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‘Mulan’ remake drops Li Shang character because of #MeToo movement

Li Shang from Disney's animated 1998 film, 'Mulan'.
Li Shang from Disney's animated 1998 film, 'Mulan'. Disney / Twitter

The upcoming live-action remake of Disney‘s animated 1998 film Mulan is scheduled to hit the silver screen at the end of the month without one of its main characters.

That’s right, the 2020 version of the Hua Mulan-inspired flick won’t include Li Shang — one of the film’s overall driving characters. Li Shang serves as captain of the Chinese imperial army, Mulan’s mentor, and later, as her love interest — as confirmed by producer Jason Reed in an interview with Collider last Thursday.

Why drop the character, some might ask? Reed accredits the media giant’s decision to the #MeToo movement, claiming that in the height of the social activist moment, it would be inappropriate to have a character who doubles as both a “commanding officer” and a “sexual love interest.”

He claimed that to avoid showing the supposedly “very uncomfortable” relationship onscreen, Li Shang was “split into two characters.”

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Because of the character’s “supportive and dedicated” nature toward Mulan — the “brave,” “powerful” and “intelligent” female lead — Disney’s decision to remove Li Shang from the upcoming film has left many fans scratching their heads, wondering how and why the character could not be considered “appropriate.”

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In the original version of the film, the popular heartthrob character develops an extremely close bond with “Ping” — who is actually Mulan in disguise — as they train and battle in the army together.

Though Li Shang later discovers that Ping is actually Mulan’s male alter-ego, he treats her no differently and furthermore asks for her hand in marriage in the 2004 sequel, Mulan II.

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On the new characters, Reed told Collider, “One became Commander Tung (portrayed by Donnie Yen),” who serves as [Mulan’s] surrogate father and mentor in the course of the movie.”
Li Shang from Disney’s animated 1998 film, ‘Mulan’.
Li Shang from Disney’s animated 1998 film, ‘Mulan’. Disney / Twitter

“The other is Honghui (Yoson An),” he added, “who is her equal in the squad.”

Much like Li Shang, Eddie Murphy‘s much-beloved Mushu character — the scrawny and clumsy dragon — will not be making an appearance in the upcoming adaptation of Mulan.

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In the wake of the interview going viral, a number of upset Disney fans and social activists took to social media to express their confusion and question Disney’s motives.

One Twitter user wrote, “Li Shang’s entire arc is about realizing that Mulan isn’t lesser than because she’s a woman, he learns and grows because of her.”

“Men could learn from this exact story,” the writer added.

Here’s what other upset Twitter users had to say:

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Another person even referenced Disney’s 2017 live-action remake of Beauty & the Beast, comparing the two films. The person tweeted:

“So Disney let Belle kiss, f–k and marry a BEAST after he held her hostage for MONTHS, but Li Shang falling for Mulan before and after she revealed that she wasn’t a man isn’t appropriate?”

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As of this writing, neither Reed nor Disney has publicly addressed the comments in the recent interview.

For those who may not know, the #MeToo movement kicked off in 2006 thanks to civil rights activist Tarana Burke. It gained new life in October 2017 after several accusations of sexual misconduct were levied against Harvey Weinstein — the disgraced film producer who was recently convicted of sexual assault.

The resurgence, which was inspired by actress Alyssa Milano, resulted in millions of women writing “Me too” or “#MeToo” on social media platforms, insinuating that they too had been sexually assaulted or harassed in the past.

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“If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” she tweeted on Oct. 15, 2017.

The hashtag quickly went viral, launching a media frenzy and ultimately opening the door for any unspoken sexual assault victims to come forward without being judged or harassed.

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Initially, Li Shang was voiced by BD Wong in its English version and Jackie Chan in all three of its Chinese variants, with Donny Osmond providing singing vocals for the character in the film’s perhaps most famous musical number, I’ll Make a Man Out of You.

Global News has reached out to a representative of Disney seeking comment.

New Mulan trailer premieres at Super Bowl
New Mulan trailer premieres at Super Bowl

Disney’s Mulan opens in theatres across Canada on Thursday, March 26.

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You can watch the film’s latest trailer in the video above.

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca