Fridge / Mulan

Fridge Brilliance
  • The whole "Strength and Discipline" trick has a very interesting discussion on the movie's Headscratchers page. Essentially, not only are the weights Strength and Discipline needed to climb, but without actual strength and discipline, it'd be impossible to figure out the trick and reach the top.
    • Also, if you watch carefully, Mulan was being kicked out not only because she seemed unable to withstand the physical training, but also because she (well, it was actually Mushu, but not from Shang's point of view) resorted to trickery. He doesn't say "you are too weak", but "you are unsuited for/ the rage of war" (because an undisciplined soldier can result in many dying). He believed she lacked both strength and discipline. By passing the test, she proved him completely wrong.
    • There's also the metaphor behind it all: Mulan was only able to succeed when she stopped viewing Strength and Discipline as obstacles pulling her back and started using them as tools to aid her.
  • Towards the end of the movie, Mulan's secret is revealed. Before Shang almost kills her, she says "I did it to save my father." What makes this line so meaningful to Shang is that he recently lost his own father in battle. This might have been an intentional low blow to help gain sympathy from Shang.
    • Also, filial piety is one of the greatest cultural values of China. She had endangered her own life, risking a most shameful death, to respect that value well beyond anyone would deem possible. It explains not only why Shang spared her, but also why even Chi Fu kept the secret.
  • Take a look at Khan (Mulan's Horse) and Shang's Horse — the feminine dark Yin and the masculine light Yang.
  • It's very easy to dismiss the subplot involving Cri-Kee in Mulan as simple Rule of Funny. Everyone believed he was lucky when he truly wasn't, thus explaining why so much went wrong when people depended on him for luck — case in point, Mulan's session with the matchmaker. However, unless Grandma was really lucky on her own, there's no way she could have made it across that road without Cri-Kee's luck. But if Cri-Kee really IS lucky, then why did he cause so much trouble with the matchmaker? Sure, he may have just been trying to escape, or hated being taken advantage of, or he was just a little troublemaker, or because he believed himself to be so unlucky that the thought of him being there to help Mulan terrified him... but then the answer comes: if Mulan had passed the matchmaker's assessment, she would have become "a perfect porcelain doll", married some rich man her parents chose for her... and then all of China would have fallen to the Huns, and she would never have proven she could bring honor by her own individual merit instead of through marriage (not to mention find a fine man all on her own, thank you). Therefore, even though it didn't feel like that to her at the time, being humiliated before the matchmaker was the luckiest thing that could ever have happened, for her or for China.
  • Noted in a WMG: the letter that Mushu gave Chi Fu was exactly what was needed for Shang's troupe to arrive in time to save the day. Now think about who actually WROTE the letter for a second... That is one lucky cricket.
  • More on the cricket: note that in war, good fortune for one side is terrible fortune for the other. Now consider what all the good fortune Cri-Kee brought to his keepers cost everyone else: the terrible traffic accident Mulan's grandmother caused with her reckless test was a terrible misfortune to all the people driving those carts and rickshaws, the matchmaker suffered a lot of Amusing Injuries and Clothing Damage for the sake of Mulan's fortuitous change of career path, and the barbaric Huns (or Xiongnu) suffered a catastrophic defeat at Mulan's hands. His "lucky" letter that brought Shang's forces to the front lines saved China, but also introduced the entire unit to the very "unlucky" horrors of war. That cricket is actually The Jinx — the good fortune he brings his keepers comes at the expense of a great many others' misfortunes. Perhaps this is why Cri-Kee tearfully declares (as translated by Mushu) that he is not a lucky cricket during the scene in the mountains after Mulan's secret is discovered.
  • A lot of people were annoyed that Eddie Murphy was cast as Mushu, the disgraced Chinese Dragon sent to help Mulan. (Sort of) Everyone else in this movie was Asian-American, so why not Mushu? Look at what he is: he's selfish, lighthearted, joking, obsessed in regaining his reputation, and willing to pull a few strings in order to get what he wants. OK, but what's the big thing? He breathes fire. Now fire breathing is normally a Western Dragon trait. Western? Wait a minute — that's it! The whole reason Eddie Murphy was cast as Mushu was to help amplify the idea of throwing Western values into the Chinese society. No wonder he's so out of place.
  • A troper with a grasp of Chinese history will appreciate the plotline and story a lot more (with the entire conflict between the Xiongnu and the Imperial Authority).
