As a kid, Mulan was one of my favorite Disney movies. I loved the whole story, the clothes, the colors, and especially the music. Watching it now, I can see clear examples of orientalism portrayed throughout the entire movie.
The most noticeable form of orientalism present in the movie is the combination of Japanese and Chinese culture. This is clearly visible by the clothing (Kimonos), white face makeup, and hair styles present throughout the movie. It is also seen in the song “Honor To Us All” by the way the ideal woman is portrayed.
Mulan is supposed to take place in China and be about the Chinese culture, but instead the creators mashed Japanese culture with Chinese. The idea of viewing many Asian cultures as similar or the same is an orientalist approach, when in fact Asian cultures are all very diverse and unique from one another.
Secondly, the way family honor is portrayed in the movie is a very orientalist view. The movie emphasizes and promotes self-sacrifice in order to keep a family’s honor. While family honor was and is a very important part of many Asian cultures, it does not mean that one should sacrifice their own important values for others. The way this concept of family honor is represented in the movie paints a picture that all Asian people will sacrifice themselves to honor their family and country.
Mulan is a form of orientalism, because the directors thought of Asian culture as one, and disregarded if cultures became mixed. In addition, the representation of self-sacrifice for family honor is seen as orientalism and is not how all Asian cultures are at all.