Disney Under Pressure Not To ‘Whitewash’ Mulan


While the news of a live-action ‘Mulan’ has come as a pleasant surprise to many, there are some who aren’t as optimistic, with an online petition against Disney ‘whitewashing’ the film.


The term ‘whitewashing’ refers to the idea whereby productions (Hollywood ones especially) would use white actors to replace ones in the source material that are of another ethnicity.

The petition, originating at Care2Petitions, opens with the title ‘Tell Disney You Don’t Want A Whitewashed Mulan!’ and has just over 34,000 votes, with an aim to reach 35,000.

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‘Mulan’ is, as we know, based on the Chinese story of Fa/Hua Mu Lan, whereby a young girl disguises herself as a man in order to infiltrate the army and fight as a soldier against the invading Huns. 

The Disney animated film, released in 1998, adhered to its origins by setting the story in China, with Chinese characters, and Mulan's voiced by Chinese-born actress Ming Na-Wen (’Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’), but a lot of the main actors are American born, including Eddie Murphy as sidekick dragon Mushu.


It’s therefore understandable that cinema fans wouldn’t wish to see a Chinese tale performed by white actors in what would presumably take place in another country (?) – having an all white, English-speaking cast in a China-set narrative simply wouldn’t make any sense.

Another example of ‘whitewashing’ that caused concern not too long ago was the news that Scarlett Johansson was set to play the lead role in ‘Ghost in the Shell’ – an anime set in Japan, with a Japanese character.

Whether Disney firstly intends to make ethnic alterations to ‘Mulan’s’ source material is, at present, unknown, as is their awareness of this recent petition. In truth, it seems unlikely that they’d make drastic changes and offend a lot of people, so let’s not judge them just yet.

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Picture credit: Disney 

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