Mulan (1998) and Hua Mulan (2009)

National Myth and Trans-Cultural Intertextuality
  • Jinhua Li


The myth of Mulan, an ordinary woman who serves in the army disguised as a man in her enfeebled father’s place and becomes a hero, has undergone subtle yet significant changes throughout Chinese history when Mulan emerges from layers of narratives as the quintessential woman warrior after centuries of retelling and reinterpretation in literary and visual texts. The most recent cinematic re-imagination of Mulan is the Chinese live action film Hua Mulan 花木兰 by Jingle Ma 马楚成 from 2009, but its representation of a national myth demands transnational interpretation because of Disney’s globally popular Mulan (1998) franchise, directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook.1 Between Disney’s immensely popular animation Mulan and China’s live action film Hua Mulan 花木兰, the Mulan narrative’s migration to Hollywood and back to China creates a delta of trans-cultural intertextuality where the understanding of these transnational film texts is triangulated by gender, political, and social discourses. This chapter argues that Disney’s Mulan homogenizes the Chinese heroine with its gallery of Disney princesses in order to reinforce the studio’s leadership in global popular culture production and maintain a long tradition of the celebration of personal growth, individualism, and independent spirit. By contrast, Hua Mulan is a transnational discourse that expresses an accentuated national patriotism that harks back to China’s peaceful rise in foreign policy. The portrayal of a remarkably feminized Hua Mulan in Hua Mulan also situates itself within the postfeminist cinematic representation of a new generation of female lead characters, comparable to the heroines in a number of postfeminist films that become prominent in contemporary Chinese cinema.2


Filial Piety Chinese Poetry Family Honor Chinese Cinema Fellow Soldier 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Karen A. Ritzenhoff and Jakub Kazecki 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jinhua Li

There are no affiliations available

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