Who Reigns Supreme? In Honor of Mulan, Disney Princess

Everyone has their own favorite Disney princess. When fans start debating, things can get heated. In our “Who Reigns Supreme?” blog series, we’re not taking sides. Instead, we’re celebrating each one by arguing why each one is worthy of being called the best. This time, we want to honor Mulan, a Disney princess — unlikely as it may seem.

The Case Against Mulan, Disney Princess

Some Disney princesses are born into royalty, like Snow White and Aurora. Others marry into royalty, like Tiana and Cinderella. Mulan’s journey takes her from disgraceful daughter of civilians to savior of all China, but the Emperor doesn’t adopt her or anything. Even love interest Shang is “just” a general. Her presence in princess products is based more on merchandising potential than on strict facts.

For many, that’s disqualifying enough. Some find her portrayal flawed in that there are few flaws to be found. She’s insecure, perhaps, but only because of her misogynist society. The filmmakers meant well in wanting to make a character anyone would find morally unimpeachable. However, personality faults make protagonists well-rounded, and their absence can make them boring. Given that leading men are allowed to be imperfect, some consider this approach to feminist storytelling a bit sexist in its way.

Who is the Girl I See …?

Just about any character within Mulan would attest that the title character is far from perfect, including Mulan herself. She fails to appease the local matchmaker despite attempts to cheat — the mark of a failed woman in this society. The words “disgrace” and “dishonor” get thrown at her a lot. Even when disguised as a man in the training camp, Ping’s awkward efforts to blend in only bewilder her fellow soldiers.

Mulan’s not even trying to defy the standards of her culture. On the contrary, she wants to be accepted. She just can’t successfully repress what makes her an individual: outspoken, cunning, and a fighter against bullies. “Somehow I cannot hide who I am,” she sings in her signature song, “though I’ve tried.” This conflict is far more personal and interesting than those who dismiss her as a typical girl-power hero may believe.

I’ve Seen Worse

While there’s debate about whether Mulan even counts as a Disney princess, many would agree that she changed princesses forever. While her immediate predecessors were plenty proactive, Mulan is both her story’s protagonist and hero. At first, she only joins the army to take the place of her ailing father. After her reveal and expulsion, she doesn’t consider her duty fulfilled and returns home. She realizes that she needs to stop the Huns — and wants to keep fighting.

Ultimately, being herself is what it takes to protect her emperor and her people. She ignores Shang’s command at the mountain pass because she knows how to stop the overwhelming army. She returns to him despite the threat of execution to warn him of imminent peril. She defeats Shan Yu not by embodying masculinity or femininity, but by being Mulan. Future Disney movies would never relegate female leads to roles as underwritten love interests and damsels in distress again.

Mulan Gifts at Your WDW Store

With so much to love and admire about Mulan, Disney princess enthusiasts still put her on a pedestal over two decades later. That’s why Your WDW Store carries so much merch related to the heroine. Shop with us today and find the greatest gifts to honor the Mulan fans in your life.