When the news broke two years ago that Disney’s animated Mulan character Li Shang, captain within the Emperor’s Imperial Army, singer of the exercise traditional “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” and bisexual icon, was not going to be within the new live-action Mulan, followers of the unique film took to social media to complain.
i’m disgusted. disney is clearly nonetheless mad they by accident made li shang bisexual, in order that they’re REMOVING ANY POSSIBILITY that “chen” is seen as bisexual. they make it clear he HATES mulan the entire time she’s presenting male. he bullies her up till he finds out she’s a girl. https://t.co/vsj5B9uDGp
— princess mizzy (@hellomizzyy) April 16, 2018
Li Shang was a Leader, he didn’t bully anyone lmao his relationship with Mulan went from upset to respect to admiration to like. Chen Honghui solely appears to be attempting to play the enemies-to-lovers trope, although we don’t know for positive the kind of love however we are able to solely assume
— blue chicken (@ohhbird) April 17, 2018
LI SHANG IS THE BEST AND SEXIEST DISNEY “PRINCE” EVER AND THEY DID HIM DIRTY I SAID WHAT I SAID
— Kelly ⁷ (@Kelleesi18) February 27, 2020
Part of the reason director Niki Caro selected to vary Shang was due to the unlucky implications of Mulan getting collectively together with her commanding officer. In the live-action Mulan, Li Shang is cut up into two characters: Commander Tung (Donnie Yen), who serves as a type of father determine to Mulan (Liu Yifei), and Cheng Honghui (Yoson An), a fellow soldier. The casting call that circulated around the internet described Honghui as “full of himself, with a mean, bullying streak to him” and positioned him as a chief rival to Mulan, till he realizes she’s a girl and begins to respect her.
People weren’t proud of that, claiming the take ruined Shang’s supposed bisexuality. For years, followers have argued that Shang, who begins to develop emotions for Mulan whereas she’s disguised as Ping, is bisexual. Animated Disney motion pictures are nonetheless bereft of any significant LGBTQ illustration, so audiences have eagerly claimed characters and tales for their very own. Mulan, with its interrogation of gender roles, has at all times been chock filled with queer subtext and it doesn’t take a number of deep studying or fan theories to learn Shang as bisexual. When it got here to his erasure within the film, many felt that it was a deliberate transfer on Disney’s half to erase the queer subtext from the unique animated film.
so the brand new character relentlessly bullies mulan bc she’s higher than him till he discover out she’s a lady, hoah fence however i hate him and our bisexual king li shang would by no means https://t.co/D0d0Z82CRY
— indie (@INDIEWASHERE) April 17, 2018
li shang was our bisexual icon and also you took him from us
— shoe (@shoe0nhead) February 28, 2020
Look, I really like bisexual icon Captain Li Shang as a lot as the subsequent Disney fan. But Chen Honghui gained my coronary heart after I noticed him in motion. He could even be a extra nuanced character than Shang, particularly relating to his sexuality.
[Ed. notice: This story comprises spoilers for Mulan (2020) and Mulan (1998).]
Blasphemy, I do know. But hear me out: as a result of Honghui is now only a soldier, he establishes an precise rapport with Mulan early on within the film, so the burgeoning attraction he feels towards her is current from the very starting. Which means Hongui ought to be thought-about simply as a lot a bisexual icon as Li Shang. Placing him on equal footing with Mulan provides the story a unique taste, and a satisfying arc for the character, build up from an attraction to a mutual respect.
In the unique 1998 film, Shang doesn’t actually work together with Mulan, past the musical sequence the place he’s barking orders at everybody. They have a short dialog when the emperor’s adviser, Chi Fu, tells Shang his troopers aren’t prepared, and Mulan assures Shang that he’s an amazing captain. (After that dialog, guardian dragon Mushu scolds her for checking him out and getting distracted from the mission at hand). But apart from that temporary interplay, Mulan and Shang don’t ever spend a lot time collectively off the battlefield.
By inserting Honghui in nearer proximity to Mulan, the filmmakers instantly construct extra of a relationship between the 2 characters. He’s cocky, however he’s removed from the imply bully that the casting name made him out to be. That character description did him soiled. They do, admittedly, get off on the unsuitable foot, however Mulan will get off on the unsuitable foot with nearly everybody within the military. She first meets Honghui after she’s by accident knocked again in line by some bickering troopers and falls on her butt. He presents her a hand up, condescendingly calling her “little man.” On the defensive and thirsting to show herself, she refuses his assist and instantly goes for her sword, holding it as much as his throat — and he does the identical to her. Not one of the best first assembly, however not proof that he’s a bully, both.
