I love Mulan, and I always have. From seeing it in the theater as a 7 year old, to a 24 year old watching it and analyzing its feminist message. At 7 I dressed up like her for a costume party, and carried around my barbie doll of her, always in her kung-fu outfit! At 24 I feel a tattoo is in order for my celebration of a fabulous story, and studying Ancient China in college has given more depth and inspiration to the story that pours from a rich, vibrant culture and time.
I remember being in love with the idea of a female character saving the day, I loved the funny dragon, I loved the touch on a culture so different from my own that I could only be mesmerized. I fell in love with not only the movie, but the idea that the world was so much bigger than what I had been thought to believe.
It was the art, the characters, the music, and all the other subtle details. It was getting to go to, what I believed, the “authentic” China-China in Manitou Springs and eating won-ton soup and listening to traditional music every time we were in “The Springs”. It was a fantasy and escapism for a child that longed for her own war to fight and adventure on the horizon.
Mulan wasn’t just an excitement for a child, it was further permission to dream. It encouraged me to read National Geographic’s and go into History and Journalism in academics so that I could explore more and more of the world. It has inspired me to travel alone to Europe three times, and to plan bigger adventures for the future, including China. It has encouraged me to take on scary challenged, because though the battle was hard and frightening, it was worth it. Though tiring and tumultuous, saving myself, and maybe my nation, was worth it.
Okay I am getting a little dramatic, but the sense of pride that Mulan instilled in me, the idea that as a girl i could do really AMAZING things will never be forgotten. The idea that a girl could be just as good as the boys, and that a girl could be the main reason something fails or thrives was a driving force like no other. No other princess movie in my childhood had that same message, and no other movie left my heart full of joy and confidence that I too could take on something evil and defeat it.
Regardless of some of the nonsense that inevitably comes with Disney movies, this one is still in my top five. The others came to me in my later childhood and adult life. Lilo and Stitch was innovative and hit home to how important family is to all of us and that differences make us beautiful. Tangled allowed goofiness to be charming and that we all have to save ourselves. Brave explored the complexities of mother-daughter relationships and the expectations we all have hovering over our heads. All of these movies have altered me, but Mulan was the first and the strongest.