There is a lot of controversy surrounding the new live-action Mulan movie. And for good reasons.
To begin with, Disney’s versions of Mulan are a misrepresentation of a beloved traditional Chinese tale. The specific reason for the #BoycottMulan movement is truly inhumane.
Believers in human rights, Muslim and not, have called for consumers to boycott the film and for Disney to be held accountable for their actions.
Partially produced in the western province of Xinjiang, where an estimated 2 million Uyghur Muslims have been forced into concentration camps, film crews would have easily passed by camps.
Disney wasn’t just unapologetic about their 200 million dollar film pouring money into the region while filming there and effectively aiding these human rights atrocities.
Disney went so far as to even thank eight Chinese government bodies in the film’s credits. Among those thanked is the police security bureau in Turpan. This same bureau oversees internment camps and is blacklisted by the US Commerce Department.
American companies can not legally sell or supply anything to the bureau. So how could Disney have worked with this police security bureau it thanked?
Islamophobia on-screen too
The Disney version of the storyline in the Mulan film follows a “pro-Han Supremacy,” which is partially why native Uyghur are being prosecuted. This agenda insists that Uyghur and other indigenous people in the region should be controlled by an ethnic Han Chinese government.
Another problem, Disney does not shy away from typical racism in its portrayal of villains. In Mulan, the bad guys are coded as Muslims, having darker skin and wearing turbans. Some have gone as far as to say that the villains are “dressed eerily like ISIS terrorists in their videos.”
Just more problematic media?
Maybe you already talk to your children about the problem of Islamophobia, racism, and/or sexism in mainstream media. Perhaps you even refuse to allow some material to be paid for/seen by your family. In that case, Mulan is easy to place into the boycotted list.
But if you aren’t already talking to your children about these issues, what can you tell them about Mulan?
When we give our money to a movie like Mulan, we are helping to pay some people to deny other people (Uyghur Muslims in this case) their human rights.
The money Disney paid to China to film there helped to put people into concentration camps. How we use our money can hurt people.
Well, what if we just don’t pay to see Mulan? We can live stream it later. Money is not the only problem with seeing films like Mulan.
Unless we are willing to unpack the problems in the media, likely our children will believe and even follow the isms presented to them. Racism, sexism, and Islamophobia (among other problems) in the media directly impact our children’s identities, world view, and self-esteem.
Helping our children thrive
Constant exposure to these isms creates self-hatred in children and young adults. It makes Muslim children dislike their Muslim identity. Sexism makes boys and girls believe girls are inferior beings. Racism creates self-hatred and contributes to furthering racist conditioning among Muslims.
Blogger Aiysha Malik has written a thoughtful post about how she discussed with her children why they would not be watching the Mulan movie.
I learned something today that really saddened and angered me. It’s about the new Mulan movie and I think we need to talk about whether it would be right to still watch it. I found out that Disney, the company that made it, chose to make this movie in a part of China where the government is doing horrible things to actively erase the lives, culture and complete identity of an entire group of people who live there….
These decisions can feel difficult but actually, they’re quite simple. We’re choosing to not watch this movie because we know that making it meant supporting the oppression of the Uyghurs in China. We never want to support or give parts of ourselves over to things that cause harm to other people. In this case, that means not giving the new Mulan movie our money, our time or our imagination.”Aiysha Malik
Knowing what we adults know of the atrocities committed on the Uyghur people, it may not feel like an easy conversation to initiate.
Fortunately, children are closer to their fitra than we are. Children feel what is right and wrong. They will likely find it easy to accept the situation and simply watch another film or do another activity.
May Allah ease the pain and suffering of the Uyghur people.