After being pushed back for its March release, the big-budget, live-action remake of Mulan is finally here, available on Disney+ to rent for $40, and the response? Not very good. Released on Friday (September 4th), fans of the original movie were quick to point out that this version had removed many of the musical scores and a few characters. Notably, Mushu the dragon, Cricket, and Li Shang have all been reworked in some way for the live-action film.
But what fans are most disappointed about is the bi-erase of famous queer coded character Li Shang. In the original 1998 Mulan, captain Li Shang is in charge of the group of men Mulan infiltrates in disguise as a man. Throughout the film, the two exchange in flirtatious banter and an obvious development of rivals-to-lovers sort of relationship. The interesting thing? Li Shang doesn’t know Mulan is a woman and yet he still shows some sort of attraction towards her while she’s still disguised as a man. After Mulan reveals herself in the end to be a woman, infiltrating the Chinese army, Li Shang doesn’t back down, returning Mulan’s helmet to her while clearly being super nervous. He stays for dinner, and the two live happily ever after.
Because of Li Shang’s clear bi-coding of his character, many fans have appreciated the intricacies of Li Shang’s character. And even more so, in a fairly forward take on commentary of gender in the film, Li Shang’s bisexuality is fairly fitting in the whole tale.
Yet, in the Live-action remake, Li Shang’s character is split into two different characters and all queer-reading into his character is erased from the film causing many fans to be disappointed with the film.
According to PinkNews, Mulan’s producers addressed the controversy in February, claiming Mulan and Li Shang to have an uncomfortable power dynamic follow the #MeToo movement.
“We have that same dynamic and in this movie I actually think it plays in a more sophisticated way because he’s trying to befriend this other soldier who is, like, he’s ambitious, he wants to be the best student in class and all of the sudden this guys is sort of challenging him.”
Reed said, “In the new Mulan, which is not a direct remake of the 1998 film but rather based on the original Chinese folklore, there would be ‘the same dynamic’ which saw Li Shang wonder ‘“why do I like this dude so much?”’
Sounds to me like there would be more romantic and sexual tension there? And yet many fans are declaring the queer reading of Li Shang’s character to be completely erased.
Join RDN next week when we review Mulan and see the good, the bad, and the ugly of the remake.