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Live Action Mulan Spec Script Reportedly Stars White Savior, What the Hell?



There are days when you just have to hold your hands up, look up at the sky, and scream Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy? Some shocking news came out today about the upcoming live-action remake of Disney’s Mulan. Namely that the script that Disney purchased for the film reportedly stars a white savior and reduces the titular Mulan to a prize to be won. *sigh*

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In an anonymous open letter over at the Angry Asian Man blog, an Asian-American entertainment industry pro who has read the 2015 spec script called The Legend of Mulan by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin that Disney purchased for their live-action Mulan (which is set for release in November of 2018), revealed that this version of the film has very little to do with Mulan at all. Instead, it has to do with a white savior who only helps the Chinese Imperial Army because he thinks Mulan is purdy.


The anonymous pro writes, “The man is a 30-something European trader who initially cares only for the pleasure of women and money. The only reason why he and his entourage decide to help the Chinese Imperial Army is because he sets eyes on Mulan. That’s right. Our white savior has come to the aid of Ancient China due to a classic case of Yellow Fever. In this script written by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin, more than half of its pages are dedicated to this merchant who develops a mutual attraction with Mulan and fights to protect her in the ensuing battles. To top it all off, this man gets the honor of defeating the primary enemy of China, not Mulan. Way to steal a girl’s thunder.”

But it’s a mutual attraction, so I guess that should make us feel better or something? *vomits*

The anonymous pro then goes on to talk about several ways in which the film, as it stands now, is problematic: they want to cast a teenage Chinese actress to play Mulan (hello, pedophilia!); they are casting a Chinese actress to appeal to a market that will never love this film, as opposed to casting a Chinese-American actress who grew up loving the film; and, of course, the fact that in this version of her story, she needs a white man to save her and her country.


It’s disheartening to see that it was two female writers who created this story that not only marginalizes a female heroine in her own story, but whitewashes the story to allow for a white man to be the focal point. Even more disappointing that, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney saw a script like that as a suitable “jumping off point” for the live-action film they want to make based on their successful animated version. Now, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Jurassic World) have been hired to rewrite the spec, but from the sound of it, this script doesn’t need a rewrite. It needs a complete overhaul. It needs to be a different script. What about it would or could be salvageable?

Mulan was revolutionary in 1998 precisely because it was so thoroughly Chinese. And *shock* in spite of it being made up of all-Chinese characters, it did really well and became a classic in the U.S!

Despite being a majority of the world’s population, Asians never get the representation they deserve in Hollywood film. One area in particular that is always mishandled is that Asian men are rarely, if ever, given the opportunity opportunity to play romantic leads in Hollywood projects and are instead relegated to comedy relief, or mystic guidance.

If you follow the hashtag #MakeMulanRight, you’ll see that many fans are particularly upset by the seeming loss of Li Shang as a Chinese romantic lead for Mulan who provides a love story while not taking away from Mulan’s agency:

The open letter was written in the hopes that Disney does a complete course correction before going into production on this film. Making a film that was progressive in the late 1990s more racist and sexist for a modern audience is not my idea of a good time. You listening, Disney? Come correct.

(images via Disney)

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Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.

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