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Photo: Shang-Li’s character has been divided into two characters/Mulan/Disney
After the character being noticeably absent from the IMDb page, fans took to Twitter to demand answers from Disney
Ahead of Disney’s much anticipated live action release of Mulan, fans have noticed major character Li Shang’s name absent from the IMDb page. Not only was he a major male lead, but he was the main romantic interest for Mulan and a bisexual icon. Fans online were immediately suspicious that the character would be erased from the film and demanded answers from Disney.
Disney later admitted that the rumors were true, and they had removed Shang Li from Mulan. Not only did this outrage fans, as the main character will now be left without a love interest and an inspiration, but this left many scratching their heads. How will the plot move forward without him? Shang Li is just as vital as Mulan. Producer Jason Reed explained how they planned to circumvent this issue “We split Li Shang into two characters. One became Commander Tung (Donnie Yen) who serves as her surrogate father and mentor in the course of the movie. The other is Honghui (Yoson An) who is [Mulan’s] equal in the squad.”
Rendezvous At The Premiere of Mulan
Shang Li would have been an important milestone for representation in the LGBT community, where Disney is sorely lacking.
Many fans had so many issues with cutting Shang Li out of the film. Firstly, one of the major plot points of the film is his relationship with Mulan’s masculine alter-ego, Ping. Of course, this implies Shang Li’s bisexuality, as he continues to have romantic interest in Mulan despite not knowing her gender. This would have been a huge push for representation in the LGBT community, especially for Disney, since they have not made significant advances there. Any representation for a Disney film has been shoehorned or forced, meanwhile, this would have been an established character where it would have felt natural. Understandably, audiences felt angry that they turned away from meaningful diversity or representation.
Disney feels that Shang-Li’s relationship with Mulan was “inappropriate”, misunderstanding the message of the MeToo movement
This is not the only issue the fans had with the major character’s sudden disappearance; fans feel that the #MeToo message is being skewed. Jason Reed did cite the MeToo movement as a major influence on the team’s decision to erase the character from the film, “I think particularly in the time of the #MeToo movement, having a commanding officer that is also the sexual love interest was very uncomfortable and we didn’t think it was appropriate.”
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Video: Full Commentary on Mulan
From this, it is clear to see that Reed believed that Shang Li may have been using his position of power to influence Mulan into a romantic relationship, which is not the case at all. Mulan was inspired by Shang Li, and looked up to him and that is one of the many reasons she fell in love with him. It is clear that she will not have a love interest in this film. There seems to be this new narrative perpetuating throughout media that you can only be a “strong, independent woman” if you are completely and utterly alone. We do not need love, that is true, but it is by no means a weakness. Like any other person in the world, we would like love, affection, and a happy ending. So, for the life of me, I cannot understand why Disney is writing all of their female characters like isolated, emotionless islands and saying “that is what a strong woman looks like”. These stories leave such a bad taste in your mouth, especially if you are a woman, the lead feels so empty and alone as she has to carry all of her baggage.
Behind The Scenes of Mulan
Disney squeegeeing their films is not the way forward. We should have more representation of women and LGBT communities
Disney has been doing everything in their power lately to make their films as clean as possible; trying to navigate the minefield of media. In doing so, however, they are falling behind. They have had only one real LGBT character that appeared in Onward recently, which is hardly enough. Every other form of representation has been in a ten second clip that could be cropped out for foreign audiences. Considering how many people see these films, this could have been a major step forward in representation. However, I truly do understand the sentiment in trying to be sensitive to women in the MeToo era. Disney, as a whole, grossly misunderstood the message. We do not need love or men to be powerful, this doesn’t mean that it makes us weak or any less independent.
Mulan’s release has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
By Stephanie Bock
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Stephanie Bock is a writer for Hollywood Insider. She is an impassioned storyteller who puts all of her energy into her writing and film. Having grown up with a strong passion for both literature and cinema, she now writes short stories, scripts, and film reviews in her spare time. As a fan of films and shows of all kinds, she enjoys discussing deep and meaningful cinema and uncovering hidden gems.