I recently read an article about Disney Princesses and who had the best and worst voice. Naturally, I got curious and asked my friends what they thought and it ended up being a conversation about what makes someone a Disney Princess all together. The target of the discussion was Mulan.
So what makes a princess? Is it the dress? The tiara? The castle?
Mulan as we all know was the brave woman who took her father's place in the Chinese Army, despite the penalty of death, and saved China. Soon after, she was added to the official Princess lineup, despite not being of royal blood or marrying a prince.
So... what is it about her that makes her a princess? And does she deserve that most coveted spot in the lineup? I hit the streets (Facebook and elsewhere) to find out.
I interviewed two friends and got into rather heated discussions about the subject. Both said Mulan shouldn't be a princess because she didn't marry a prince nor did she come from royal blood. Both were in agreement that a princess is only a princess if she is of royal blood or marries into a regal bloodline.
After agreeing to disagree on the subject, I hit up some other friends; a niece and a sister to hear what they had to say. Six, myself included, agree that Mulan has rightfully earned her title as a Disney Princess. She fought for her country, despite knowing she could either be killed in battle or sentenced to death for impersonating a man. She also risked her life for her father. Out of many of the Disney Princesses, she sacrificed quite a bit.
I believe that a princess is someone who is good and kind, inside and out, with a loving heart and is caring to others, even when she may not want to be. She is a princess through and through whether she be dressed in rags or riches. She is not judged by how big her castle is, how fancy her jewels and tiara are, or how many pretty dresses she wears. That's not what being a princess is about. And, honestly, I think saying that you're only a princess if you marry a prince or have royal blood is a bit degrading and backwards. It's like telling girls they can't be a princess because of these things themselves.
Mulan is the only Disney Princess without some sort of royal status to her name. Pocahontas is the daughter of a chief whose name translates into royalty, and is even called a princess in the second film. She really is a great role model for girls who don't want to follow the fashion, glittery way. Mulan is a unique princess in her own right and I think it's good she's in the lineup. She offers a different choice, apart from Merida and Pocahontas, for girls to look up to.
So what makes her so awesome? Lots of things!
1. She Saved Her Entire Country
People could argue that Merida and Pocahontas did something similar but Merida saved her mother and prevented a war with the clans, while Pocahontas saved her people. Mulan saved her entire country, full of people she's never met and who would most likely look down on her for simply being a woman. She joined the Army to save her father but ended up saving everyone. One small deed went a long way.
2. She Isn't Afraid to Try Different Methods
Mulan, as we can plainly see, doesn't use the standard methods to accomplish what she wants to do. The first example we see of this is when Shang shoots an arrow up to the top of a pole and has the soldiers climb the pole using weights that represented strength and discipline. We see many try and fail, Mulan included, to reach the arrow. But only Mulan got the idea to use the weights tied together to hoist herself up. She used what dragged her down to pull herself up by combining strength and discipline. I don't know about everyone else, but that was probably the most awe-inspiring moment in the whole movie (apart from everyone bowing), and it really stuck with me through the years.
Another example of her doing things differently is how she gets into the palace. Shang and the other soldiers try bashing their way in, but Mulan knows they'll never reach the Emperor in time. So Mulan comes up with the idea of dressing up and climbing in. The other soldiers trust her enough to go through with her plan. Even Shang gets in on it, despite the fact that he doesn't dress up. They recognize Mulan's plan as a good one, even if it is different than what they're used to. It pays to think outside the box.
3. She's Proven to Be a Trustworthy Person Whether She's a Man or a Woman
This always stuck with me. When it's revealed she's a woman, Ling, Chien Po, and Yao rush to her aid when she's about to be executed. They don't care that Ping is really Mulan. What they see is their friend who helped them so much is about to be killed. They don't care she's a woman. Either as Ping or Mulan, she's their friend and they'll stick with her to the end. They even dressed in drag as part of her plan because they trusted her so much.
She went to the city to warn them even though she knew there was a chance they wouldn't believe her or she could be killed.
Shang, however, does not see it this way - at first. He knew her as Ping, trusted her as Ping, and some will say he even started to care for Ping. Then she's revealed as Mulan and it's like he can't handle it. He naturally feels betrayed. It takes some time for him to get used to it, but he realizes that even if she's Mulan, she's still the same soldier who saved his life.
Mulan really drives it home when she says: "You said you trust Ping! Why is Mulan any different?" It's a good point.
She has a dragon as a guardian! How cool is that? Sure, he's small and looks like a lizard, but he's travel-sized for her convenience and if he was his real size, Khan would die of fright. He's also trying to prove himself although his reasoning is more selfish. But he offers pretty sound advice to Mulan when she most needs it and encourages her when she's down. We all need a Mushu in our life. Even if he does get her in trouble.
5. She Brings Her Family Honor, Even If It's Not in the Traditional Way
From what we see earlier on, a girl can only bring her family honor by making a good match. But Mulan doesn't quite fit the bill on that. She brings home the sword of Shan Yu and the crest of the Emperor to bring her family honor. I loved how she broke out of the traditional way and brought honor to her family in the most epic of ways instead. But her father tosses the gifts away, saying that having her as a daughter was the greatest gift and honor. Major feels moment! She's basically told that being herself was the greatest honor when earlier she was worried that if she was herself, she'd break her family's heart.
6. She Just Acts Like Herself
This was also a huge thing for me. I personally know how hard it is to fit in and try to act like everyone else. Mulan taught me it's okay to be yourself and the rewards are far greater in the end. I started liking and accepting myself for who I was and not who I was trying to be.
7. She Doesn't Get Married Right Away
A pretty similar theme for most of the Disney Princesses is that they get married to their prince or hero pretty soon after they meet, or it's implied in some cases. Exceptions to this are Pocahontas and Merida, who don't end up marrying anyone. It's possible that Shang started having feelings for Ping and then it's revealed Ping is Mulan, so naturally it's kind of a whiplash situation for him.
It's adorable when he finally accepts her even though he's still confused.
I loved how Shang and Mulan take the time to get to know each other all over again, this time with her being herself. Even when they're engaged in the second film, they still learn new things about each other and overcome trials to finally wed. I love how she invites him to dinner when he's clearly struggling to figure things out.
8. She Puts the Happiness of Others Before Her Own
In the second film, she believes Shang dies, and she offers herself as a replacement bride so her friends can get married to the princes they love. She's unhappy and still in love with Shang, but she sacrifices herself so her friends can be happy. That takes a lot of guts to do. She still gets her man in the end, though!
9. She Follows Her Heart
In the second film she quite clearly says she has a duty to her heart and follows it. She inspires others to do the same even if it goes against traditional values. She questions the idea of an arranged marriage as she believes in marrying for love. She knows that others aren't as lucky as she and Shang are but it doesn't stop her from believing in what she feels is right.
10. She's an Inspiration to Others
The other girls in her village want to be just like Mulan and she's patient to teach them what she's learned. She inspires a whole new generation, which could very well lead to a new movement in tradition in later years. She also inspires three princesses to follow what's in their heart that ultimately leads them to happiness. She teaches us that it's okay to be afraid sometimes. She's a huge inspiration to the other soldiers in the first film, always chugging on.
In conclusion, I think Mulan has truly earned her spot in the Disney Princess lineup. She's truly an inspiration.
Zeus once said: "A true hero isn't judged by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart."
I believe this concept applies to Mulan and as well as what makes a princess. She should be judged more for her heart and kindness and not material things like castles, tiaras or even by who she is married to.