Orientalism in Mulan

Everyone knows the critically acclaimed Disney film Mulan. It is highly applauded due to its female hero, which breaks the norm of a standard plot of a Disney film. Despite all of Mulan’s glory, it has tones of orientalism throughout the whole film. Mulan was created after a Chinese folk tale called Ballard of Mulan, however, its animation style seems to portray more Japanese styles than Chinese. For example, when Mulan is being prepared by the matchmaker part of her makeup routine is to cover her face with white powder, however, the white-powered face style comes from the style of Japanese geishas. Not only this, but Mulan is wearing an article of clothing that resembles a Japanese Kimono, despite the film being set during the Han Dynasty. The Han Dynasty had a traditional type of clothing for women to wear, which was not animated into Mulan. In Mulan there is a warming scene between Mulan and her father under a cherry blossom tree, however, it is commonly known that a cherry blossom tree is a traditional flower in Japan. The mix-ups between Japanese and Chinese cultures show that some westerns see the Asian cultures as one big cohesive one even though Asia is made up of 48 different countries.

Mulan misses the mark on representing the fashion and make-up styles, but it also mocks one of China’s most valued ideals. Mushu is supposed to be an ancestral spirit and he is loved amongst the audience for his comedic personality as he guides Mulan through her troubles. But, in Chinese culture, ancestral worship is a belief that is taken extremely seriously and is not to be mocked. Mulan doing this suggest that Westerns see China’s ancestral traditions as a joke or an idea that is ridiculous. One of the core beliefs of the tradition of ancestral connections stems from the idea of respecting your elders. However, Mushu, the ancestral spirit, is disrespected by Mulan and the cricket which undermines the whole idea of what an ancestral spirit is supposed to be or how it is supposed to be treated. This doesn’t just highlight the lack of knowledge but shows the little respect we have for the Chinese culture.

Disney wanted to include more races and ethnicities in the Disney franchise but its version of different races and cultures is skewed by the eurocentric view westerners have about the world around them.

It’s a Man’s World

Shakespeare’s King Lear challenges the societal gender roles, which at the time of the play was considered controversial. In the first act of King Lear, he demands that each daughter prove their love and respect for him in order for them to receive part of his land. Two of the three daughters submit to his wishes and says reassuring things like ” Sir, I [Goneril] love you more than word can wield the matter” (I.i. 60) or “I find she names my very deed of love/only she comes too short”(I.i.78-79). As Lear gets sprinkled with compliments this strengthens his role as a powerful man as two women beg for something that belongs to him. Ironically, his daughter Goneril and Regan, those who graveled for his land, become a powerful force and leader in the hopes to betray their father. This is when the ideal gender roles are switched. While Lear loses power and his mind, his daughters become powerful. Goneril comes to the realization that Albany is not her ally and tells him “no more. the text is foolish” (IV.ii) then continues to call him a “milk – liveried man/ that bear’st a cheek for blows – a head for wrongs,” (IV.ii). In translation, Goneril is calling him a lying coward which in the eyes of society is greatly frowned upon. Although Goneril’s motives to betray her father was already frowned upon by members of the audience, her dominance and assertiveness to Albany, her own husband, was an act more surprising. Shakespeare’s response in the eyes of Albany was to call her the devil which some could argue that response of justified while others protest Albany’s attitude towards women in power.

Albany’s beliefs on women in power seem “old fashion,” when in reality his beliefs are more prevalent in society today as women become more and more involved in our government. Hillary Clinton made headlines, before she even ran for presidency, due to her lack of abilities to be “women like” when she served as the First Lady. When her husband served in office she received major backlash as she become the chair of different committees of public policy, which made her the most involved first lady ever. Hillary Clinton’s leadership and power was a shock to society so much so the White House made a campaign for Clinton to emphasize the more traditional traits of a first lady should be. This campaign gave society what they wanted to see, which was her in the kitchen and merrily hiding behind her husband. Hillary didn’t let this phase her as she ran for president in 2016 against Donald Trump who begin the nasty women campaign against Clinton. The constant set – back Clinton has faced strictly due to her gender is living evidence that our society has not yet reached a point of equilibrium.

