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The curse of Confederate cavalry raiders

Thoughts on Mulan after writing Walls of Men

I'm spending a lot of time with the grandkids, and as part of that, we're dusting off the old DVD collection and showing them the kind of quality movies Disney used to make before they shifted their business model from family entertainment to pedophile-inspired grooming.

While the current age has me reflecting on elements of all the classic films, Mulan is of interest because since viewing it, I wrote a rather lengthy study of Chinese military history.

So with that additional knowledge, there are a few observations that I have on the film.

The first is that it correctly depicts that fact that Chinese conscription was usually by family rather than individuals.  Under several dynasties, a military class  was created, but unlike in Europe (or Japan), there was no particular social status accorded to its members.  It was simply an administrative function - instead of providing laborers, certain families had to provide soldiers.  The members remained part of the peasantry, and generally served in the infantry.

This is a significant difference between the European concept of a knightly class, which was echoed in both Japan and India.

The character of Mu-Lan is clearly motivated by Confucian filial piety; she impersonates a man not for glory or adventure, but to spare her father from the burden of a service he can no longer provide. 

As to when the story takes place, that is left a little vague.  The Huns have regularly been associated with the Hsiung-nu, but the link is tenuous at best.  If the Huns were the aggressors, the Han Dynasty Great Wall was certainly in existence, but it did not look like the later Ming version.  In any event, gunpowder was not employed until hundreds of years later.

Still, we must cut Mulan some slack, not only because Disney regularly makes mincemeat out of source material, but also because Chinese (and Western) legends seem to exist in a time of their own.  This is like the Renaissance art depicting Roman soldiers in contemporary armor.

I have to say that the film holds up well, and I particularly enjoyed the reaction of the Fa family ancestors to their daughter being a "cross-dresser."  Funny how only a few years later, such humor would be out of bounds.


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