As a passionate performer and Disney loving-child, I often performed the musical soliloquies of the animated princesses from the comfort of my living room under the loving yet judgmental watch of my parents. While I had no concept of race or identity as a six year old, I always had a special place in my heart for Mulan and her song “Reflections.” As I grew up, I came to cherish Mulan, Jasmine and Pocahontas because they were the princesses that looked the most like me. I didn’t know how to relate to blonde, blue-eyed Cinderella. It was greatly unnerving to me when I discovered that these princesses of color were actually voiced by white women. There was a sense of betrayal that I dealt with trying to reconcile connecting to this character and being unable to connect to her original voice.
I have been dealing with a similar struggle with Disney’s newest live-action remake of “Mulan.” They have thankfully have an amazing Asian American cast including but not limited to Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Li Gong and Jet Li. However, the production team is shockingly white.
A tweet recently went viral of the white costume designer discussing her research for the films. Her first step was to “go to the museums in Europe that had a Chinese department” before spending only three weeks in China to “soak up as much Chinese culture” as she could. For a company that is worth over $130 billion dollars and basically rules the entertainment industry, it is unnerving that this kind of research was deemed fit for accurately representing Chinese costumes of the era. Just like finding out the true voice behind the animated princesses, the lack of representation behind the camera for the live-action remake disappoints me.
If the aim of the new film was made to pay authentic homage to the original Chinese poem, I don’t understand why more Chinese artists weren’t invited to be a part of the production team. Here is a list of recent projects that employed Asian people on all sides of the camera.
I am truly excited to see a globally respected story like Mulan being treated with the respect and authenticity it deserves. I just wish that respect was extended behind the camera to continue making space for Asian directors, producers, costume designers, writers, editors and more to tell stories that they don’t have to research. They live these stories in their own cultures.
1 Thriller: Searching
If you are a fan of horror, “Searching” is a Skype-centered thriller written and directed by Aneesh Chaganty, starring John Cho as he desperately tries to bring his kidnapped daughter safely home.
2 RomCom: Always Be My Maybe
If you are a rom-com consumer, “Always Be My Maybe” is a Netflix movie written and produced by the hilarious duo Ali Wong and Randall Park, who also star as forever friends that could possibly be more.
3 Family Movie: The Farewell
If you like movies that tug at your heartstrings, “ The Farewell,” directed by Lulu Wang, tells the true story of a staged wedding that allows a family to reunite with their dying grandmother. It is a testament to how far a family is willing to go for each other.
4 Comedic TV: Awkwafina is Nora from Queens
If you are looking for a laugh, Awkwafina writes and stars in her new TV show based on her life, “Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens.” The entire first season is available for free on the Comedy Central website.
5 Netflix Binge: Tigertail
If you want a truthful, multigenerational story depicting the trials and choices of immigration, look no further than Netflix’s new movie release, “Tigertail”. A Taiwanese factory worker leaves his homeland to seek opportunity in America, where he struggles to find a connection while balancing family and newfound responsibilities in this multi-generational drama from writer-director Alan Yang.
6 Classic: Romeo and Juliet
If you are into classics, a rendition of “Romeo and Juliet” will be revamped with the chic vision of fashion designer Philip Lim as he designs the costumes for a love story of immigrant Chinese teens. While the movie is in early production, Lim is continuing to work to raise awareness in aiding designers, businesses, and workers during this pandemic.