and knows that he would in no way return alive because he is already ill. Mulan makes a radical decision. She wants to disguise herself as a man, leave her home and go to war.
Honor and duty in Mulan
The values of the traditional family say that the man is the hero and the woman is relegated to second place. These rules are firmly established, but Mulan does not seem to quite fit this pattern.
As she goes to the arranged marriage, we see the young women who follow all the rules and look very excited because they are about to meet their husband with whom they are to share the rest of their lives. Mulan, on the other hand, only gets ready at the last minute and writes a “cheat sheet” to remember what to say.
She really does not know what to do. Mulan knows she has to honor her family and really wants to bring honor to her parents. But when everything goes wrong at the marriage ceremony, she begins to reconsider what her real duties should be.
In the end, she breaks all the rules. She breaks tradition and sets off to serve in the army in her father’s place. She not only does it for her father’s sake, she does it for herself too. Mulan must find his place in society. She must also prove to herself that she has value and is more than just a good wife.
The symbolism of the sword
When Mulan decides to dress up as a man, something symbolic happens . She cuts her hair off with her father’s sword. It would be easy to overlook this little detail. We could only assume that it is part of Mulan’s transition, change and the beginning of a new adventure.
However, there is something else behind it all. Both the hair and the sword are filled with symbolic connotations.
If we think of mythology, we see that the sword has always been associated with honor. The sword is associated with the “man”. It represents victory, personal growth and honor in battle.
Each high-ranking knight has his sword with which he has won battles. The sword that Mulan uses is her father’s sword. This is the sword with which he brought honor to the Fa family. She takes the sword and cuts off her own hair with it.
The symbolism of the hair
The hair also has a certain symbolism related to honor. Think of Samson; his hair symbolized strength and honor. In addition, long hair is associated with femininity.
As in the Spanish poem, Cantar de Mio Cid, El Cid’s beard was a reflection of his honor and the more fights he won, the more his beard grew. Similarly, the Emperor of Mulan has an impressive white beard. It is a symbol of wisdom and great honor which he possesses, thus he has the longest beard in society.
Mulan is now a failure. She has dishonored her family and herself. Therefore, she cuts his hair off and does so with the sword, which in itself symbolizes his honor.
When she eventually returns from her time in the army and has saved China, Mulan gives her father the sword and all the other items that the emperor has given her. Thus, she gives the credit back to the family.
Women in Mulan
As we have seen, Mulan is a completely atypical female character and never seen before in Disney. She is a rebel, a woman who rewrites the rules. She shows us that any of us can do what we set out to do. No man is worth more than any woman.
When the emperor asks for people’s help, he is only asking for one man from each family. He stipulated that this man could not be replaced by a woman even though his health is poor and he is even too weak to fight.
Mulan considers it unfair. She is young and can serve China better than her father in the current state. He would never be able to survive war because of his poor health.
It’s not easy for Mulan at first. But she manages to overcome these obstacles and gain the respect and recognition of the other soldiers. Then they discover that she is actually a woman. Someone just can not accept it, even if she saved them and turned out to be than excellent good warrior.
A woman in a man’s world
There are moments in the film that show how difficult it is to be a woman in a man’s world. Many men do not listen to women and even tell them ” that they should be silent in the presence of a man “. They say that ” they will never be worth anything here because they are women.”
Despite adversity, Mulan turns out to be a true heroine. She breaks all the stereotypes and saves her country and proves that she is not worth less just because she is a woman. We see a big difference from the beginning to the end in her.
The young carefree Mulan we saw in the beginning has disappeared. She has now proved to be a strong and brave woman, as good a warrior as any man.
A real woman
She probably did not realize how serious the war was until she came to the camp and saw that no one had survived. There she finds a doll she had lost, a doll that symbolizes the childish and feminine side that she had left behind.
This encounter with the doll is an encounter with itself, its true self. It also marks the end of innocence and a step towards adulthood.
Mulan is not a princess and the film does not talk about her beauty. She is far from being the typical Disney princess. She represents a normal woman with hopes and dreams. A woman who wanted to overcome and show that she was in no way worth less than men.