Mulan (1998): An Analysis of Gender Issues & Patriarchy


When someone is born, they are assigned with a gender, and within the gender, there are stereotypes. Society expects a certain gender to behave a certain way, but this idea about how a certain gender should act and think is something that is socially constructed and can be harmful to both males and females. The easiest example that we can see in everyday life is that the colour blue is assigned to the male gender, and pink is assigned to the female gender. These stereotypes revolve around two things: masculine and feminine. While males are stereotyped to be masculine and females would be feminine, these stereotypes put pressure on those who do not meet the stereotype criteria.

"I'll discover some way to be myself, and to make my family proud" - MulanMovies aren't just about entertainment because they can speak a lot about our society and culture. Either bad or good, movies can have such a cultural impact on society. This means that movies can be considered powerful social agents as they often represent something big and also have a significant impact on society. Mulan (1998), a Chinese representation animation movie that was made by Disney and has been a big success, is one of the movies that represents certain aspects of our society, but the most important aspects are gender issues and patriarchy. There are several reasons why gender issues and patriarchy are so important in Mulan (1998).

Similar to gender stereotypes that focus on how a certain gender has to act, gender expectations are about how society expects a certain gender to take their part and act on their role in society. Mulan (1998) showed how gender expectations give such a dilemma to the main character, Mulan. Based on what was depicted in the movie, we can see that women are expected to doll up, have a tiny waist, and soon be good wives and mothers. Mulan was also betrothed by her family just to bring them “honour,” and it was clear that Mulan was against this idea, but she couldn’t do anything to refuse because she wanted to bring honour to her family. We can see and feel her suffering with the gender stereotypes and expectations through the song “Reflection.”

For such a long period of time, the media representation of girls and women was how they are such damsels in distress. Always need someone to help them and can’t be strong enough to do something on their own. Mulan (1998) is fighting these gender stereotypes and patriarchy by showing the world that Mulan can go to war and contribute to such a victory as a girl. Throughout the film, we can also see the patriarchy in society through the actions, words, and songs of the characters. The most obvious one would be that all men have to go to war and fight for the women that are worth fighting for. Implementing that men have to save women, go to war, and marry a woman. It can be seen explicitly from the lyrics of “A Girl Worth Fighting For”.

Gender stereotypes, expectations, and patriarchy are harmful to both genders and are something that needs to be changed. Mulan (1998) was such a pioneer on its own as it had such a significant impact on society, and how Disney fought their own damsels in distress ideology through Mulan. Mulan (1998) showed that even as a girl, you’re not a princess in need of saving, but you are a strong princess who is ready to explore the world, even on your own. Femininity doesn’t indicate weakness; don’t be afraid to show your femininity and your strength to the world, just like what Mulan said, "I'll discover some way to be myself and to make my family proud." Be who you are longing to be, and ignore all the gender stereotypes, expectations, and patriarchy for whatever gender you are.

Writer: Steven Andrew
Editor: Marsha Almira