The construction on gender roles and sexual orientation in "Mulan."

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Texts and film are powerful socialisation tools and as Fox (1993) points out everything that we read or watch (in this case) constructs us, makes us who we are, by presenting an image of ourselves.

Besides being an important development tool for children, children's books and films transmit a society's culture. So the way that genders and sexuality are portrayed contributes to the way that children develop their own self-image, a fundamental component in their lives, and important in discovering their role and the role of their gender in society. Disney has been producing children's movies for a long time, and as times and society's views on specific issues have changed, so has Disney's portrayal of them. Along with movies such as Cinderella and Lady and the Tramp, Mulan is one movie in which Disney emphasises the role of gender, in fact it would seem that no previous Disney feature has been so centrally concerned with gender roles and only Beauty and the Beast came close to Mulan's modern take on the subject. Like Belle, Mulan is smart and plucky...and a complete outcast. Even more than Belle, she has to take charge of her fate. And, way more than Belle, she finds her eventual fulfilment independent of a romantic resolution.

Whilst attempting to conform to a new social idea of gender roles, this movie is still one that depicts an unrealistic view of the importance of a woman's need for a man. Mulan is based on a legend about a young woman in China who does not want to be the disciplined, submissive, feminine wife expected of her by her culture. When the Huns invade China her weak and sick father is summoned to join the army. Mulan does not want her father to go in fear that he will not return, especially since he is sick and would not be strong enough to fight, so she cuts her hair and goes in his place dressed as a man. What seems ironic is the fact that Mulan (a woman) is central to the conquest of the Huns, in fact it is Mulan who saves the soldiers lives! However her true gender identity is revealed in the process. With the battalion shocked that 'he' is a 'she' (but perhaps more so that a woman was responsible for having saved their lives), Mulan is chastised severely and although she is not killed, she is ordered to return home in disgrace. Mulan soon after discovers that the Hun army has survived and rushes to the Emperor's palace to warn everyone, but no-one listens. When the Huns threaten to overthrow the Emperor, again it is Mulan who saves the day. She is praised and duly recognised for her bravery. Mulan's family are proud of her when she returns and it seems that Mulan is now ready to trade in her armour for the domestic life. All ends well when Shang reviews his accusation of Mulan and realises his love for her; after which they 'lived happily ever after.' This movie is one that seeks to defy the patriarchal society and the constraints it sets upon women, and this essay will explore this further.

Mulan is a movie that blatantly challenges gender roles in a patriarchal society, by not portraying Mulan as the stereotypical woman but an autonomous woman who wants more from life than to get married and have children, and the courageous and somewhat dangerous position she puts herself in helps her to define who she is apart from society's and her family's expectations. The film portrays Chinese culture as placing its focus on honouring one's family, her father tells her, "we are counting on you to uphold the family honour." The pressure placed on the women in this film seems quite overwhelming and this is reflected by Mulan's worry, "If I were to truly be myself, I would break my family's hearts...........why is my reflection someone I don't know, when will my reflection show who I am inside?" So much emphasis is placed on conforming to be the 'perfect' woman that Mulan doesn't have a sense of who she really is. Again family honour is mentioned when one of the ancestors says, "if she is discovered, Fa...
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