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Feminist Theory and Mulan
Transcript of Feminist Theory and Mulan
What Is Feminist Theory?
Feminist theory is the extension of feminism into theoretical or philosophical discourse and aims to understand the nature of gender inequality. It examines women's social roles, experience, interests, chores, and feminist politics in a variety of fields. Themes explored and analyzed in feminism include discrimination, objectification, oppression, and patriarchy.
Mulan is a 1998 animated film based on the Chinese legend of Fa Mulan. The film takes place during the Han Dynasty, where Fa Mulan, the daughter of aged warrior Fa Zhou, impersonates a man at great risk to herself and her family's honor to take her father's place during a general conscription to counter a Hun invasion lead by Shan Yu.
Why Is This Combo Worth Discussing?
The combination of
and Feminist theory is worth discussing for the sole fact that the film reinforces that gender roles are resilient and very difficult to break out of and that deviating from these stereotypical social roles is useless. From a very young age, the young girls who watch this film are told that they should conform to feminine gender roles and that men are superior and more valued in society.
Reinforcement of Masculine Stereotypes
Reinforcement of Feminine Stereotypes
By Tressa Hobbs
I'll Make A Man Out Of You
This scene reinforces the stereotypical ideas of masculinity. Masculinity is defined by power, strength, and activity. The lyrics "Lets get down to business, to defeat the Huns. Did they send me daughters, when I asked for sons?" portrays the stereotypical representation that only men are fit to fight. The goal of Captain Shang is to "make a man" out of the new recruits and transform the "girly" recruits into men. This song argues that one should strive towards being a "man", thereby successfully oppressing feminine traits. When Shang sings "(Be a man) With all the force of a great typhoon (Be a man) With all of the strength of a raging fire," it is highlighting the stereotype that men must be strong and a force to be reckoned with. In conclusion this scene highlights that stereotypical masculine traits are superior than stereotypical feminine traits.
On the flip side, femininity is portrayed as the binary opposite of masculinity. While men are intelligent, strong, and powerful, women are portrayed as weak, vulnerable, and insignificant. This is exemplified in an argument between Shang and Chi-Fu, when Shang says "She's a hero!" and Chi-Fu responds with "She's a woman! She'll never be worth anything!".
may seem like a feminist film because in the end she is seen as a hero, but it must be noted that she was only successful because she was disguised as a man, emphasizing that success is a predominantly male trait.
Shang & Chi-Fu's Argument
references female gender roles in the song,
You'll bring honor to us all
, in which Mulan is preparing to see the matchmaker who will turn her into a bride. This scene highlights the idea that women can only bring honor to their families by becoming a bride: a servant to a man who is only there to pour tea and be gracious. Thus the film portrays the message that a woman's main goal should be to find a husband, marry, and take care of the home. Watching this film discourages girls from a young age from trying to pursue a career, and instead makes them desire becoming a wife above all else.
You'll Bring Honor To Us All
A Girl Worth Fighting For
portrays a sexist image of what society values in a woman.The song,
A girl worth fighting for
, emphasizes that a woman, "worth fighting for", would be beautiful, a good cook, and able to reinforce a man's masculinity. Then, Ping (Mulan) is asked what he would want in a girl which he responds, "How bout a girl who's got a brain. Who always speaks her mind?" The men's faces show disgust and disappointment, and they reply with a solid, "Nah!". This reinforces society's expectations that a woman shouldn't be intelligent, but passive and brainless. This sends the message that women shouldn't strive to be knowledgeable, because she only need to know how to cook, look pretty, and stroke her husband's ego. This scene encourages women to "dumb" themselves down, since men do not care to marry a women who he can have a conversation with. Thus, logic is solely a masculine trait, not to be possessed by women. In a broader sense, this scene takes away any empowerment women have received since being allowed to have an education.
At first glance,
is a feminist movie with a strong focus on teaching young girls that they should be true to themselves and follow their heart, as it will lead them to doing what is right. However, when looking at
under a feminist lens this theme warps into one that is much darker and not quite as child friendly. When further analyzed, it is found that themes of gender roles and stereotypes are concealed under overarching messages of female empowerment. Knowing this,
portrays messages that confirm the female stereotype that females are inferior to males, and that feminine traits will always be subordinate to those of the superior male gender.