Now, for those who say Mulan wasn’t a true princess because she wasn’t royalty, let me stop you right there. There are five qualifications to becoming a Disney princess: be a leading character in a movie, be (mostly) human, be born/marry into royalty, or commit an act of heroism. Being a princess is all about being progressive and doing everything to serve and protect her country (considering she saved all of China, I think we can say she’s earned the title). Here's why Mulan is the best Disney princess there is:
1. One simple and short reason she’s set apart is that she’s not an orphan, or she doesn’t have just one parent.
She even has a grandparent – a feisty one at that! That’s not only rare for Disney, but it also means she has more responsibilities and more to lose. Also, she has three fun sidekicks instead of just one; i.e. the cricket, the horse, and Mushu.
2. Onto the less shallow lessons!
This entire movie blurs and even obliterates gender roles. Mulan always speaks up for herself and is offended by the song “Honor Us All” and “A Girl Worth Fighting For” because it implies women are made for marriage. She knows she’s more than what society expects her to be and makes her fight even harder to be the “manliest” of all the men during “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” Thus proving being cunning, determined, and strong is all about personality – not gender. Let’s not forget that practically all the lead characters had to cross-dress to save the day. Letting go of prejudices for the greater good is what feminism is all about.
3. If we expect to achieve something, we have to believe in ourselves.
The only way to fail is to give up, and Mulan’s resilience inspires us all. Gathering our courage and winning our battles is a mental task as much as a physical one. We all know that Mulan can hold her own, but notice she was the only soldier to think ahead and use her tools to retrieve the flag. She shows her resourcefulness again when she aims the cannon into the snowy mountain. Whether her battles are skill versus skill, or like a chess game, Mulan wins them all as she is the perfect combination of brains and brawn.
4. Disney deserves a round of applause for creating a realistic romance!
Her motives were not driven by romance and it was love at first battle rather than first sight. She had to defeat Shang in training and then save his life twice in order to gain his honesty, trust, and respect. Shang spends half the movie challenging her to become a better person and if that’s not true love, what is? Like the princess title, Mulan had to earn her love and vice versa for Shang. They actually have things in common like bravery, loyalty, and being leaders. Together, their fearlessness and moral compasses have to lead to success. Why marry Prince Charming when you could have a general?
5. In all her success, and new-found love, she never lost herself.
True to herself and her heart, she knows where she came from and knows her place is at home with her loving family. She could’ve had riches and power, but she had already done her duty – saving her father and China. That reward was enough in itself. She is by far the most selfless Disney princess. She never thought twice about putting on armor and taking a bullet (or, in this case, sword) for her friends and family.
6. The most important reason she’s the best is because we see ourselves in her.
After all, what girl in her 20s really has it all together? Whether it’s the way she wakes up in the morning, stuffs her face with food, or just her clumsy nature, she’s the most realistic female character.
This may be because Fa Mulan was based off of the short poem Ballad of Mulan. The poem is about a supposedly real woman, Hua Mulan, who is even more courageous then Fa Mulan (hard to imagine, right?).
In the poem, Hua doesn’t struggle with who she is. She is confident in her abilities as she is already trained for battle and is very upfront with her parents about leaving. It’s not a matter of redeeming herself; it’s just the most logical thing to do. She outwitted and outfought all of the male soldiers, hiding her gender for twelve years, until one day the emperor wished to make her a war hero.
Unlike the Disney version, Hua then chose to reveal her gender and all the male soldiers embraced her for her bravery. Considering this was written fifth or sixth century CE, the lack of sexism is impressive. However, Fa and Hua have humility in common as Hua turned down any awards and simply took a fine steed instead so she could return home and carry out a normal life.
It seems that no matter what version of Mulan is being referenced, she’s the most accomplished Disney hero of all. There’s an infinite list of why she’s the most inspiring, influential and unique princess, but her selflessness, perseverance, and outspokenness is what little girls should be admiring most. This is what we should be teaching young girls, and these are the reasons my little sister has watched Mulan 10,000 times and has even started taking karate lessons because she was so inspired by such a strong woman. Strong of mind and body, it is unlikely we will ever see such a fierce warrior again.