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I was watching Mulan today, certainly not for the first time for I have loved this Chinese tale of sacrifice and bravery since I was a child, and I noticed something I haven’t thought about before. Some of the songs in the film seem to present the ideas of physical appearance and marriage as correlates, which I find disturbing.

Watch Mulan as she’s being prepared for her meeting with the matchmaker:

Analyze the lyrics. They seem to be fully focusing on a woman’s appearance rather than mentality and values. Is physicality the proper key to a successful marriage? Is a ‘tiny waist’ the appropriate requirement for a good wife? Is a ‘perfect porcelain doll’ the standard set for brides?

What I admire most about Mulan is her honesty and bravery of way. Watch her post-meeting introspective speech:

Such a confession reveals Mulan’s, and my own, concern about our nature as women of our society. Why is ‘truly being [yourself]’ presented as a heart breaking idea? Are we not here to be who we are? Or must we alter our appearance to fit into the stereotypical standards of the ‘perfect bride’?

Now hidden beneath the disguise of a man, Mulan finds out what men think ‘a girl worth fighting for’ should be. Watch:

A pretty face? A good cook? An admirer of strength? Are these the labels for future wives in the minds of men?

I love Mulan, as a film and story, but I wonder if men and women (those who prepared Mulan for her meeting) truly think this way about marriage. Is this Disney’s perception? The traditional Chinese traditions? The universal standards?

What do you think?

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