Following the recent news release that Disney will be re-making Mulan into a live-action film, over 20,000 people signed a petition calling for Disney to cast an Asian Mulan for the lead role. When I first read this, I thought to myself: Well, isn’t it a bit ridiculous that they’re demanding this? Wouldn’t it be obvious for Disney to cast an Asian actress as Mulan? I mean, the story does take place in China… I guess I was naïve to think that. Apparently, “whitewashing” (casting white actors/actresses to play characters who were meant to be people of color) is not that uncommon in Hollywood. The Guardian’s article on the petition referred to the fact that John Wayne’s casting as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror, Mickey Rooney’s casting as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and more recent castings in The Last Airbender as well as Ghost in the Shell as proof of Hollywood’s recurring trend of “whitewashing” originally Asian characters. It happens all the time and nobody ever really thinks about it (or at least I didn’t), most of us just accept it as normal and don’t question it. I guess when you put it in perspective, it wouldn’t be totally abnormal if Disney casted a white actress as Mulan. But it’s totally culturally wrong and historically inaccurate in so many ways – it just makes me cringe internally… Petition organizer Natalie Molnar contends, validly – I might add, that “whitewashing” implies that only white people can be heroes, and that the “white” standard of beauty and morality are superior to that of other cultures and ethnicities.
I guess we’ll have to tune in to see who Disney chooses as its newest leading lady.