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Disney's Mulan

  • Accidental Innuendo:
    • This line during "A Girl Worth Fighting For" as the men see some women: "You can guess what we have missed the most since we went out to war."
    • Mulan's fake name, "Fa Ping"; today, the name sounds awfully close to the slang term fapping.
  • Acceptable Targets: The Huns. They have sickly gray skin, and black eyes with yellow irises. Such depiction of any civilization that still exists would be considered incredibly racist.
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  • Adaptation Displacement: A lot of people in the West have no idea that the legend of Mulan has been around in various forms since the 6th century AD, and think she's an original Disney character.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Mushu didn't care about bringing Mulan home safe, but making her a war hero to regain his former glory. Selfish, no? And at what point did he start gravitating towards the former? And his approval of Mulan going back to the city to warn the others - is it motivated from the glory he could still get as a result?
    • Some people see Mulan as transgender, mostly because of the lyrics of "Reflection".
    • Some fans speculate that Shang developed romantic feelings for Mulan before discovering she was female.
    • Are Khan and Cri-Kee Intelligible Unintelligible, or does Mushu just happen to understand animal talk?
  • Applicability: Though Fa Mulan doesn't adapt a male persona as a result of gender dysphoria, "Reflection" has been heavily embraced by the transgender community, and LGBTQ+ persons in general.
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  • Americans Hate Tingle: Despite famous voice actors such as Jackie Chan and using a local folk tale, the movie didn't do much at the Chinese box office. Some blame piracy, some worry that the native audience took issue with the extensive reworking of the original myth, and some point to the fact that the Chinese government was in the middle of a bitter and spiteful dispute with the Walt Disney corporation thanks to Disney's Touchstone Pictures label releasing Kundun, which prompted the Chinese to ban its helmer Martin Scorsese from getting back into China and force Mulan to languish for a year before letting it out with an unfavorable release date just after the Chinese New Year's celebration stuffed the box office with other films (on top of that, Kundun was a Box Office Bomb). Ten years later, Dreamworks Animation's Kung Fu Panda would prove much more to Chinese tastes.
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  • Angst? What Angst?: Mulan kills thousands of men with an avalanche and shows no remorse; she is far more upset at being discovered and cast out of the army soon afterward. However, there is a great deal of angst to discovering a village that had burned to the ground. Of course the villagers were innocent and the Huns were enemy soldiers who were inches from slaughtering everyone.
  • Anvilicious: Sexism is bad. It's everpresent throughout the film but of course, Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped.
  • Awesome Music: "I'll Make a Man out of You", easily the most iconic song from the movie (and one of the more iconic songs from The Renaissance Age of Animation in general), this song is widely considered awesome.
  • Complete Monster: Shan Yu views the Emperor of China having built The Great Wall as both an insult and a challenge. As a violent Blood Knight, Shan Yu leads his horde of Huns to invade, relishing when China knows he's there. After capturing two Imperial spies, Shan Yu releases them with a message for the Emperor—but has one of his archers kill one anyways as you only need one man to deliver a message. Shan Yu later ambushes the armies of General Li at a village, resulting in a mass slaughter, not only of the soldiers, but every civilian as well, with no children spared either. Even after his army's downfall, Shan Yu attacks the Imperial Palace with his remaining men and takes the Emperor hostage, furiously trying to kill him when he refuses to kneel to Shan Yu.
  • Evil Is Cool: Shan-Yu and his mini boss bunch of Huns for the general badassery throughout the movie. Ironically, and probably on purpose, their defeats are all extremely comedic.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Grandmother Fa has more fans than her small screentime would suggest.
    • The Emperor due to being a Cool Old Guy and quite the badass himself.
    "No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it."
  • Fanon:
    • Mulan being transgender - due to Memetic Mutation of "Reflection". Some trans fans relate to the lyrics "when will my reflection show who I am inside?" when Mulan is mainly singing about how she feels she can't live up to the high standards society demands of her and because she cross-dresses as man. Chinese feminists have taken offense to the trans interpretation as it disregards the strict gender hierarchy of Chinese culture where women were viewed as being far inferior to men as well as how Mulan is motivated by a sense of filial piety to cross-dress in the first place. Mulan shows discomfort with the strict gender roles forced upon her in her life rather than being biologically female.
