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Orientalism Stereotypes in Mulan Essay

Orientalism stereotypes have influenced us in believing that it is true. In the movie Mulan that we had watched in class, we had found quite a few stereotypes that were exaggerated in the movie. The songs they had played were catchy and memorable but they provided some examples of stereotypes in the film. Also another part of the film mentioned another stereotype where women in China were looked down upon by the men. Another major stereotype was when the movie added a physical portrayal of the invaders of China, the Huns.

The songs in Mulan, while catchy and memorable, provided some additional examples of stereotypes in the film. In one of the scenes, Mulan visits the matchmaker so that she can find a husband, which will bring honor to her family. The idea of this scenes stereotype was that Mulan a young Chinese woman in the time that they were in could only bring honor to her family by getting married. To do this, Mulan needed to change her appearance. The limited role of the women is stressed in the song which is describing how the girls can “bring honor to us all…. The man by bearing arms, a girl by bearing sons.” This is stressed because the only way to bring honor to the family is by finding a husband. This describes traditional Chinese values as focused on breeding calm, obedient, silent girls whose goal is to marry a husband and to bear children for their future. Another song that was also exaggerating in a stereotype from Mulan was “A Girl worth Fighting For,” which was described what all of the soldiers are looking for in a woman. According to this song, the girl must be “paler than the moon,” she must also “marvel at my strength,” and “it all depends on what she cooks like.” When Mulan had mentioned brains and speaking her mind, the men responded with a simply “Nah!” In this stereotype of Chinese culture, women were not wanted for their intelligence; they were viewed and wanted as an attractive and submissive wife to their husband.

Another part of the film mentioned another stereotype where women in China were looked down upon by men. Mulan was repeatedly scolded by the men in her society. In one scene, when Mulan was “Ping,” he had saved the lives of her fellow soldiers. Ping is called a hero and was gained the respect of the men. In the next scene, she is found out to be a woman and the men immediately looked down on her, disgusted, and abandoned her half-clothed on the snowy ground. In a different scene, Mulan attempts to defend her father so that he does not have to go to war, the Emperor’s council snaps at her father (not actually speaking to Mulan, a woman), saying he should teach his daughter to “hold her tongue in a man’s presence.” And in the song when the men were training, Li Shang asks, “Did they send me daughters when I asked for sons?” Near the end of the movie, when Mulan defeated Shan Yu and saved China, the emperor’s council told Li Shang, “She’s a woman; she’ll never be worth anything.” This has showed how women were looked down upon by the men of China.

Finally, a different way of showing a major stereotype was when the movie added a physical portrayal of the invaders of China, the Huns. The leader of the Huns, Shan Yu is the most horrifically depicted of all. His black eyebrows that pointed downwards seemed to make a permanent evil scowl, his eyes are tiny yellow circles, his teeth point up at the corners like a vampire, and his deep voice reminds us the viewer’s just how evil he is supposed to be. The Huns contrast the Chinese army strongly; while the Chinese have healthy-looking skin, the Huns are in a gray color, making them look dead. The Chinese characters throughout the movie usually tie their hair up neatly, but the Huns leave their hair untidy and down, showing their barbaric nature even further. Also, the atmosphere of the scene changes when the Huns are shown. The sky gets darker when the Huns appear and in some scenes the sky is actually red when the Huns are shown and switch back to a blue clear sky when showing the Chinese camps and lands. The music also changes from a cheerful music background to an ominous tune when the Huns arrive.

In conclusion, orientalism stereotypes have influenced us in believing that it is true. The aim of the movie should not be to rise against every member of Chinese society in rebelliousness of customs and traditions, but to prove that one can keep their wishes and independence while keeping their own culture and identity.


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