By: Ashley Wright
Disney’s streaming service, Disney+, announced that the live-action version of the animated classic “Mulan” would be available to stream for $30 on Sept 4, 2020. The movie was originally supposed to be released in theaters on March 9, but safety restrictions due to COVID-19 led to the pushed release date and the decision to stream the movie directly from home. While many fans were excited at this announcement, Disney faced backlash as several controversies surrounding the movie were resurfaced and #BoycottMulan began trending on Twitter.
While Disney is no stranger to controversies, debates surrounding the live-action movie took on two main focuses. The first main issue with the movie was originally surfaced in late 2019 when the movie’s star Liu Yifei posted support on social media of Hong Kong’s police. In response to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong at the time, Liu Yifei shared a pro-police article and added the comment “I also support Hong Kong police. You can beat me up now.” This sparked global backlash as people began sharing information about the Hong Kong protests, where citizens fought against plans for their city to be recognized as part of mainland China. This political controversy is a result of the 1997 revocation of Hong Kong’s status as a British colony and the return of the city to the Chinese government; this decision led to the loss of several citizens’ rights, including the suppression of journalists and changes to the judiciary system. Liu Yifei’s post was seen as cruel (given the treatment of protestors by police) and anti-democratic. As a result, fans spread posts on social media urging others to boycott the movie, which were recirculated before the September release date.
Another controversy surrounding the making of the live-action “Mulan” movie has to do with Disney’s involvement with Xinjiang, where the movie was partially filmed. Reports have come out lately that over one million Muslims have been detained and imprisoned in internment camps in Xinjiang. These camps have been classified as “re-education facilities” by China’s government, though government officials from both the US and UK have referred to these camps as the site of “gross human rights abuses.” Not only did filming for “Mulan” take place in Xinjiang, but Disney also listed several groups based there in the special credits of the film, including the Chinese Communist Party’s publicity department and the Public Security Bureau in Turpan. In the words of the Washington Post, “Disney, in other words, worked with regions where genocide is occurring, and thanked government departments that are helping to carry it out.” While specific details about Disney’s relationship with Xinjiang during filming haven’t been released, people are concerned that the organization seems to be complicit in the area’s actions. Much of the filming of the movie took place during 2018 and 2019, when allegations of the internment camps first came to light. Human rights groups have called for Disney to share their human rights report that should’ve been completed before filming. However, this information has yet to be released.
It is up to fans to decide whether or not they want to support the movie (and if they are going to pay the $30 access fee or to wait until the movie is released directly to Disney+ on December 4). However, it is important that people are educated on the practices of corporations such as Disney and the beliefs of those they employ before they make that decision. To quote the animated classic directly, “a single grain of rice can tip the scale. One man may be the difference between victory and defeat.” Your individual voice matters, and it’s up to you how you are going to use it.