Heaven’s Not Too Far Away

Song Lyrics: https://genius.com/We-three-heavens-not-too-far-lyrics

Writing song lyrics and writing poetry have similar writing techniques as both forms of art attempt to place the reader in different feet than their own and transport the readers/listeners into an alternate reality. We Three, a sibling band, experienced the tragic loss of losing their mother to cancer, but it inspired them to write a song from her perspective, on what they thought went through her mind as she stared death in the face. They titled this song “Heavens Not Too Far Away”, which already shows the listener the central theme of the song and by the usage of diction in the opening stanza sets the whole message of the song.

… Honey, I thought you should know
That I’m in a hurry
I’ve got to move up north
But it’s just temporary
When I look at you I see your beauty
Now my baby boy he’s gonna lose me

This opening stanza also allows the listener to see that this song is in the perspective of not the songwriters themselves, as they refer to themselves in the third person, but their mother. It also establishes that maybe the mom believes that she isn’t leaving her kids, spiritually, because she was their mother, a figure that is supposed to support her kids for their full life. It is implied that her life was cut too short, and this stanza also establishes maybe what the songwriters/ her kids wanted to believe because the dark reality that their mother is gone from the physical world is too sad to bear. This also shows that this song has a central message but also leaves room for some interpretation for the listeners. The repetition of the line “it’s just temporary” located in the first and very last line of the song, places emphasis on the speaker believing there is something past death, and she will one day see her kids again. However, it uses the word it’s because although it seems like the logical thing it’s would be referring to is leaving her kids, it also allows the reader to interpret what it’s could mean. The word it’s could be analyzed as the pain that the kids, the pain the mom feels, or the burden of taking care of one’s younger siblings.

The chorus of this song goes like

But Heaven’s not too far away

I know someday you’ll vist

And I didn’t think it’d go this way

Can I please have one more minute

The chorus has a meter of 7 syllables per line, which is more crucial in a song than a poem as it gives the song more fluency to the words so it flows smoothly with the instrumentals. Although a poem has no instrumentals to it, there still needs to be a continuous flow so the experience the poem attempts to paint is smooth and not filled with awkward breaks between lines or stanzas. This song takes that into consideration with the chorus especially since this is the most remembered verse and its given meter is what makes it sounds so good and rememberable.

The song itś self doesn’t use a lot of poetic devices but according to Perrine’s Sounds and Sense first chapter “What is Poetry” defines poetry as something that creates “significant new experiences” as it “broadens” and “deepens” the reader’s knowledge in this world. This song is not only personal for the writers but it also lets listeners in on a viewpoint, that is mostly unheard of in the public eye. As well as, creates empathy for kids who lost their parents to a disease or accident at a relatively young age. This song also targets the audience of kids who have lost their parents because this song could be looked at as a type of message to a kid who lost a parent. A message that maybe wasn’t always told to these kids, so they take comfort in this song. This is in some ways juxtaposes Perrine’s definition that poetry has to take you to a new place, as this song could take people back in time if they experienced the loss of a parent. Before or after, the present, the song brings its audience members to a time that isn’t the present and most times different from the world they are in.

We All Need Love Sometimes

In Mohsin Hamid’s novel Exit West, it follows the lives of Nadia and Saeed as they jump through magical doors in hopes to escape their homeland which has been overrun by a terrorist group. The author wrote both characters to defy the societal normals of their given gender. Nadia was written to be a strong, independent woman who sees no need for a man in her life despite her homeland crumbling to the ground. Saeed was written to be portrayed as a family-centered, religious, and traditional man. The relationship formed between these two characters was formed by, what it seemed like to the reader, love. The saying ‘opposites attract’ could be perfectly used to describe them because every reader wants there to be love. As the book continued it became more and more clear that the love between Nadia and Saeed was strictly platonic.