  • During Mulan's preparations for meeting the Matchmaker, one of the women getting her ready sings that she'll turn "this sow's ear into a silk purse". The thing is, the proverb specifically states that it can't be done, just like Mulan could never be the perfect little doll that everyone expected. Nevertheless, the woman was stating how she knows it's impossible and is accepting the challenge.
  • When Khan first sees Mushu, he reacts by stomping on the dragon. The enemy of the Horse in the Chinese Zodiac is the Snake, which the Horse tramples as the Snake bites at its legs.
  • As for the Great Stone Dragon not waking up to the gong, Mulan sat under that very statue when she made her decision to run away to the army and take her father's place. Mushu couldn't wake the dragon up because its spirit had already left with Mulan, inspiring her to courage!
  • At 9 years old, "Be a Man" "I'll Make a Man Out Of You" was just another catchy Disney song. At 21, it suddenly hit me that the chorus is a reference to Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Let's compare:
    • We must be swift as the coursing river
      With all the force of a great typhoon
      With all the strength of a raging fire
      Mysterious as the dark side of the moon
    • "Let your rapidity be that of the wind, your compactness that of the forest.
      In raiding and plundering be like fire, in immovability like a mountain.
      Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt."
    • Also, "tranquil as forest, but on fire within" is a reference to the black side of the yin yang. Very clever lyrics, indeed. -The Shadow
  • Mulan is considered as an official Disney Princess despite not being royalty, by birth or marriage. Had she ended up marrying the wrong guy at the end of the sequel, she would have become a princess herself! In the first move she can be considered a princess because of the crest her country's emperor gave her and the fact that everyone, including the emperor, bowed to her; being bowed to was a big honour... especially since it came from the emperor himself.
  • Shan Yu's lack of humiliation at being defeated several times by a woman makes sense: most steppe people have had warrior women and up to the 12th century, the Huns in particular were very accepting of women hunting and going to battle. To him, she was just another warrior to defeat!
    • There is some irony in this: The Chinese tradition stated that Mulan deserved death when it was discovered she was a woman even though she had just destroyed the Hun army. However, if the situation was inverted and she were at the side of the Huns, Mulan would probably receive praises and the recognition of her value.
  • Mulan uses a fan, an object that is a symbol of femininity, to defeat Shan-Yu.
    • Even more brilliance is the fact that the move she uses is an actual Wushu move.
  • The Emperor's statement, "Though the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it," may come directly from "The Taming of the Shrew", act II scene I's "To the proof/As mountains are for winds/That shake not though they blow perpetually".
    • The Emperor bows to Mulan but refuses to bow to Shan-Yu. The mountain doesn't bow to a simple strong wind like Shan-Yu's demands. But Mulan impresses the Emperor through several heroic deeds, the way a mountain is gradually eroded by consistent winds.
  • The entire training sequence might just seem like typical slapstick comedy, but upon further examination — of course the men sucked at first, they were all recruited from their respective villages, and had probably never held a weapon in their lives. However, not being nobility, they would have had to be pretty fit to work in their respective occupations, which explains why they are able to complete the running exercises and why they improved so quickly.
    • This also explains why Mulan has such a hard time fitting in and keeping up, eventually washing out of training because of those same running exercises; she's only used to chores around the house and farm, not hard labor.
    • Another layer of brilliance: Mulan not only keeping up but outrunning everyone at the end of "I'll Make a Man out of You" can be explained by her extremely good horsemanship. She can ride Khan bareback at a gallop, from the top of the movie. This builds up plenty of endurance but little strength (since Khan would have logically carried everything heavy), not to mention she is infantry, so her riding skills may have been noted but not utilized. All she needed was a little time to get used to carrying packs.
  • Pretty subtle but since we're going with the fact that Mulan means "wood flower," which this troper only found out now, the analogies that Fa Zhou and the Emperor, her father and a father-figure respectively, give are awesome Book Ends. Near the beginning, after the disaster with the matchmaker, Fa Zhou compares his daughter to a late blooming flower. Towards the end, the Emperor implies to Shang that she's the "most rare and beautiful" of flowers because she "blooms in adversity". Bonus points because she hits her stride from the mountain attack up north — where the movie goes out of its way to point out that it was still snowing and by rights the battle with the Huns was not easily won (it took cunning and risk to pull it off), so technically she blooms in the dead of winter.
