Disney isn’t wasting any time after Cinderella’s success at the box office: Mulan, badass heroine of China, will be developed into a live-action adaptation.
The studio picked up a script penned by Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek, with J.C. Spink and Chris Bender stepping in as producers. Mulan will follow the Emma Watson-led Beauty and the Beast film, which is due to arrive in theaters in March 2017.
I won’t lie – my excitement over this news is only matched by my trepidation. One might think that casting a non-Chinese actress for Mulan would defeat the purpose of the film, but I’ve learned not to take anything for granted when it comes to whitewashing in Hollywood. Pan has already been derided by many for casting of Rooney Mara as Native American Tiger Lily, and I doubt I need to revive the conversation over the live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender. Some casting choices for Mulan have already been tossed around on social media, like Teen Wolf‘s Arden Cho, and I’m fans of those actors myself. That said, I want an all-Chinese cast more than anything else.
But Angel, you say, Arden would be a great Mulan! Daniel Henney or Choi Siwon would kick butt as Shang! Insert other Asian/half-Asian actors here, as you please. True, they’re all great actors. They’d all “look” Asian. But there is one thing they’re not: Chinese.
Asians aren’t interchangeable, despite the stereotypes TV and movies continue to perpetuate. Chinese are not Korean are not Japanese are not Filipino are not Vietnamese. This is an amazing opportunity for Disney to work with the Chinese community and pay respectful homage to one of their legends. The 1998 movie paid tribute to China’s art in its animation style; why not continue that tradition by casting Chinese actors in all the roles?
Zhu Zhu and Constance Wu come to mind immediately as possibilities for Mulan, though Korean-American Jamie Chung has already played her in Once Upon a Time, to great fan response.* I would love to see Zhu or Constance, or a new talent (!!), get the chance to be a beloved heroine, especially for Chinese and Asian girls.
Fight back against whitewashing with all the strength of a raging fire, Disney. Mulan deserves better than that.
*Edited, as Jamie Chung is a Korean-American actress, not Chinese-American.