Mulan is one of Disney’s most popular Princesses, especially to a particular subset of fans. While the character was obviously a big deal to fans of Asian descent, Mulan also became a sort of accidental hero for LGBTQ fans. Ming-Na Wen, who voiced Mulan in the original Disney animated classic, points out that since they had few big screen heroes of their own, the gender switch in Mulan was enough to touch many LGBTQ fans and make Mulan their hero. According to the actress…
It’s amazing how things work out. As Ming-Na Wen says, there was never any specific intention to make Mulan a gay story, and yet, that’s exactly what happened. Mulan takes on the guise of a male character and then proceeds to have feelings for her commanding officer Li Shang. While the audience knows the truth, the relationship looks like one man having feelings for another. Even Li Shang has to come to terms with the fact that he discovers he has feelings for Mulan, somebody that he, until recently, believed was a man. The film doesn’t actually present it in quite that way, but it’s not difficult to make such connections. It may not be much, but considering how few LGBTQ characters were out there, it was embraced by many.
Now, Mulan is set for the live-action adaptation treatment from Disney. A few things have been changed up for the remake. Rather than seeing Mulan fall for her commanding officer, the character that was Li Shang has been split in half. Donnie Yen will play Commander Tung, the leader of Mulan’s regiment of soldiers. Yoson An will play Chen Honghui, a fellow soldier who will fulfill the love interest role. It will be interesting to see if the new film decides to play up the LGBTQ aspects of the relationship or if the film will leave the idea as subtext only.
As far as what the future holds for Ming-Na Wen and Mulan, she’s not talking. While she has continued to provide the voice for the animated Mulan whenever necessary, Entertainment Weekly asked if we might see her make an appearance in the live action film. She would not confirm or deny a cameo, which makes it sound like such an appearance might at least be a possibility. She has previously expressed a desire to appear, so if the movie wants it to happen there’s a good chance it will.