Disneyfiying Confucious’ Filial Piety as seen in Disney’s Mulan (1998)
Filial Piety in the Ballad of Mulan compared to Disney’s version The legend of Mulan, the Chinese woman warrior, was first presented in an annonomous poem called “the Ballad of Mulan” which dated back the 6th sentury Tang Dynansty. The poem was written in five segments; each one represents Mulan’s origin, experience in the battlefield, and also sense of obedience to her family. The legend lives on as it is passed from one generation to other generation through diverse versions such as storytelling, poem, and movies. Ultimately, the ballad takes on a new form when it was adapted into a 1998 Disney animated feature. This is the first time Disney has drawn on an Asian story and made filial piety suit the Western audience. Over the past few centuries, Chinese people have been entirely influenced by the ideal of Confucianism especially Filial Piety. According to the Analects of Confucianism, the term Filial Piety is defined as a range of values that solely emphasizes filial (Children natural respect) towards their parents and particular duty towards their elders. (1:2, Analect of Confucianism). Basically, Filial Piety is so deeply rooted in Chinese traditional culture. It has also become the fixed fundamental value for every Chinese community that cannot be reconstructed by any means. In the original version, filial piety is repeatedly shown in Mulan’s conduct. First of all, Mulan never defies any of her parents’ commands. The ballad, as has been retold by Disney, justifies, that Mulan does not have the courage to turn down the matchmaking decision that her parents has arranged for her. As an obedient and dutiful daughter, she readily agreed without even once asking the purpose of her parents’ decision. The last segment of the ballad even states that Mulan is eventually married the highly-selected man whom her parents have chosen for her and stays obedience until the rest of her life. In this sense, filial piety never leaves Mulan’s life, even if she tries so hard to leave the tradition and lives her life as she pleases (going to war, traveling to other place), but ultimately, she goes back to her tradition and finds herself still bounded by it. However, throughout the movie, a constant contrast is made between The Ballad of HuaMulan and Disney´s Mulan. Unfortunately, Disney has restated and combined the two contracting values (The ideas of Filial Piety and American values). By re-orienting the ideal of filial piety with American ideals, Disney would like to make filial piety as a universal value, thus strengthens the image of the USA as the only superpower country among all. Indeed, the USA wants American values to be widely spread Filial piety in this case reflected by Confucian ideology which has spread great influence on Chinese culture. The Chinese have a special term for filial piety, xiao ao, which, according to Confucius, upholds the following points: (I) Supporting and caring for one's parents; reverences and obedience (3) Continuing the ancestral line
(4) Glorifying the family name
(5) Mourning and ancestral remembrance
According to the motivation of Mulan's joining the army, she joins the army in order to help her father get over the difficulty; rather than saving her country voluntarily. In other word, Mulan actually joins the army for the sake of her father and her family, practicing her filialness and love as the lines says; “Father has no grown-up son, Mulan has no elder brother. I want to buy a saddle and a horse, and serve in the army in Father's place"” (the Ballad of Mulan, 1976). Furthermore, when the Emperor thanks Mulan by granting her wealth, title and land, Mulan only requests for a camel, on which she might journey back home safely as the sentences state, "I wish to ride a swift mount to take me back to my home" (the Ballad of Mulan, 1976) which points out Mulan misses her parents and wants to continue her role as a...
* Legge, James. The Analects of Confucius. 2002. Guttenberg Project
* Ma, Sheng Mei. The Deathly Embrace: Orientalism and Asian American Identity. The University of Minnesota Press. 2000
* Dong, Lan. “Writing Chinese America into Words and Images: Storytelling and Retelling of the Song of Mu Lan.” Lion and the Unicorn 30.2 (2006): 218-33. Web. 3 May 2011. <http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/uni/summary/v030/30.2dong.html>.
Once again, Disney’s only purpose of re-orienting the filial piety and producing the “disneyfied” version of Mulan is partly caused by two reasons. First, Disney would like to intensify American power as the only superpower country, by transforming the filial piety into a universal value. Secondly, Disney made the disneyfied version in order to fit the expectation of the global audience (children) and keep up the happy-ending formulaic recipe. Disney always focuses back on the marketing goal; thus, if Disney insisted on using the original legend without applying the disnified formula, Disney would lose its typical characteristics as the most prominent children’s storytelling brand.
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