Disney’s Mulan finds herself in a real-life political tension

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

By Prashalan Govender

Source: Instagram @mulan

Chinese actress Crystal Liu who is set to play Mulan in the highly-anticipated live-action adaption of the Dinsey original, scheduled to premiere early next year, has publicly come out in support of the Hong Kong police amidst the growing tension.

Last week Crystal Liu took to social media, popular Chinese platform Weibo, to express her support for the Hong Kong police.

The comment read: “I support the Hong Kong police. You can all attack me now. What a shame for Hong Kong.” Liu added a hashtag conveying that she was standing in solidarity with the police; police who last week attacked protesters that were retreating in an underground station.

Liu, a notable public figure in China, boasts a whopping 65 million followers on Weibo and has been claimed as one of China’s most bankable actresses.

Thus, her comments have sparked outrage with #BoycottMulan now trending on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Why is this such a big deal? Never fear, context is near.

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, which means that it is indeed a part of China but it is self-governed with it’s own laws, currency and other characteristics of an independent state.

Hong Kong used to be a British colony but in 1997 was released from British colonial rule under the condition that the territory remain free from direct Chinese control for 50 years.

However, earlier this year the Hong Kong government passed a bill that would allow Hong Kong prisoners to be extradited to mainland China, where they would face prosecution under Chinese law.

This spurred multiple conversations of freedom and democracy, as what China considers to be illegal is vastly different from what Hong Kong considers to be illegal. Furthermore, this bill would have given the Chinese government even more influence over Hong Kong.

In order to stop the bill, thousands took to the streets in protest. Tragically, the protesters were met with such severe force from the police that international human rights groups have condemned the Hong Kong police. A strike was planned by Hong Kong citizens to specifically address the violent measures the police have taken. Herein lies the controversy surrounding the Mulan actress' comments in favour of the police.

Perhaps Mulan, one of the greatest feminist icons, could have done to avoid this particular fight.

However, some argue that Liu's words were not her own, emphasising the control the Chinese authoritarian government has over their public figures, while others maintain that she was acting of her own accord. The people's uncompromising response: see the film flop in the box office.

The Mulan boycott has gained traction in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The loss of respect and diminished anticipation for one of Disney's major upcoming films is bound to leave a noticeable dent in the company, as Asia is their biggest market. Disney has already created an atmosphere of displeasure within the Indian society this year due to their white-washed versions of Princess Jasmine and Aladdin.

While Disney has not issued any comment at the time of publication, it is highly likely that they will given the escalation of resistance that is occurring in Hong Kong at this moment, as well as the potential loss of income in one of their biggest markets.

Disney is gradually losing touch with its previously unrivaled grasp on the magic of film-making by producing live-action adaptions of age-old classics such as The Little Mermaid and The Lady and the Tramp, and doing a poor job of authentic representation.

Although, perhaps a greater and more resounding question regards the artists themselves: to what extent should those with influence be held accountable for the things they say and do during times of such political strife and, arguably, undeniable violations of human rights?

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