When will my reflection show? Somewhere between watching the animated “Mulan” in 1998 and watching the live-action in 2020, I finally found the answer to that question. As a young girl who immigrated from Shanghai, I always felt foreign—but seeing this iconic Chinese experience on the big screen gave me hope.
Mulan carried us on her shoulders for decades. When we hardly had any representation, she was our precious role model, the only face on our vision board. We’re forever indebted to the impact she made. Aside from wishing I had a little dragon sidekick, I strived to break barriers and exceed society’s expectations because of this inspiring tale. Growing up, I was no stranger to insecurity, feeling self-conscious about things like not being “girly” enough, but she taught me that I didn’t have to be. She taught me to live comfortably in my own skin. She taught me that men aren’t the only ones with strength. She taught me to push my limits to reach my potential. She taught me that even on my worst days I’m still a warrior.
I was lucky enough to be at the Hollywood premiere of the new “Mulan” earlier this year, and on that glorious night, the red carpet meant more than just a walkway. It symbolized luck, happiness, vitality, love, fortune and success—values that my culture has embraced for as long as I can remember. I was on cloud nine, surrounded by my glowing Asian community as we honored how far we’ve come. I started to understand that this film is way more than a reboot. It’s a rebirth. It’s a reintroduction to who we are and what we deserve. Not only does it pay respect to the classic story that we all know by heart, it also emphasizes the feminist perspective that we absolutely need. It’s a reminder that women can, and will, save the day. Now, the next generations to come will have something new to hold onto.
Although we’ve seen some progress in the past few years, there’s so much more work to be done. On top of that, there are never-ending obstacles along the way that continue to test us. During this unexpected pandemic, it’s heartbreaking to see the ugliness in the news and on social media. The so-called leaders of our country referring to COVID-19 as the “Kung-Flu” and “Chinese Virus” has single-handedly caused our beautiful “Mulan” billboards to get vandalized. This long-anticipated film was supposed to be celebrated, not tarnished. It’s honestly difficult to stomach and wrap my head around. From the racial slurs to the hate crimes, it’s natural to become discouraged, but we can’t let our hope be shattered.
In these times, I think to myself: What would Mulan do? She would use these hardships as fuel to rise even higher. She would remain unapologetic. She would scream out loud how worthy she is. She would fight for her ancestors who shed blood, sweat and tears to prove they belong here—because the fact is, we’re all connected. We’re family. Now more than ever, just like Mulan, we have to have each other’s backs. There’s nothing we can’t overcome if we stick together. Our journey is not over. Because of “Mulan,” we’ll never forget where we came from, and I can’t wait to see where we’ll go.
This article appeared in “Character Media”’s July/August 2020 issue. Check out our current e-magazine here.