"My, my. What beautiful blossoms we have this year. And look, this one’s late! But, I’ll bet that when it blooms, it will be the most beautiful of all."
Jeez. Like saving China wasn’t enough? You’re still fixated about how pretty I am? Fine. Next time I’ll stay home and fix my hair and you can go defeat the Huns.
That’s a very odd view. This scene took place right after she failed at the matchmaker’s and before Fa Zhou received his conscription. Therefore the choice to go and fight the Huns instead of being a pretty bride wasn’t even available. If this had taken place AFTER she had gone to war and proven herself, then yes, this scene would be suspect.
Also I don’t think the flower metaphor was meant to only mean her physical prettiness. The very same flower metaphor was used again by the emperor to describe her after she defeated Shan Yu. It’s referring to her growth as an individual, and really whichever path she had chosen - getting successfully hitched at the matchmaker’s or going to war and saving China - it didn’t matter all that much. The point was that she finally found a path that she was comfortable with, and that honoured herself and her family.
Lastly, telling Fa Zhou to ‘go and defeat the Huns’ instead is a bit mean? Fa Zhou took his conscription seriously. He had fought for China before and was injured badly, that’s why he has a limp and can only walk with a stick. Going to war again would mean certain death. It’s on this premise that Mulan decided to go in his place. Hell, The whole movie wouldn’t happen if Fa Zhou had been fit for fighting!
So to sum up:
- context is everything;
- the flower metaphor goes deeper than physical beauty;
- Fa Zhou is a wonderful father because he was supportive of Mulan, and picked her up when she was down instead of scolding her for failing;
- there’s nothing wrong with being a bride or a soldier, the only important thing is that Mulan is comfortable with herself.
This scene is one of a pair. In this scene she has failed at the matchmakers and her father uses the cherry blossom as an analogy because it represents feminine beauty and sexuality in Chinese culture. In Japanese culture it can represent transitions of life, but the story is set in China and the symbolism clearly fits the context. A woman’s worth is in her honor as a bride as we’ve just had sung to us ad nauseum. Her father is comforting her and saying she just hasn’t bloomed yet.
The second scene.of the pair is when Mulan comes home, and finds her father sitting under the same tree. She hands him the sword of the Hun invader and the medal of the emporer….and her grandmother makes a crack about how she should have brought a man home - and then in walks cute captain guy and suddenly everyone is happy.
Mind you, it was pretty clear that he came because the emporer told him to - and that the emporer was taking the place of the matchmaker.
And the VERY clear message is … Oh, saving china is great and all, but now you can bring honor to your family as a bride.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Mulan, but the fundamental problem set up is ‘Mulan isn’t feminine enough so she brings dishonor on her family because she can’t get a man.’ And the answer isn’t - there are other ways to bring your family honor. It’s ‘maybe there are other ways to get a guy.’
That’s one interpretation of the ending scene, but I didn’t see it that way at all.
The flower analogy is clearly a feminine one, nobody is going to argue with that, but it’s not necessarily a sexist one in the context of the whole film.
Sure, in this scene in the very beginning of the film, Mulan and her family did not see how else she could bring honour other than to be a bride. Going to the matchmaker’s was, aside from trying to get her a good husband, a feminine rite of passage for Mulan. This is inkeeping with the strict female role in a patriarchal society that is ancient China. So when Fa Zhou used the flower analogy, at first glance it could mean just that - that she is a late bloomer in beauty and sexuality, but her time will come.
At the end of the film, however, when the emperor repeated the metaphor, it has taken on a new meaning. His exact words were:
"The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all."
Now, you can focus exclusively on ‘beautiful’ to mean physical beauty, or you can look at the whole sentence. Especially the first part: “The flower that blooms in adversity…” Here, the emperor is praising Mulan’s tenacity, against the Huns yes, but it takes on more meaning as we, the audience, knows that she faced a lot of problems trying to fit into her bridal role earlier in the film.
That she bloomed in the end through ‘unconventional’ means is a clear message that you do not have to follow a strict path set out by your family or society to achieve something in life.
Even better, as another post around Tumblr pointed out, Mulan learnt to be comfortable with both the ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ sides of herself by how she outwitted Shan Yu on the roof - with a fan (the symbol of her femininity and one she used as a ‘weapon’ at the matchmaker’s), to flip Shan Yu’s sword around (a masculine symbol, Shan Yu’s own masculine strength, in fact, and she turned it against him).
She has bloomed into a balanced individual in that scene, and that’s what we remember her doing.
The emperor did take on the role of matchmaker, but he did not do it callously. The matchmaker earlier in the film fussed over Mulan’s appearance and behaviour, and whether or not she would fit into a role as a good wife, with zero regard for Mulan’s own wishes. Now here, the emperor sent Shang after Mulan because he noticed that they had feelings for one another (and Shang was being a flustered idiot about it). The emperor had no motive other than that he thinks Mulan and Shang deserved to try out a romantic relationship together.
Also, Shang wasn’t forced on Mulan by the emperor or her family. She was falling in love with him throughout the film, and what the emperor and her family did was to accommodate that, with the utmost respect for Mulan and Shang.
And there is nothing unempowering about Mulan falling in love and having her love returned. I actually applaud how subtle the romance was played in this film. It was there but it didn’t dominate the story, and everything worked out in the end in typical Disney fashion, which is also okay. They didn’t even have a big celebration with a kissing scene or a marriage scene. The film ended with Mulan inviting Shang to stay for dinner. Talk about a slow burner.
The joke Mulan’s grandmother cracked about ‘bringing home a man’ - I’m Chinese, and I have a grandmother like that. I really hate to have to say “It’s just a joke” because of how it’s always used to derail an argument about a very serious point, but this time I really think it’s just a joke. Mulan’s grandmother is the most traditional figure in the family, and she’s excited about marriage and grandchildren and all that. I would also argue that if Mulan had been a man and had come home from war, the grandmother would still fuss about him settling down and ‘bring home a woman’ (personal experience with a grandmother who is equally obsessed with both sons and daughters, and grandsons and granddaughters, getting married).
Also the whole family was happy enough at Mulan’s return. They weren’t sombre over how ohhh Mulan failed to bring home a man, they were happy that she was home in one piece. Shang turning up afterwards only added to their happiness, and I read it as more of them being happy for Mulan, rather than just happy that Mulan snagged herself a man whilst at war to bring honour to their family.
Ugh, sorry for the essay! I’m not attacking you personally, I’m just very passionate about how perfectly subversive Mulan’s tale is to the whole of Chinese tradition, and that the Disney film captured it really well even with the added element of romance. I really think they did all right here, but of course there’s room for more than one interpretation.
lets talk about the most absolutely jarring mood shift in all disney history shall we
I still cry every time I see that doll
HAPPY NEW YEAR, watching Mulan after HBP was a good choice.
Lol, everything about this post
Disney Horses :)
Oh, hey, is this a gifset about Disney princesses with their horses?
You missed one:
stop what you’re doing and watch
Not reblogging this is a federal offense.
I can understand if you don’t reblog this. It just means you are not a man.
this will make a man out of me
I’m never gonna catch my breath when I see this on my dash.
I love this movie so freaking much.
always reblog, no questions asked.
@#!*% they establish so much in one stupid montage and it’s so beautiful and no one can question is because it’s done so beautifully!