Hollywood has been no stranger to whitewashing. People of color know all too well the damaging effects that result from films casting white characters in roles originally meant for people of color. In a society where people of color continue to be marginalized and battle historically racist standards of beauty, not casting a person of color as a main character or protagonist of color only perpetuates the deep-rooted belief that a person of color isn't good enough to be featured. Not to mention it strengthens an already obvious diversity issue in Hollywood films (cue #Oscarssowhite). These are just a few of the reasons why the actress who plays the new Mulan should be of Asian heritage.
Certain fans feel very strongly about this. After the Disney live-action reboot was announced in April 2015, Metro reported, Natalie Molnar created an online petition that initially garnered 35,000 signatures. The petition demanded that Mulan be played by an Asian character. Considering Asians continue to fight for visibility in films – and continue to see white characters play roles originally designed for a character of Asian heritage – the quick response to the casting call was certainly warranted. Breakfast At Tiffany's, Dragon Ball: Evolution, and Ghost in the Shell, are just a few examples of movies that made characters originally intended to be Asian white.
On Monday Variety reported that former Sony Pictures executive, Doug Belgrad, will co-finance a number of films, including Mulan. Sony will reboot Mulan as a live action film. According to Variety, there are plans to shoot the film in a China, with a Chinese partner, and predominately Chinese cast.
That's certainly positive news, and if it does work out that way, fans will likely be relieved. As of Monday, the petition had more than 86,000 signatures.
It's clear people have had enough of Hollywood's whitewashing and are taking a proactive approach to preventing this from happening to the classic Disney film based on the Chinese legend Hua Mulan.
Fortunately, there's a good chance that it won't. Recent Disney reboots like The Jungle Book received praise for its diverse casting of its voice ensemble, and casting of Neel Sethi who is an Indian-American. The Wrap noted that Moana, the company's upcoming animated feature about a Polynesian princess, will feature Hawaiian actress Auli’i Cravalho in the lead role. After years of criticism of it past overwhelming depictions of white princesses, Disney is clearly interested in expanded and more diverse representation.
The fight against whitewashing and erasure of people of color's culture and experiences is as urgent as ever. I'm sure developments in Mulan will be watched closely.