For what seemed like an eternity, media audiences were bombarded with advertisements for Disney’s live-action adaptation of Cinderella.
Reactions to the remake were split.
Many were skeptical of the seemingly frame-by-frame parallels between the live-action and the animated version. Personally, as a big fan of Disney princess movies, and Richard Madden, I was excited to see one of my favorite childhood movies brought to life.
It seems like Disney has run dry of original ideas and is trying to revive its own cash cows to keep audiences around. White women and men were cast as the main characters in both Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast.
Mulan is already a beloved Disney film based on an actual Chinese warrior, which is why Chinese actors should be the casting choice for the film.
However, some are beginning to question Disney’s cultural sensitivity. And rightly so.
Disney, along with the rest of mainstream Hollywood, consistently white-washes characters, as evidenced by Rooney Mara being cast as Princess Tiger Lily. Disney also homogenizes those of Asian decent.
It’s very possible, if an Asian actor is even cast for the role of Mulan, the actor will not be Chinese. This is no fault of the actor – between 2007 and 2012, Asian Americans only had five percent of the speaking roles in the top 500 highest-grossing films. It’s extremely difficult to find a leading role as an Asian actor, and who can blame actors for taking advantage of a rare opportunity?
The issues lie in Hollywood’s racist and white-centric stories and casting decisions. The fact that Asian characters, such as Aang from Avatar the Last Airbender, are whitewashed in live-action adaptations and that many Asian actors often play characters of a different ethnicity is evident of a larger cultural problem.
It’s a shame that instead of getting a new Chinese character with her own film, Disney is revisiting a centuries-old story.
While the white Disney princesses get to live in magical, made-up kingdoms with tall towers and talking snowmen, the racially diverse characters such as Mulan, Tiana and Jasmine,are tied to historical locations.
Chinese girls do not get the chance to envision themselves living outside of their cultural backgrounds. These cultural and historical representations are definitely important, but to make them the defining feature of the heroine suggests to all girls who identify with her they are no more than their race.
Mulan is, by all means, an empowering legend of Chinese culture.
If Disney casts all Chinese actors, it will be a huge achievement for Chinese representation.
It’s unfortunate, though, in 2015, the public is concerned a major corporation will botch a significant cultural icon for the sake of upholding white supremacist ideologies.
Hanna Greenblott is a sophomore English language and literature major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.