Many people have seen the Disney movie Mulan and do not realize that it is actually telling the story of an ancient Chinese poem titled the “Ballad of Mulan” It is thought she lived between 386CE and 534CE although it is very unclear. It is a Chinese legend after all. This puts her lifetime in the Northern Wei Dynasty.
In the movie, Mulan is depicted as being unskilled with weapons. The “real” Mulan, on the other hand, was said to be skilled and well versed with many different types of weaponry. In the poem she lived in a place which regularly practiced martial arts such as Kung Fu and for being skilled with swords and other blunt weaponry. In the legend, the real Mulan rode horses and shot arrows.
In the movie as well as in the poem, there was no male child. This caused problems when the Emperor. In the poem he is referred to as just Khan. And he began to call up troops to fight the invading Mongol and nomadic tribes. If there had been a son he could have gone in his father’s place because each family just had to provide one man to fight in the army. Whether it was the father or the son did not matter; all they needed to do was provide one person to join the army.
As in the Disney movie, Mulan chose to enlist in her father’s place as he was too old to fight. At the age of eighteen she joined the army and prepared to fight against the Mongolian and nomadic tribes that wanted to invade China. Unfortunately for her there was no intelligent horse and no small red dragon as there was in the Disney version of the legend. However, she did have the versatile weapon training and extensive background of Kung Fu to help her out.
So there are some similarities and differences between the cultural and historical references in the movie. Largely the weapons used are historically accurate as well as the requirement of men to fight in armies and the story of Mulan is very telling of this time period. However, actual Mulan is just based on fiction and the story cannot be taken as fact.
1. In what ways does Mulan relate to the original Poem?
2. Can you think of other Disney movies based on Poems?
Post by: Cale Russell
Sleeping Beauty and Aladdin have princes who are completely different from each other. Aladdin is not an actual prince for most of the movie and is in fact of a low social class. Furthermore, he is not considered to be noble as he lies and steals. Prince Phillip on the other hand was born a Prince and was noble from the start. Despite these differences, the two princes are similar in their development as both employ bravery and wit in order to defeat the enemy. In the end both become heroes and get the girl. In both movies, the princess follows the typical damsel in distress scenario in which they are captured and need to be saved from the prince. Ultimately, their characters do not play a significant role and mainly serve to highlight the prince of the story. In Sleeping Beauty, Aurora is more central to the story, but regardless, her character does not experience much development. Both Aurora and Jasmine go from the beginning of the story to the end without any changes and do not gain/learn anything from their experiences.
Princess Aurora and Princess Jasmine may be very similar, but there is one significant difference. The portrayal of Jasmine is nowhere near as PG as Aurora’s is. Princess Aurora is almost always shown in full length (or close to full length) dresses that reveal little about her figure. Jasmine on the other hand, has clothing that is not as covering and instead emphasizes her feminine figure. In one seen of Aladdin, she even wears red. A color that is often used to emphasize sensuality. The difference in the treatment of these princesses may be due to differences in the way that the American public views them. One of them is viewed in a pure and innocent fashion, while the other is viewed in an overtly sexual way. This further reflects the stereotyping that minority women face.
1. What other Disney movies share some of the same issues as Aladdin?
2. Are there Disney movies that portray minority women in a better light? If so which ones and how?
While writing about the social aspects of the Ottoman Empire, I began to think about other cultures and civilizations that revolutionized the social structure of our world. The first one that came to my mind was the greek social structure because we still take many aspects of greek culture and integrate it into our lives. There were three major social classes: the upper class, the middle class, and the lower class. While doing research on this topic, I began to realize how integral greek mythology was to greek social structure. There was a lot of compassion between the social classes due to their mythology. This was because they believed that everyone was flawed naturally. No one was perfect. They even believed that their gods were flawed as seen by the Disney movie "Hercules" in 1997. In the movie, Hercules is seen as an imperfect individual who does not always make the right decision. He doesn't do heroic acts because it is good, he does heroic acts because he wants to become a god and join his father. Since the Greeks believed that everyone was flawed, they also created an entirely new form of government in which everyone has a voice. This form of government was the basis for democracy seen across the world today. Since everyone is flawed, you cannot give absolute power to one person for long periods of time because their mistakes will become a major problem. This is why the Greeks created term limits and elections. The compassion between their social classes lead to decades of peace between everyone in the civilization. People could rise in social standing simply by working hard and were accepted with open arms. This compassion was similar to that of the Ottoman Empire, even more so. Hercules is by far not a perfect movie but the depiction of the people in the different cities is nearly accurate. They believed that gods walk among them so when Hercules does supernatural acts and announces himself as the son of a god, no one is truly surprised. They are shocked but not surprised. All the different social classes are also mixed together in the movie. You will see people of the upper class talking to people of the middle class in the courtyards without any feelings of shamefulness. This civilization is the basis of our social and governmental structure today.
Though the movie borrows a genie from the original story of Aladdin from One Thousand and One Nights, there are many differences due to what Disney chooses to replace and add. What are some of these changes and why were they made?
Considering the similarities seen between the plot and the details of the film and the events of the Persian Gulf War, it is definitely possible for the film to be used as a way to influence Americans to think about Persian Gulf War as a simple, quick, and painless war than it actually was. In fact, the white house released a statement of Kuwait’s liberation just 100 hours after the Operation Desert Storm was ordered, even though the bombing of Iraqi troops went on for much longer after that. And similarly, in Aladdin, the resolution of the conflict, or Jafar’s defeat, is relatively quick and without much damage; Only Jafar and Iago are stuck inside a lamp, there is no one else harmed, and the palace is restored back to what it used to be thanks to the genie. Except it wasn’t this swift in the actual war. Yes, it’s true that a huge number of Iraqi soldiers died while a considerably low number of American soldiers did, but the win was not everything. Like all other wars' aftermath, there were economic losses, properties damaged, and many civilians who were killed from the conflict.
Another difference can be found in the personalities of the protagonists. In the original story, Aladdin is a lazy boy without a job, and genie is nothing but a wish-granting machine; but in the film, Aladdin is a heroic thief who would give all of his food to poor kids, and the genie is a humane, kind character who genuinely cares for Aladdin, shown by his efforts to save him from drowning and cheering against his new master, Jafar, near the last scene. These positive shifts would highlight the goodness of these two characters and who they represent: America and the "good" part of the Middle East. Through this change, the audience would be able to develop a fondness for them and thus a positive attitude on helping the Middle East by sending American troops to the Persian Gulf War.
Aladdin is not the only movie to be used with a purpose more than to simply entertain and to make money. The intention to influence the audience towards a certain view in history can also be seen in Pocahontas, where colonialism was whitewashed in much milder situations than what really happened, as the disputes between the Native Americans and the colonists are peacefully settled without any bloodshed. There are also a lack of the sad history of the disease outbreaks that killed many natives, as well as the murders, rapes, and kidnappings of the Native Americans by the colonists. And just like how Aladdin served its purpose of glorifying America's decision to help in the Gulf War, Pocahontas served the purpose of inaccurately masking the interactions and the aftermath of the bitter colonialism that that the Natives had to face.
While it is definitely true that children should not be exposed to violence through movies, it is important that they don't take in what they watch as the truth, but rather to learn what really happened and accept it as part of our history.
1. Can you find other children's movie(s) that might connect to a historical moment?
2. Do you agree with the author's stance about the historical accuracy in children's movies? Support your opinion.
3. Share your thoughts with a partner.
By Zion Oh