That’s not the say that there wasn’t a connection between Nadia and Saeed is easily found between others, but Nadia and Saeed realize they needed each other in order to escape their homeland, but they don’t satisfy each other’s needs as a romantic partner. Migrating, alone, male or female can be dangerous and extremely lonely. Nadia and Saeed met in a time of need of a companion, but not necessarily a spouse though. However, both knew if they followed what society wanted to see then they knew their chances of escaping into a safe country would be higher. When Nadia and Saeed come out of the first portal door “[Nadia] cradled him for he was still weak, and when they were strong enough they rose.” Both characters were weakened by the magical door and needed comfort in their lives. Comfort for not just the pain the portal caused, but the pain from leaving the world they knew, the guilt they felt for those left behind, and the fear of what lies ahead of them. Migration is unpredictable and most migrants prepare for the worst. Nadia and Saeed needed each other because they were each other’s one constant, which at the time for them may have seemed like romantic true love.

Once Nadia and Saeed realized they were both safe, the need to have a constant, reliable figure in their life began to lose its meaning. This realization made Nadia and Saeed explore what is best for them individually and as a couple. They began to live separate lives under the same roof, which is not what the readers classify as a “married” lifestyle. Their parting of ways was mutual and both even found love after. This is the love the readers want Nadia and Saeed to have, after all they went through mirgrating through countries that wanted to kill them. Both of them needed different types of love durning different times in their life even if it was not the type of love readers understand and know.

Is Death the Happy Ending?

Albert Camus’s book The Stranger attempts to answer the question, what is the meaning of life? Camus doesn’t take the average approach claiming a cliche like love, family, or friendship is the meaning of life, in fact, he looks in the opposite direction. The main character Meursault is portrayed as a cold, emotionless, and remorseless man, who at the start confuses the readers. As the book continues, Camus shows us more of Meursault’s thoughts which lay parallel with the theme of “Myth of Sisyphus.” The theme in the “Myth of Sisyphus” is that you can only truly be happy when you do not shy away from the inevitable of life. In The Stranger Meursault says, while in prison, “I wasn’t too unhappy. Once again the main problem was killing time.” This quote could also be a metaphor for life, showing that all people do in their years on Earth is kill time until death comes. This means that love, friends, and family is all one big distraction for people so they don’t have to think about death. But, Meursault said he wasn’t too unhappy with a life in prison which shows the readers that he isn’t cold for no reason, he just sees no reason to be always friendly or get caught up in the distractions of life because he sees the end. In the “Myth of Sisyphus,” Sisyphus has to live the rest of his life pushing a boulder up a mountain only to watch is role down the mountain where he starts the process all over again and Camus interprets that as Sisyphus is the happiest man alive.

At a first read, that seems so wrong because for anyone pushing a boulder up a rock than watching it fall seems boring, pointless, and infuriating because they would never be successful. But, in life no one every truly is successful at life because no one lives forever. Camus, believes that humans can only truly be happy in life if they accept their fate as that is portrayed through the life of Meursault. This brings back the idea that, what we do in life can be described as pointless. Which than answers the question what is the true meaning of life, according to Camus Ever since a young age movies, TV shows, and books have taught us to always find the happy ending, and most times that consists of finding your prince charming, or receiving the gold medal, but both The Stranger and “Myth of Sisyphus” emphasize that happy or not happy about it the ending is death. Although, I believe that there is a way to be swept up in the distractions and recognize that life ends in death regardless of what you accomplish and still be truly happy in life.

No Tears?

The first line of The Stranger, written by Albert Camus is “Mother died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. ” The initial reaction to this is to assume Meursault is a cold man, who had an estranged relationship with his mother. Which, is a bold assumption to make only two sentences into the book, however as the book narrates through the events leading up to the funeral and after the author makes it clear that Meursault isn’t as cold as he appears.

Meursault lost his mother but on the day of her funeral all he could think about was the sun. He thought about the location of the sun and the heat beating down on the funeral party. Meursault didn’t cry or shed a tear on the days leading up to and after the funeral which some people find strange but I don’t think you have to cry if something is sad. It is clear that he is not the traditional man as the book continues, but I think him not crying isn’t something that makes him cold. There are many different ways people grieve lost ones and there is not right or wrong way to do so. When Meursault arrives home he says “I wander around the apartment. It was just the right size when Maman was here. Now its too big for me,” this thought shows us that he did enjoy life with his mom and feels that there is a sort of emptiness in his life with her absent. Despite all of his coldness and little knowledge of his mothers life in the home he stilled loved her and was divested when she died, which shows the reader a soft side to him.