The problem with Mulan: why the live-action remake is a lightning rod for controversy

The remake of Disney’s hit animation has triggered pro-democracy and human rights protests in Hong Kong and around the world

It’s an understatement to say that a lot has happened since the trailer for Disney’s live-action Mulan was released last year, shortly after Hong Kong’s draconian national security law was passed without consultation or vote in June. The ongoing assault on democracy in Hong Kong has dominated international headlines, with the arrests of pro-democracy activists, newspaper editors and government legislators. With its original cinema release put on hold due to the coronavirus epidemic, Mulan is now emerging to a vastly different political landscape.

On the face of it, the new Mulan is a missed opportunity for Hollywood to explore Chinese history and identity, a confused and superficial statement about Chinese nationalism. A hodgepodge of Chinese historical mise-en-scène, wuxia-style choreography, cheap orientalism and stilted dialogue, it’s also become a lightning rod for pro-democracy and human rights protests around the world.

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