Analysis of female characters in Disney’s Mulan II and Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.
I’m coming back with my cartoon vibe again this week, please grim readers bear with me as I am so overwhelmed by midterms that this post is gonna be just like a Saturday night dram. Short but intense.
I have been exploring Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility during these past three weeks, and suddenly a connection with pop culture popped (yes, I did it on purpose) into my mind. I’m talking about the female characters in Disney’s Mulan 2 .
Before I go on, I think I should provide some background info on Sense and Sensibility for you. This novel is one of Jane Austen’s early works, published in 1811, and deals with the monetary and sentimental problems of the two Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, who are radically different. Elinor is rational and limiting of her emotional outpourings, while Marianne is more dramatically romantic and gets carried away by her emotions. At the end of the day, one of the most important themes of the novel is the dichotomy between brain and heart, and the difficulty of finding a balance, as the excess in one or the other thing leads to pain.
In the same way, the princesses Mei, Su and Ting-Ting, parallel Mulan and Shang’s stories, all trapped in the conflict between rules and feelings, brain and heart.
You might ask me, what’s the dark part? Well, I think that arranged marriages are pretty dark, and very lame for the poor girls who underwent this practice, no matter the reasons. The theme of marriage is kinda a touchy matter in both of the artistic products. In Sense and Sensibility, since I don’t really wanna spoil you the story, I will just say that the dynamics which create the plot between the characters are built in such a way that at the end of the story we, as readers, can notice that to win in life according to Austen, we should find the right balance between money and love. Remember that in the 19th century marriage was conceived principally as a financial agreement, more than a passionate promise of eternal love.
In the same way, Mulan II rises again the issue of rights of women and men, alongside with identity and discrepancy between logic and emotional impulse. I would love to write something about the first movie as I think it is extremely relevant, but I if I do, it will definitely be in another post. Anyhow, going back to the story, the three princesses in the movie are bound to an arranged marriage with princes of a nearby kingdom whom they don’t even know. I mean, at all. And now the fierce, and maybe somewhat idealistically naive? Mulan steps in, telling one of the girls that the should now follow their duty, but stick to their heart’s will. (“I have another duty, to my heart”). This advice makes things a little more complicated as it foreshadows the fact that Mei, Su and Ting-Ting, will fall in love with guess who? The three nice guys from the first movie, Ling, Chien-Po, and Yao. In this setting frame, the movie develops rather interestingly around the themes of marriage, love, and it relationship with duty an logic.
Just as in Sense and Sensibility, Ting-Ting is the Elinor of the situation whereas Mei is the Marianne, and Mulan is also inclined towards that position. Shang instead is inhumanly rational and devoted to duty until Mulan spits in his face that they are too different and that she even wonders if he even has a heart. The vicissitudes and shocking events in the plot of both the novel and the movie give the final balance to the plot, which then settles with he traditional happy ending: marriage.
Cheers, grim readers!