We need to talk about Mulan

I think it’s finally time we all sat down and discussed the movie Mulan.

Not discuss-discuss Mulan. For that you need to read my WIP book: “Mulan: Why it’s the greatest Disney movie ever,” subtitle “Creating subtext where there is none.” Coming Fall 2017.

I’m actually not really a Disney enthusiast. I don’t have much against the company, but I just don’t go out of my way to watch their movies these days, except out of nostalgia or, in the case of Frozen, constant societal pressure and nagging.

So what I am trying to say is, I don’t just indiscriminately love Disney feature films. My heart goes to Mulan only. Not like it’s a big deal if I did, but I just think it is important to make that you understand that Mulan is special.

And during all of this, I realized there is something very important that needs to be addressed about that movie, a part that once I explain it to you, you will realize is extremely bizarre as well, and a part that I’ve searched high and low on the internet for a discussion on the topic and through the academic literature (this blog is obviously extremely academic in nature, and stands among the academic journals), but this is never talked about. Barely mentioned, and never TALKED ABOUT. There are things that need to be T-A-L-K-E-D A-B-O-U-T. Like getting down the true, honest nitty-gritty. Like when you try to squeeze past someone and your butts touch. Or when you are super pregnant and you turn around and knock someone’s drink off their table at a restaurant. Or when accidentally use someone else’s toothbrush. Or the fruit scene in Mulan.

You know the one I’m talking about. Oh what’s that? You don’t? You haven’t marathoned Mulan 6 times in a week before? You’re obviously the worst.

Here is a clip of the scene. I know when you read blogs you usually skip the video clips. I know how it goes. I know your kind. But you have to Watch. The. Clip. It’s critical. And only 50 seconds.

Unfortunately, the only youtube clip I could find of this pivotal scene was in Flemish. But there is barely any dialogue, and I can recite it to you from memory. Mulan asks her BFFs from the army that are dressed up like fancy women (a callback to when SHE had to get all dressed up to go see the match maker, and that just was not her thing. Man. Layers.) if anyone has any questions, and Yao, the small fat one says, “Does this dress make me look fat?” and then he gets slapped. Maybe by Mulan. Maybe by one of the other men. Doesn’t matter. Later the big muscly Mongolians say to each other, “Concubines?” “Ugly concubines.” That’s all the dialogue that goes on.

So what’s the first strange thing in this clip?

The apple. An apple falls out of Ling’s (the tall skinny guy) dress. Here’s a picture, because I know that despite my pleadings you still probably did not watch the clip.


Okay, so he stuck some fruit down his shirt to look more ladylike, and he’s apples. But do you notice that this apple is half-eaten? Several bites have been taken out of it. The emperor was just kidnapped at sword-point by the Mongolians who have weirdly gray skin, and they are worried about invasion and the fate of China, but as he’s dressing up in a ridiculous disguise, and decides to chow down on a nutritious snack. I mean, I know all this running around and cross-dressing can make a guy hungry, but there’s a time and place for this, Ling. Honestly, some people.

Then suddenly everyone pulls fruit out of their shirts and the beefy men are like, “OH MY GOSH FRUIT??? HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO COMBAT THIS? And the army BFFs smile, thinking, “Yeah, you didn’t see that coming did you??” Mulan does not have the fruit advantage, because she is actually a woman, but somehow she manages, which leads me to think that perhaps the fruit was not necessary. The watermelons? Sure. They are big and heavy and could easily cause a concussion on their own, without any additional fighting. But sticking an apple in a guy’s mouth rarely incapacitates them as it did in this scene.

Now there is one more perplexing component to this scene. Here’s the picture, see if you know what I am talking about



A banana? Really, Yao? Why did you have a banana stuffed down your shirt? Why was it not more obvious that you were hiding one banana and one apple in your dress? Why did you pull out your banana and smile, as if you have some awesome advantage now that you are holding a banana? Do you think that maybe bananas are magical? I checked, and it turns out that bananas were initially domesticated in Southwest Asia, so it is not that crazy to think that you would have already been familiar with them at this point in your life, and besides, I don’t think the film is striving for historical accuracy. Furthermore, what happens to the banana during your fight? These questions are NEVER ANSWERED.

Now, I recognize that we are dealing with a cartoon. I’m not begrudging the movie for inaccuracies; it’s a children’s movie that’s supposed to be funny and silly as well as awesome. Animated movies can take liberties, that’s fine. A tiny dragon breathed fire onto a hawk and it turned into a naked chicken, but I don’t think that needs discussing. That is par with the rest of the movie.

I’m just wondering why there was a fighting scene where fruit tipped the balance between winning and losing. I’m wondering why in the middle of the climax of the movie, they decided to eat half of an apple. And I’m wondering why a squat man with a permanent black eye and a beard was hiding a banana in his dress.

Maybe I’m missing something here. Maybe this is a common trope in cinema. I’d love to hear if you have explanations for any of my questions. Maybe together we can get to the bottom of this so I can start sleeping again.

(The not sleeping is augmented by having a ravenously hungry baby, who in the middle of the night is like, “WOAH MOM. IT’S TIME FOR MY NINTH MIDNIGHT SNACK.” But the unsolved problems in this movie also have a lot to do with it. Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes! )


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