My Reflection: Mulan & Asian Female Identity

About the Project

Image courtesy of chris.alcoran


Even though it was released decades ago, Disney’s Mulan remains one of the best (and only) examples of strong, female, Asian characters in an American film. As part of the Disney Animated Canon, the film’s impact on societal perceptions of women and Asians is enduring and cannot be understated.

Plot Summary

Image by Luis Najera

From Wikipedia: “The film’s plot takes place during the Han Dynasty, where Fa Mulan, daughter of aged warrior Fa Zhou, impersonates a man to take her father’s place during a general conscription to counter a Hun invasion.”

About This Project

In this project for my ENG328: Race, Gender and Media-Making class taught by Professor Heather Julien at Emory University, I will conduct a critical analysis of Mulan in order to determine the messages it implicitly communicates about Asian women and how it contributes to the identity formation of Asian American girls in relation to their heritage and role in society.

Though Mulan is one of my favorite films, I have made an effort to be as objective as possible in my analysis. My goal is not to blindly support something I loved as a child, but rather to gain a more mature and nuanced understanding of what the film is truly saying.

This project is titled “My Reflection” as a tribute to the song “Reflection” from the Mulan soundtrack. The poignant lines, “Who is that girl I see, staring straight back at me? / Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?” are not only moving but highly relevant to this exploration of racial identity. Too often, the Asian girls that we see in the media are caricatures of who we really are. With this project, I hope to assess the ubiquity of such negative representations, explore how they came to be so popular, and determine what we can do to change them.

Parts of the Project