Mulan Unbinds Her Floating Boats

I love mythology and fairy tales. So many people find it strange when I say that I’m not quite absolutely crazy about Disney movies. Don’t start throwing rocks at me yet, Disney lovers.

I understand the movies are just a rather free interpretation of the adventures of characters from myth, legend and sometimes history, and for this reason I can’t expect the plots to match the tales’ original motifs. It’s just that when the plots and the characters’ personalities are changed in such a way that the stories seem to lose their spirit, I get a little sad and a lot disappointed… maybe livid.

Many years ago, my first encounter with Disney Mulan left me shaking with the rage of the aforementioned sadness and disappointment. I was a small weapons specialist serving with “the few, the proud, the (you better work harder than any man if you want to get any respect among us) Marines.” I watched the movie after having one not so wonderful day. My moon arrived on the day of my first physical training test (PFT) with my new unit. The cramps had made my skin look so pale, that my Sergeant asked if I was sick.

Mind-fogged by the pain, I kind of forgot that I was talking to a particular brand of male Marine and said, “No, I’m fine, Sergeant. The first day of my period always sucks.”

With a look that suggested I had just told him that I would die if I didn’t perform open heart surgery on myself, my Sergeant said, “Skip this one, Devil Dog. Go to sick bay and get something for it. Hope you feel better soon.”

The man was being kind. I wanted to eye gouge him and push my fists into his eye sockets. “I’m not sick, Sergeant. I’ll run my PFT,” I said, and walked away to stretch with my best friend.

As always, I maxed my flexed arm hang, maxed my crunches and I think I ran my three miles in about 23 minutes. And only my best friend noticed that I had bled through my shorts a bit.

So the PFT went all right, but I ruined my day wondering if the practice test had been a sign of what the rest of my Marine Corps career was going to be like. It wasn’t even close. But I didn’t know that at the time. I needed a little pick me up. When the world’s realities tried to bring me down, I pushed myself up by reading about characters in myth, legends and history who worked hard to twist reality until it fit their will—I spent the afternoon with tales of Anacaona, Joan of Arc, and The Ballad of Mulan.  I watched Mulan, the Disney movie, that night before bed. And in 88 minutes, I was robbed of an entire afternoon of self-prescribed reading therapy.

Mulan (along with Brave and Frozen) is supposed to evoke all sorts of girl empowerment. I think it wouldve worked that way for me, if I had not read so much about the legend of Hua Mulan—an honorable daughter, accomplished fighter (since before joining the army), a woman warrior who fiercely defended her country during 12 years of war.

Wondering what all this has to do with Mulan unbinds her floating boats? Of course you are, for I know you are as curious as I am nosy.  I shared that mountain of a background to let you know that The Disney Origins Story Podcast, by Paul J. Hale, might have saved Disney Mulan for me.

Paul’s brilliant exploration of the legend of Mulan, which includes the voices of Rommy Driks and Daniel Hale, fills holes in the Disney storyline, makes connections between the new and the old and offers rational justifications for most of the not-quite-right bits found in the blockbuster’s plot. 

One of my biggest problems with Disney’s rendition of Mulan’s tale had to do with her leaving home in the middle of the night without her father’s blessing, something that doesn’t happen in the poem. My other issue was with Disney Mulan’s incompetence when she joins the army. The idea of such an idiot—sorry, there is that sadness and disappointment creeping back—anyhoo, the idea of such a klutz surviving a war for more than three days is outrageous. And I doubt that a lying dragon and a lucky cricket would have made much difference. Swords just aren’t wielded by luck. 

As you might have noticed, I really enjoyed The Disney Origins Story Podcast; listening to it was such yummy learning fun, that I watched Disney Mulan after I was done, and didn’t hate it at all. I might’ve even laughed (and snorted) at some of Mushu’s questionably-funny jokes.

