Mulan again and never so relevant
In 1998, when Disney’s Mulan was originally released, we were facing leadership challenges worldwide, terrorism, and extreme weather disasters. All were wreaking havoc on people throughout the globe. That was 22 years ago. Today, as we anticipate the re-release of Mulan – this time with live action – the contrast between the two should not be overlooked from a philosophical perspective. The animated characters of Mulan were drawn to portray the themes of culture, war, honor, and family. In 1998, these themes resonated with viewers and we could empathize with them. In the live action movie, we will watch human beings take on the same roles, challenges, plights, and concepts but the switch from animation to live action will inevitably make our emotions and attachments to these themes run deeper.
We may be dealing with some of the same issues today as we were in 1998. In fact, if we went back yet another 20 years, we would likely see the same challenges; however, today these same issues are running stronger through our daily lives due to social media, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the acceleration of pace in today’s society. We are truly in a ‘more of the same’ moment, but the ‘more’ is not widening as much as it is deepening.
We, the Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) Community, also feel that the level of intensity has increased and while connecting with each other and continuing to elevate our presence in overall society may feel harder than ever — it is still the right thing to do and we must still rise to new heights so our voices can be heard.
The re-release and live action version of Mulan reminds us of some of these themes and our plights as well as our pride and our potential. Let’s explore these ideas.
When you accept someone for who they are, you give them the freedom to grow and accomplish. Mulan was told who she was “supposed to be” and what she “shouldn’t do”. What if we gave everyone the chance to be the best they could be?
Representing 48 distinct ethnicities and speaking over 300 languages, APIAs encompass a wide spectrum of America: recent immigrants, indigenous Native communities, refugees, multi-generational American families, and American citizens and nationals from the U.S. Territories and Pacific Freely Associated States. When you accept someone for who they are, you give them the freedom to grow and accomplish. The potential for greatness is imminent.
The importance of family.
Mulan tried to follow family tradition to honor her family but her way of showing honor was far different than what her family asked of her. She knew her value and she used her talents and passions to keep her family safe and eventually bring them honor.
Many APIA Scholars are first-generation college students or graduates who live, work and study in environments where the perspective of the APIA voice is missing or marginalized. But that does not stop APIAs from pushing forward using education to elevate their careers and their voices. This is how APIAs help their families rise.
You are stronger than you think.
When Mulan was near defeat, she found motivation to climb higher, think differently, and set an example for others. She shows us that determination and perseverance is key to success.
Due to broad stereotypes of the Asian American community, the entire APIA population is frequently homogenized and overlooked. This can weigh heavily on us as individuals and as a community. But never forget how far we have come due to determination and perseverance. When you feel we are at a low point, learn something new, talk to a friend, reconnect with family, find your inner strength, and you will elevate your spirit and serve as an inspiration to others.
We are breaking barriers everyday. The roles of men and women should not be seen as limiting or as limitations. The story of Mulan proves that. Mulan behaves as a man to join battle and her male battle mates dress as women to serve as decoys. Mulan teaches us that gender roles are simply well-too-accepted stereotypes (that can be broken).
APIA Scholars is proud to encourage our community to push limits, whether personal, professional, or societal. It is in our power to make change happen, to confront the uncomfortable, and to reshape the future of our society. APIA Scholars is proud of you and want you to be all that you see in your reflection.