    • Shang being bisexual, a lot of fans like to think Shang began to develop feelings for Mulan when she was still disguised as Ping although novelizations and other official material show Shang only respected Ping as a soldier rather than view him as a love interest. Others think Shang is gay and was upset when Mulan was revealed to be a woman although canonically Shang shows attraction to Mulan as a woman and at the time a woman serving in the Chinese military was viewed as highly shameful as it meant non-conformity to gender roles. Women were expected to stay at home, look pretty, obey their husbands, give birth to sons, and not much else.
  • First Installment Wins: The sequel failed to do as well as the first film (to the extent that the trailer for both movies' Blu-ray debut doesn't show any clips from it), though Mulan and Shang actually got married as well as Yao, Chien Po, and Ling.
  • Foe Yay: While it drifts into Crack Ship territory, Mulan and Shan Yu has a strange fan following.
  • Genius Bonus: Mulan's horse is named Khan.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Mulan's male persona is named "Fa Ping", which was a humorously pathetic name to begin with (and has an unflattering meaning in Chinese). But as soon as the Internet began to use "fapping" for A Date with Rosie Palms, well...
    • Jerkass councilor Chi-Fu squeals like a girl when a panda eats his slipper. A decade later, James Hong would star in Kung Fu Panda where he plays Mr. Ping, a goose who is the adoptive father of titular protagonist panda!
    • "Shan-Yu, snag on rooftop, hit by incoming rocket! NO CAPES!"
    • Eddie Murphy plays a dragon in this movie. Around three years later in Shrek, he plays a donkey that gets married to a dragon.
    • Soon-Tek Oh and James Hong both appearing in this animated film, which is interesting considering that both said actors had played North Vietnamese military Big Bads in the Missing in Action films (Hong played the so-called main villain in the first film, while Oh played the villain in the second).
    • Seeing Ming-Na Wen seeking to become a true Action Girl is hilarious to fans of Marvel's Agents Of Shield, where she is the undisputed best Action Girl among the cast. Bonus points for the fact that Marvel is now owned by Disney.
    • "Mysterious as the dark side of the moon."
  • Ho Yay:
    Mushu: Good, now slap 'im on the behind. They like that!
    • In "A Girl Worth Fighting For," Yao teases "Ping" that the "local girls thought you were quite the charmer." Later, Mushu wolf-whistles at a group of young women harvesting rice, making it seem like it came from "Ping." Mulan is embarrassed and hides her face as the women giggle, seemingly flattered.
  • Inferred Holocaust: Shortly before Shan Yu and his army find the Imperial scouts, you can see a village burning behind them. Implying they had just destroyed it, and probably killed everyone in it. Averted with the little girl's village and the Imperial Army, which skips over the "implied" part.
  • Iron Woobie: Mulan goes through a lot of frustration just to prove her worth to her family, to her country and to herself. Despite this she never backs down.
  • LGBT Fanbase:
    • Mulan's Action Girl character and her character arc's nature makes her resonate with LGBT people, especially queer women and trans people.
    • Shang's attractiveness and his interest in Ping makes him popular with queer men.
    • The song "Reflection" seems to have struck a small chord in the LGBT community, especially in the Philippines.
  • Love to Hate: Shan-Yu has a sizeable fanbase.
  • Memetic Badass: Ping, the manliest badass ever to grace cinema. Unshaved Mouse turned Mulan herself into one while reviewing each film in the Disney Animated Canon. The Emperor also has this reputation.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • If you see a picture on the internet that has someone/something looking directly in a mirror, you can expect either the caption or the comments from said image quoting the "Reflection" song.
    • Go into any room (or bar, or internet chatroom...) full of people who grew up with this movie (teenagers and twentysomethings at this point) and sing "Let's get down to business" (the opening lyrics from "Make a Man Out of You"). They will not only finish the line for you, but likely sing the entire song.
    • Mushu's "dishonor" rant is also particularly quotable to show displeasure or otherwise, particularly the line "Dishonor on you! Dishonor on your cow!"
    • The limited-time McDonald's Szechuan Dipping Sauce made to promote this movie. After the Season 3 premiere of Rick and Morty turned it, and the fact that it was apparently delicious, into a Running Gag, the internet exploded with requests to McDonald's for it to be brought back. Cue Hype Backlash sinking in after McD's did so.
    • Another exploitable line from Mushu, with obvious applications: "You missed! How could you miss? He was THREE FEET IN FRONT OF YOU!"
