Leaked ‘Mulan’ Script Has Fans Up in Arms, Indeed Sounds Terrible
Update, 10/11: Hemlock Grove actor Joel de la Fuente tweeted to the AngryAsianMan blog that "I confirm everything you said about that draft" regarding the contents of the first live-action Mulan script. Fortunately, Vanity Fair reports that an unnamed source close to the film assures them that while the script in question did feature an older white love interest for Mulan, the draft is just "a jumping-off point for a new take on the story that draws from both the literary ballad of Mulan and Disney’s 1998 animated film."
The script was reportedly a "spec" script — written by two white women named Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin who sold their finished draft to Disney — but their names still appear on IMDB as the film's lead screenwriters alongside Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, the duo who wrote Jurassic World.
"Mulan is and will always be the lead character in the story, and all primary roles, including the love interest, are Chinese," the source told Vanity Fair. Was this always the plan, or did the growing outcry against whitewashing Mulan steer producers away from considering that plot point? Good to know that we won't see it either way.
When Disney first announced the search for a Chinese actress to play lead in their live-action Mulan movie, fans who'd been petitioning the studio to do so were relieved. There was every reason to fear that a white actress would, absurdly, be cast in the role: From Emma Stone playing a Hawaiian in Aloha to Scarlett Johansson playing Motoko Kusanagi in the film adaptation of Masumune Shirow's Japanese Ghost In the Shell manga, Hollywood continues to embarrass itself by casting white people as Asians. And while the live-action Mulan endeavors to avoid that particular pattern, an allegedly-leaked copy of the script has provided critics with legitimate cause for concern about the project.
According to an anonymous guest post written by a self-described "Asian American person in the industry" for the site AngryAsianMan, the revisionist story told in the 2018 film's script invents a white male love interest for Mulan, and cedes much of its screen time to telling his tale.
"The 1998 Disney animated classic focused on Mulan's transition from being a young girl failing to fit the mold of a perfect daughter and wife to a heroine whose brave acts ultimately save ancient China," the blogger writes. "Hers is essentially an Asian American tale because it fused Asian characters and culture with a coming-of-age hero's journey that resonated with American audiences.
So why does the script for the live-action remake feature a white male lead?"
According to the post Hynek and Martin's script tells the story of a European trader in his 30s who decides to help the Chinese Imperial Army once he comes smitten with the teenaged Mulan. According to AngryAsianMan's account of the plot, Mulan is turned from primary warrior heroine to vulnerable girlfriend in the new story: "More than half of its pages are dedicated to this merchant who develops a mutual attraction with Mulan and fights to protect her in the ensuing battles. To top it all off, this man gets the honor of defeating the primary enemy of China, not Mulan. Way to steal a girl's thunder."
Upon learning that Mulan had possibly been demoted in her own movie to prop a new white male character, fans lashed out at the news on Twitter. The very existence of this draft is a regrettable reminder that a diversity of voices behind the scenes, where stories are written, directed and cast, is just as important as seeing authentic representation onscreen.
Check out reactions to the news that Mulan might have an older white love interest fighting her battles for her below, and read the full "Open Letter to the Creators of Disney's Live Action Film The Legend of Mulan" here.
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