  • It's been pointed out in several places that Mulan could have gone home after washing out of boot camp, but chose to stay because of her pride and sense of personal honor. That's true, but it's also quite likely that with his "son" unsuitable and the troops still close to town, Fa Zhou probably would have been compelled to join up. Of course, he could have been dismissed too, but either 1. boot camp would have been bad for his health or 2. Shang would never actually dismiss the great Fa Zhou and ask him to serve in an advisory capacity due to his physical disability, which still means he's going to face the Hun army unless Mulan finds a way to stay in.
  • The Emperor is shocked, then rather amused when Mulan hugs him. Besides being a father figure to China, we find out in the sequel that he has three daughters roughly Mulan's age. Normally, no, you are not allowed to hug the Emperor, but seeing as he's a doting father and "has heard a great deal about" Mulan, maybe that includes the story about her father, he cuts her a little slack.
    • By bowing to her, he also very publicly forgives her "crime" of pretending to be the Fa family's nonexistent son (because otherwise her deception was technically treason against the crown and the Obstructive Bureaucrat could've had her and her entire family executed — the movie glosses over this detail in favor of making Chi Fu a straight-up misogynist jerk, whereas in "reality" it was her lying that probably would've been the bigger issue).
  • This troper is Vietnamese (born and bred in Hanoi), and she doesn't know if it’s the same in Chinese culture (granted, the two cultures are extremely similar due to China's multiple attempts on Vietnam), but she has just realized something brilliant about Mulan's names. In Vietnam, we have a term for a vapid, apparently quiet and demure and well-behaved but is simply an airhead of a woman: “bình bông di động”, which basically means “moving flower-pot”. And in Mulan’s time? Being a moving flower-pot is what females are expected to do — be quiet, obey your parents and husband, be pretty and graceful and virtuous, stay in your/your husband’s ancestral home, produce heirs to preserve the family lineage, etc. (As evident in Honor to Us All and A Girl Worth Fighting For.)Both her make-up in Honor and her false name are masks. Society dictates that she cannot marry into a good house if she’s not a flower-pot, and no matter how valiantly she fights or how clever she is, she is still just a woman, which is seen as something shameful. No matter what she does, society will insist upon labeling her as vapid and worthless without a man. But at the end of the day, Mulan’s story is a big “Screw You!” to the ideal of the flower-pot. She still fulfills her filial duties as set by Confucian values without being erased by society: she is lauded as a hero(ine) of China (preserving her family name and bringing honor to her ancestors), she marries Shang (a man of great station, whom she loves, as opposed to the traditional arranged marriages) and by this she can, to use a Vietnamese term, “keep the incense burning on the family altar,” i.e. produce children. She proves that you do not need to be a flower-pot to be a dutiful, ideal wife and daughter.
    • Even better: Her birth name. Fa Mulan. Mulan means “wood orchid”. (Yes, I know it also means “magnolia”.) Orchids and magnolias cannot be put in pots. Ever. Period. Mulan is someone who is at once noble and beautiful and strong and will not be confined, just like the flowers she is named after.
    • Better still: Magnolias are an example of what is known in botany as a "perfect flower" — that is, a flower with both male and female reproductive parts. Mulan may not be physically intersex, but considering her crossdressing shenanigans it seems so appropriate that her namesake flower is naturally a perfect balance of both male and female.
  • One thing that has circulated around the various pages are questions regarding the small size of Shang's unit which, upon close examination, is barely platoon strength (by modern force organization standards). His father, a General, leads a much larger unit of Mounted Infantry note . Basically, Shang, a Captain, is leading a support contingent of this larger force. What's the evidence? Watch the training sequence and notice how the trainees are basically getting lots of practice in with cannons and bows, but very little with close combat (beyond some basic hand-to-hand training and calisthenics). During the mountain battle, Shang orders everyone to save the cannons, as well as ordering everyone to get out of range of the arrows, which is something regular line infantry NEVER do when attacked (they usually close the distance or seek cover). Support units are trained to fall back and avoid direct contact where possible, but once they get set up, the party begins. In short, and in modern terms, the unit that Mulan is part of is basically a Mortar Detachment of Shang Sr.'s Mounted Infantry Brigade... all of which is going up against a Hun army of ten thousand strong...