    • The Great Wall soldier's "Now all of China knows you're here" is often used in reference to people who try to do something quietly but accidentally make a lot of noise.
      • However, if the person who made a lot of noise isn't deterred by this, they'll usually follow it up with the line "Perfect".
  • Misaimed Fandom:
    • Mulan has got a reputation among some fans as a You Go, Girl! girliness-hating Tomboy. This same fanbase reacts with disgust at her wearing the pink dress in most of the Disney Princess merchandise, claiming it undermines her character. This is ignoring the fact that Mulan's discomfort at the beginning of the movie was over not wanting to let her family down — and that she wanted to be a good wife. On a more superficial level she does actually like how she looks in the pink dress. She seems to wear pink because so many of the other princess characters are colour-coded with blue outfits (Cinderella, Belle, Jasmine and Snow White) and Sleeping Beauty likewise is shown in a pink dress for this reason.
    • There's strong irony in the fact that a movie about a woman trying to break gender roles in the name of protecting her father produced a song (I'll Make A Man Out of You) that ended up becoming the most popular and remembered song of the movie.
    • The "Mulan is transgender" idea comes more from Westerners trying to shoehorn gender roles in the story, than the story itself. More than one Chinese-American and Chinese fan has reacted rather angrily at this. The problem is not that Mulan wants to be male — the problem is that the sexist nature of her society does not allow women to contribute to the war effort instead forcing them be perfect wives who would birth more sons.
    • Fans tend to paint Shang as a jerk for not instantly believing Mulan when she warns them about the surviving Huns. While she was right, Shang can't be blamed for being slow to trust someone who was deceiving him from the very beginning. And he does warn the soldiers to be on their guard, so he clearly believes her to some extent.
  • Misaimed Marketing: Mulan's placement in the Disney Princess franchise already counted but it reached a new low when the DVD joined the "Royal Wedding Collection". Not royalty, and not getting married to royalty.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Shan-Yu crosses it when he and his soldiers burn down the village at the Tung Shao Pass. There's an Empathy Doll Shot to indicate that even children were not spared. Plus, there's also the helmet and sword of Shang's father, indicating that he too died in the attack. In fact, the Huns butchered everyone — no one is left to tell the tale. The scene abruptly interrupts the "A Girl Worth Fighting For" song, giving it Gut Punch impact.
    • At first, Chi Fu is simply an arrogant bully and, considering he's a loyal servant of the Emperor himself, can only be considered a villain because of his misogyny. But boy, does he ever make the best (worst?) of that, and when Mulan's gender is outed, he crosses the line by ordering Shang to kill her as though she were a traitor (never mind that she had proven herself a valuable asset to China's army up to that point). He only drives the point home that he's thoroughly unrepentant about his misogyny later on when, after Mulan helps defeat the Huns and save the Emperor, the bully still demands the death penalty in a gesture of blatant ingratitude.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: When Mulan first sings, and viewers are bowled over by Lea Salonga's beautiful voice — Ancestors, hear my plea...
  • Older Than They Think: The film is often said to have borrowed elements from Japanese and Korean culture as well. Most of these are in fact Ancient Chinese traditions. The dress Mulan wears for the Matchmaker is mistaken for a kimono, when it is actually a hanfu - a traditional Chinese dress. The make-up likewise is thought to be Geisha, but is actually based off Tang Dynasty make-up (which did influence the Geishas).
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    First Ancestor: (speaking to Mushu) You had your chance to protect the Fa family!
    Female Ancestor: Your misguidance led Fa Deng to disaster!
    Fa Deng: (carrying his head under his arm) Yeah. Thanks a lot.
    • The ordinary Red Shirt who lit the signal tower while Shan Yu was staring him down.
    • Shang's father, General Li, could be seen as such before riding off to join the rest of the Imperial Army at the Tung Shao Pass.
      • It helps that he's voiced by James Shigeta.
  • Rainbow Lens:
    • Mulan's story of feeling confined by the gender roles and expectations of her society could be taken as a metaphor for being trans, especially with her song "Reflection".
    • The film is very light on romance compared to its contemporary Disney films, with Shang only being an Implied Love Interest with a Maybe Ever After. Mulan's struggles with feminine gender roles and marriage, combined with Shang's attraction to Ping, leads to speculation of a queer metaphor.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: There's a lot of combat in the movie, but for the most part it's kept offscreen, or consists of ranged combat at a distance that keeps casualties from being seen. After the outstanding success of the Dreamworks Animation Kung Fu Panda franchise established that ferociously wild, if stylized, Wuxia action with innumerable connecting kicks and punches are now acceptable family entertainment, Mulan comes off as rather timid.