The Disney Origins Story

Hua Mulan, image by Moonchild000

15 comments:

  1. So glad the magic of this story has been returned to you. I cringe at all the Disney stories, but then i see the magic sparkle in the children's eyes..and get over it by hoping it will inspire them to learn the full story later :D XXX

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    1. I second your notion. I keep my peace whenever the Little Princess is enjoying her favorite Disney flick--unless they are showing something important but historically inaccurate, in which case all bets are off. Eight is too early of an age to know that a girl cut her foot off for riches, or that kids were left in the woods to die by their parent... At eight, we shouldn't mind a bit of glitter and unicorn rainbow farts.

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  2. Well, I share your feeling on Disney, in fact, finding people love Disney, that there's a whole world of geeky joy and respect for Disney, was one of the surprising things about coming to the USA. It's been a very recent epiphany when I grasped that the early Disney stories were re-telling a tale their audience already knew. So Disney's Sleeping Beauty doesn't sleep for a hundred years, she sleeps for about 36 hours. Max. That's all very well, the tale belongs to the narrator as well as the listeners, but it always saddens me when that's the only version a child learn. When people say Cinderella, they mean the girl in the tower (and that thrilling homoerotic scene where she's stripped by her sisters. No? Just me?). So, yea, conflicting feeling about the Big D.

    And damn me but those monthlies pick their days to mess us up. Well done you on powering through. You actually carried a burden for all of us when you did that.

    Hooray for Rommy! This was a fabulous project for her to be involved in and as soon as I get a moment, I'll go listen.

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    1. Kinda went off on a rant here. Sorry!

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    2. Dearest Rhissanna, rant away. If we count to three we might be able to do it in sync--I was shocked by the same findings when I got the US. And not just about Disney story, but by the way history was told. So very strange...

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  3. Disney movies were ruined for me at an early age, when I checked The Little Mermaid out of the library and found out how the story really ended... how truly, wonderfully romantic and terrifying the original Beauty and the Beast is... and for the love of folktales, don't get me started on Pocahontas (HATERAGEGROWLSNARL *ahem*) Peter Pan, or Rapunzel/Tangled...

    And then I had kids of my own, and we all know how that goes... I learned an appreciation for the "magic" of Disney, even if their bastardizations of the true tales irks the ever-living you-know-what out of me. However, not to be deterred in my adherence to the true tales, I have bought my babies numerous books of mythology and folk tales (the REAL ones) over the years... though it's been an uphill struggle to get them to read those. Now if I could just break my oldest's obsession with the Disney Fairies... *facepalm*

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    1. Isn't it wondrous how our circumstances alter our worldviews? I always wonder how some people--who are totally against certain things--would react towards the thing in question if they have to be the one experiencing it...

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  4. As I have said before..everytime I see your smiling face , I am going to learn something MORE I didn't know.
    Thank you for shaing this! xoDebi

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    1. Smiling faces learning are my favorites. Hence I always keep a mirror nearby. *wink*

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  5. I enjoyed this post immensely. I do have trouble forgiving the film makers for not staying true to a story.

    Thank you for serving as a Marine.

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    1. I tend to kind of forgive certain things, but when it comes to others... Well, it's not pretty, lol!

      And you are very welcome. ;-)

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  6. I had never watched Mulan as I have always had a problem with Disney's movies and interpretations on historical figures. I saw some still photos of the movies and was inspired to do some horses based on such :), but I must say the photo you posted was great as was the links to the story origins.

    And I too thank you for serving as a Marine! That is something that can never be said enough.

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    1. The photos of Mulan and her army charging on horseback are quite provocative, aren't they? The face of the horses say things that make the heart beat to fast for comfort. And they do it so valiantly.

      You are very welcome. ;-)

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  7. I am up and down with Disney movies. As long as they put a smile on my face, that's what I care about ;o) Sometimes I look past the story, and just let things go and be a kid again ;o) Hugs ;o)

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    1. Sometimes, it's good to "just let things go and be a kid" for a while. Indeed!

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