Actually, Honghui is without doubt one of the first troopers to start out speaking to Mulan as a buddy, straight addressing her after they’re in group settings. If the live-action Mulan succeeds at something, it’s in encapsulating the sheer awkwardness Mulan feels within the camp, attempting to cover her true id and slot in among the many male troopers. She is much more misplaced right here than within the unique film, adjusting her binder within the secrecy of the early morning, and volunteering to take guard shifts throughout bathe time.
Honghui is clearly drawn to her, even when he can’t notably articulate why. He watches her carefully in a approach that positively reads like he has a crush, even when he thinks she’s a person. He notices that she’s very expert, particularly after she demonstrates her superpowered chi factor. But as an alternative of being the bully that early reports made him out to be, he’s the primary one to strategy her and attempt to type a friendship. Mulan bluntly refuses him, although it comes off as a countermeasure to guard her id, and never as a result of she doesn’t take pleasure in his firm.
Honghui’s burgeoning crush on Mulan is additional solidified when he has a little bit of a heart-to-heart together with her, asking if she’s been matched with anybody for an organized marriage but. Then he goes on to confide to her that he has a tough time speaking to girls, and it’s a lot simpler to speak to males. It doesn’t really feel like he’s saying “Hurr durr, women are so complicated,” a lot as like he’s confessing he feels emotionally interested in males. This can also be the scene the place Mulan’s personal emotions begin to bubble forth, as she quietly tells him that she thinks girls would love him.
Caro admittedly does sideline the opposite troopers to ensure that Honghui to develop. Instead of being lovable comedic buffoons, all of them mix collectively, other than wide-eyed Cricket, one other new addition to the film, performed by Jun Yu. They’re given crass, loud dialogue in group settings that normally serves as noise for Honghui to chop by way of so he can handle Mulan straight. It completely looks like he’s making a degree of speaking to his crush, who’s a bit too awkward to talk up throughout group banter. Mulan appreciates this and the 2 share some awkward smiles as they bridge the hole of friendship.
If the filmmakers supposed to start out this relationship off in an antagonistic, non-romantic approach, they completely failed. As it performs out onscreen, Honghui has it dangerous for Mulan, even when he thinks she’s a dude.
But the actual distinction between Honghui and Shang comes from the stakes concerned with their positions. In the animated film, Shang spares Mulan’s life and is without doubt one of the few individuals who listens to her when she explains that Shan Yu and his followers are out to kill the emperor. He’s partially in a position to do that as a result of he’s a military officer, and has the authority to carry his individuals in to foil Shan Yu’s plot.
But when Honghui stands up for Mulan — after she’s been exiled from the military, however returns to warn them that the emperor is at risk — he doesn’t have any place of energy. He’s risking his life and standing, as a result of he believes and trusts her. Unlike what the casting name implied, his view of her doesn’t change as a result of he realizes she’s a girl. It was constructed from the very starting.
As with the animated film, Honghui and Mulan don’t formally get collectively on the finish. They share a second proper earlier than Mulan returns house. Honghui is a bit smoother than Shang and his “You fight good” line, telling her that he’d prefer to say goodbye to her correctly earlier than she rides out of his life. They share a short hand-clasp of respect, and he says he’ll meet her once more. The ambiguity of their relationship standing works: At that time, Honghui’s attraction and curiosity, coupled with Mulan’s aloofness, have advanced into mutual respect. Unlike within the animated film, Honghui doesn’t comply with Mulan house and present up at her doorstep.
Yes, Shang nonetheless has my complete coronary heart, particularly his awkwardness when he reunites with Mulan. But I’m a sucker for an ending the place two characters fundamentally and deeply change each other, and half from one another in a bittersweet approach. Honghui may by no means comply with Mulan house. But she impressed him to defy direct orders and rise up for what he believes is correct, whereas he gave her help, friendship, and validation when she wanted it most. And that imbues a doable romantic arc with a deeper satisfaction. He isn’t Shang, however he isn’t a weak afterthought, both.