  • Sequelitis: The sequel dealt with an arranged marriage idea to prevent an invasion, and then threw it out the window. Said sequel was widely panned, and less than two years after its release, the sequel machine was unplugged by John Lasseter.
  • Signature Scene:
    • Mulan singing "Reflection".
    • The "I'll Make A Man Out Of You" training montage song.
    • The burned Tung Shao Pass village that the Imperial Army failed to protect.
    • The avalanche sequence was a solid contender (especially from an animator's point of view).
    • Shan Yu being blown to bits with fireworks.
    • The end where everyone bows to Mulan.
    • The scene where Mulan serves tea (said tea is poured from the pot) while she stares blankly at the matchmaker is put in many generic Disney-referring gifs.
  • Signature Song:
    • "I'll Make a Man Out of You" is by far the film's most popular song.
    • With that said, "Reflection" is a very close second and the first single of Christina Aguilera's career, and also, as mentioned above, has struck a small chord in the LGBT community.
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • While Shang not believing Mulan about the Huns having infiltrated the capital city is clearly intended to be a sign that he's just not ready to accept her contributions because of her gender, there is another possible explanation — by lying about being male, Mulan has already proven she's capable of being dishonest. It's more reasonable to believe someone if you've never known them to lie.
    • While the Matchmaker was being a complete jerkass by calling Mulan a disgrace, she was right to give Mulan a failing grade on the test. Mulan wasn't an impressive bride-to-be (at first): she cheated by writing on her skin, she spilled tea on the table, and even set the woman on fire. She didn't do it intentionally, and there was a cricket but she still did get set on fire, while Mulan was supposed to be proving her best mettle as a wife.
  • Unfortunate Implications:
    • Some critics (for example, The Nostalgia Chick, Lindsay Ellis) dislike the fact that Mulan turns down the post as the Emperor's consul to go home to her family. They think it implies that while a woman can be a hero, God forbid she have an actual position of power! Although this is simply being faithful to the original tale as Mulan turns down a life of high status offered by the Emperor to be with her family. This ending is viewed highly positively by Chinese audiences as filial piety is a key virtue in Chinese culture and filial piety has always been the primary message of the story.
    • They also sometimes criticize the hint of romance with Shang, even though it's only a Maybe Ever After since they feel it implies that not even a woman who saves China can be complete without a man.
    • The dehumanizing depiction of the Hun army as ash-skinned and brutish warmongers have only aged more poorly with time due to its xenophobic connotations. This is particularly the case with the West as there has been a huge spike in anti-immigrant and anti-immigration sentiments. The Huns are Acceptable Targets as they no longer exist as a people today. Depicting the Huns with ash-skin may have been intended to make them ethnically ambiguous so as to not offend similar nomadic ethnic groups which do still exist. The Chinese release of Mulan identifies the Hun as the Xiongnu (also an ethnic group which no longer exists) as China was never invaded by the Huns and Chinese audiences may not be so familiar with them whereas Western audiences are more knowledgeable of the Huns than the Xiongnu. Although a popular theory is that the Huns were the Xiongnu who had decided to move westwards into Europe and had incorporated many other ethnic groups after having been defeated by the Chinese Han Dynasty.
  • Win Back the Crowd: After their last attempt to do this got strong reviews but a relatively poor box office take, they decided to go back to being a bit more adult. Surprisingly, this worked better than with Pocahontas or The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
  • Woolseyism: The Chinese dub calls the Huns the Xiongnu, which is more historically accurate as the Huns are best known for invading Europe under Attila. It is theorized that the two groups were related.
  • The Woobie:
    • Mulan really makes you feel for her after her disaster with the matchmaker, especially when she sings about her struggles in "Reflection". And when she's abandoned in the mountains and left feeling like a worthless failure, it's again very easy for the viewer to feel sad for her.
    • Captain Li Shang sees his father's army (and presumably a lot of his friends and fellow students) butchered in the aftermath of a Hun battle. Due to The Chains of Commanding, he can't show his grief or accept any comfort from his men. battle. Later, when the Chinese are victorious thanks to Mulan, he's visibly uncomfortable while the citizens praise him, since he had to discharge the real hero after her gender was revealed.

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