  • I was listening to the song "A Girl Worth Fighting For" and there's a line where Yao tells Ping/Mulan, "Bet the local girls thought you were quite the charmer." Of course Ping is a charmer! It's Mulan, a woman who can relate to these other women. Think about it. Ping treats women the way Mulan wants to be treated: "he" doesn't have the sexist views of "his" comrades because Mulan knows what it's like to be on the receiving end of these beliefs, and "he" doesn't get caught up in the "manly ways [that] are sure to thrill her" antics the other guys pull because Mulan isn't impressed and knows that other women won't be either.
    • There's also "his" slightly effeminate good looks: as noted on the Camp Straight page, a lot of gals like the looks and mannerisms of a pretty boy. The women shown tittering at how cute Ping is don't actually get to meet "him" or learn much about "his" personality, but they do find it charming that "he" seems to be such a Shrinking Violet, turning away and blushing at their flirtations.
  • Shang's decision to have Yao try to kill Shan-Yu. In real life, the Huns and other similar groups were literally held together by the will of their leaders. When those leaders died, the people usually fell into infighting to decide who should succeed him. Thus, even though the Chinese would have been wiped out in that battle, it's possible China would have been saved anyways because the Huns would be fighting each other.
  • During the climax, Mulan and the others use disguises to take out the Hun soldiers, who've left Shan-Yu alone to threaten the Emperor. Once the Huns are beaten, Shang — who'd been hiding further back until now — rushes in to face Shan-Yu directly. While Mulan is still the one who defeats Shan-Yu in the end, it makes perfect sense to have Shang be the one intended to fight Shan-Yu on two levels: firstly, Shang is the one and only professional soldier present, whereas all the others are conscripts, so he has the best chance of fighting Shan-Yu and getting out alive even if he can't properly defeat him, and once the Emperor is safe they (either all the major characters or the entire population of the capital city) can easily stop him just by sheer weight of numbers even if some of them die in the process; secondly, it looks better for Shang to be the one to save the Emperor — he's the decorated soldier, son of a famous general, leader of the forces who wiped out the Hunnic horde, and is a strong masculine figure, fitting in to Ancient China's gender roles as demonstrated in the film.
  • Mulan being prepared in a rush to see the matchmaker wasn't just an Establishing Character Moment to show how she would be a terrible bride; it would also set up her ability to disguise Ling, Yao and Chien-Po with minutes to spare. What's more she rushed through the steps so that they only did their the hair, makeup and clothes rather than the waist-tightening.
  • Why does the disguise plot work better than battering down the palace doors? Because the Huns are prepared to slaughter any of the men who would charge in, and in that time of the battle the emperor could be killed. Deceiving the Huns and taking them down was much faster, especially with how Shan Yu is demanding that the Emperor bow to him.
  • Chi Fu isn't just a Jerkass; he's also right in regards to the odds that Shang and his men face. That explains why Mulan has to break typical rules of combat to turn the tide:
    • Chi Fu points out that the men aren't ready for war. When the Huns attack them, all of the soldiers are outmanned and outgunned. Shang tried his best, but he had no idea what the soldiers would face. Mulan ends up saving them with a creative solution, by using the environment as a weapon rather than brute force.
    • He also says that Shang is an academy student who hasn't actually fought in a real battle. This ends up proving correct: Shan-Yu delivers a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown which nearly kills Shang. Again, Mulan changes the rules by drawing Shan-Yu's wrath so that he doesn't murder her captain, drawing him to the roof, and defeating him with a fan and fireworks as an Improvised Weapon.

Fridge Horror
  • The soldier in the opening sequence. He knows he is going to die but he fights as hard as he can to use his last few seconds of life to set off the Great Wall's warning-torch-system, and then stands up to the scary Shan Yu before his death. Thanks to him, Shan Yu fails. Without his warning, the Huns' entry into China would have gone unnoticed, and the entire country would have likely fallen to invasion due to being completely unprepared for war.
    Soldier to Shan Yu: Now all of China knows you're here.
  • Similarly, is hearing the Matchmaker's song at 21 where you suddenly understand "Scarier than the undertaker we are meeting our matchmaker".
    • On another note, to the women who wanted to find a husband, this was the woman who held their entire future in her hands. If they made a good impression then they would get a good husband but if they did poorly then they would get a bad husband if she even matched them up at all.
    • Also, what if Mulan passed the Matchmaker's test?
      • Gone to war, because the matchmaker's decision doesn't affect Imperial recruiters, and passing initial testing won't stop Mulan from being horrified at her father's re-enlistment. If anything, it would give her something more to give up by taking his place, and an extra conundrum for her return.
