A Revealing Reflection

For their latest film “Mulan”, Disney prioritizes money over Human Rights


via Disney

Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan is under scrutiny for filming in China’s Xinjiang region, where an estimated one million Uighur people are currently detained.

The Walt Disney Company has long painted itself as uncontroversial. Their squeaky clean, family friendly image has lasted since the 20th century. But much like the films they create, this could not be further from reality. The latest controversy surrounding “Mulan” is just a greater testament to the company’s growing greed and apathy. 

“Mulan” (2020), a live-action remake of Disney’s 1998 animated classic was released to Disney+ on Sept. 4. Rather than branding it as just another remake, they promised a more accurate adaptation of “The Ballad of Mulan”, a traditional Chinese legend that the original film was based upon. This seemed promising; Disney, after years of barely or poorly representing non-white characters, was finally taking a step in the right direction. 

Initial faith dwindled earlier last year when Liu Yifei, the title actress, voiced her support for police in Hong Kong, who grew increasingly violent as the Chinese government began stripping away rights from the people of Hong Kong. Thus, #BoycottMulan was born.

Now that the film has been released, this movement has made a resurgence. Why? Disney filmed parts of “Mulan” in the Xinjiang region of China, where an estimated 1 million Uighur Muslims are detained in “re-education” internment camps. Though we are not fully aware of all the atrocities committed in these camps, survivors account political indoctrination and torture such as food and sleep deprivation, physical and sexual abuse, and forced injections of unknown substances. We are staring down the beginning of a genocide- one which Disney is compliant with. 

Better fix up. Your true “reflection” is showing.”

It wasn’t just that they filmed it there- they had to specifically work with the clearly corrupted Xinjiang government to do so. Since they are very careful to conceal what they are doing and rarely let outsiders in, Disney received special permission to film in the region. They sweetly thanked eight government officials, responsible for spreading propaganda and persecuting an entire religious group, for helping them in the end credits. 

Rather than using their global influence to condemn the camps, to use Mulan’s story of courage and uprising to encourage Chinese people currently being oppressed by their government, Disney stayed silent. That silence, that little “thank you” at the end, is far louder than any message their princesses have portrayed. 

As much as I wish I could say I was, I am not shocked. Disney has repeatedly lacked tact when dealing with anything that isn’t a skinny, white, heterosexual princess. Black Lives Matter is important when they’re getting increasingly pressured to post about it on social media, but their only two feature length animated films with black protagonists have them turning into frogs or cartoon blobs before the second act.

They love the LGBTQ+ community when they can monetize off of Mickey Mouse pride merch, but any representation besides a lesbian Cyclops with two lines is far too risky. It’s as if Disney expects praise for this, when it should be the bare minimum. But in their eyes, any stance too strong means money out of their pockets, money that they’re not willing to lose, sadly, even when more than one million innocent lives are on the line. 

Disney has proven to be nothing like the brave and determined heroes they portray. Until they do better, until they actually care about hardships mirroring the ones they romanticize, they do not deserve to be treated as anything other than a corrupt corporation.

Better fix up. Your true “reflection” is showing.