Hollywood’s whitewashing woes may be continuing, or at least they were going to at one point or another. Recently, Disney got on seemingly everyone’s good side when the confirmed that they would be releasing their live-action remake of Mulan in 2018. The celebration may be a bit short lived though, as some details from the initial script for the movie have leaked, which revealed that particular version of the movie would feature a white male lead.
A recent blog post that showed up on Angry Asian Man claims that Disney’s original script for the live-action Mulan, which was titled The Legend of Mulan, centered on a “white merchant” man. Those who remember the Disney animated movie Mulan will note that the movie didn’t have a white man in the lead role. Given the recent uproar that has come from whitewashing in high-profile movies, this would be understandably upsetting. Here are some of the details from the script as described in the blog post.
“The man is a 30-something European trader who initially cares only for the pleasure of women and money. The only reason why he and his entourage decide to help the Chinese Imperial Army is because he sets eyes on Mulan. That’s right. Our white savior has come to the aid of Ancient China due to a classic case of Yellow Fever. In this script written by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin, 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.”
It is very well worth noting that The Legend of Mulan script, which was written by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin, is not necessarily the script that Disney is going to use for their live-action Mulan. They may just use elements of it or go with an entirely different script. Either way, it is easy to understand why the author of this blog post, who remained anonymous, would be irritated. Actor Joel de la Fuente from The Man in the High Castle did corroborate the details from the blog post, saying “I can back you up on what you’re saying. I confirm everything you said about that draft.”
The original Mulan centered on the title character, voiced by Ming-Na Wen, who disguises herself as a man to take her ailing father’s place on the battlefield. With the help of her beloved dragon sidekick Mushu, who was voiced by Eddie Murphy, Mulan becomes a brave warrior who becomes one of her country’s most honored heroines. The original Mulan voice cast also included Miguel Ferrer, Harvey Fierstein, June Foray, James Hong, Pat Morita, B.D. Wong and George Takei. It most certainly did not include a bunch of white guys as the central focus.
Recent movies like Doctor Strange and Ghost in the Shell have come under heavy fire from the public over casting white people in roles that were originally intended to be Asian. Things were especially ugly in the case of Ghost in the Shell when it was revealed that some digital effects tests had been done to try and make Scarlett Johansson look more Asian. Even Matt Damon’s new monster movie The Great Wall, which features a massive Asian cast and did not give away an Asian role to a white actor, came under fire just for having a white man as the central focus in the movie. It seems very unlikely that Disney would want to walk right into the line of fire with Mulan and go with the version of the script described in this recent blog post.
Mulan earned over $304 million worldwide during its theatrical release in 1998 and has become a fan favorite in the years since. Disney has been doing very well with their live-action remakes of animated classics, with Cinderella and The Jungle Book both dominating the box office, so it makes perfect sense that they would want to give Mulan the live-action treatment as well. Let’s just hope they don’t go the whitewashing route. Disney’s new version of Mulan is set for release on November 9, 2018.