      • Mulan admits to herself that she partially went off as to prove to herself that she was worth something; had she passed the matchmaker's test, yes she'd still be horrified but she might not have left.
      • In an earlier draft of the script Mulan did pass the matchmakers test, things only went pear shaped after meeting her chosen husband... Shang.
    • Considering the patriarchal-to-the-point-of-misogynistic nature of Chinese culture at the time, if Mulan's father had gone to war, the matchmaker would have been the only choice for survival she would have had...
    • Let's hope that by ruining her chances with the Matchmaker, Mulan didn't ruin the chances for the other girls with her that day. The Matchmaker was probably really pissed off with Mulan at the end of the session, what if that affected her evaluation of the other girls or if she even decided to not evaluate them at all? Mulan would had been better off in the end, but the other girls would most likely not have the same chances/opportunities as Mulan had.
  • Mushu scares the firework men from the tower and they jump off... at least six stories...
  • Mushu is sent to wake up the Great Stone Dragon guardian. Instead, he accidentally shatters him. Congrats, Mushu. You just murdered a family friend (unless you buy into the theory that Mulan is, in fact, the Great Stone Dragon.)
  • Shang finds out "Ping" is Mulan, freaks out, spares her life—and then leaves her alone to find her way back home, in the snow, during a war. She still had her clothes and horse and stuff but she's alone and a long way from home. The soldiers had not much with them in the first place; their primary objective was speed, so they took little in terms of extra clothing. And Mulan's armor was damaged when she was struck by Shan-Yu; even if she had been left with it (it didn't look like she was, as she had had to change out of it when she was treated), she would have still succumbed to cold quite quickly, given that it was winter. Result: had she not spotted some of the Huns were still alive later on, she could likely have frozen to death where the unit left her. And that's before we get to the issue of her one basket of dumplings, and total lack of fodder.
  • If Mulan hadn't heard the Huns, even if she was getting herself ready to go home, there is the possibility that she would have been found/crossed paths with them. Even if he was so close to the city and his objective, Shan Yu would have noticed how strange it was and would have probably realized right there that Mulan was the soldier from the mountains.
  • Thanks to one little Youtuber on ''I'll Make A Man Out Of You'', we now realize that the movie would've ended quite sooner if he took a peek in her shirt at 0:52...
  • The fact that Shang's entire army is able to fit behind a single boulder obviously has some horrifying implications as to what happened to the rest of the soldiers...
    • Yeah, Mulan's avalanche most likely killed most of the men she trained with. Well, the ones who had survived the initial arrow bombardment from the Huns anyway... On the other hand, if she hadn't started the avalanche, all of Shang's forces would have been wiped out by the Huns, and they would have been free to march into the Emperor's palace unimpeded. So it's a decision she'd have regretted once she realised how few men survived, but deep down she would have known that the men were a necessary sacrifice for the good of China.
    • Alternatively, they probably all died during the huge Rain of Arrows that the Huns fired at them moments earlier.
    • Actually, Word of God is they gradually decreased the amount of men in Shang's army throughout the film to have fewer people to animate and be able to focus more on the main characters, hoping it wouldn't be apparent to the audience. Notice there are dozens of men when Mulan first enters the camp, then when they go to save the Emperor there's only about seven of them. Though some of the men dying in battle probably still happened.
  • The song "A girl worth fighting for" is all about the various characters singing about their ideal bride, but at the end of the song they find a girl actually worth fighting and sacrificing their lives for... an unknown little girl, murdered by the Huns, whose only proof to having existed in the first place is a lost doll left in the snow.
  • If Chi-Fu hadn't promised Shang that the men would never see war, and Mushu hadn't overheard, there would have been nothing stopping the Huns from marching to the capital.
  • When Mulan took the last cannon from Yao to aim at the mountain rather than at Shan Yu, Shang isn't just screaming for "Ping" to come back because she's defying orders. He didn't know what the foot soldier was planning. As Shang saw it, Ping was doing a Suicide Mission to take out Shan Yu at a closer range and spare her comrades before they'd go down fighting. No wonder he's screaming "Stop!" and charging after Ping.
  • Mushu had a point when he saw that Mulan aimed the cannon at the mountain: "He was three feet in front of you!" Shan Yu stops because of the cannon's fiery trail, and turns to see where it lands. In those seconds Mulan could have slashed at his horse or got up to mount a defense, rather than standing there with a smirk. As a result, she gets slashed, which outs her later. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!, Mulan.