Gender Roles and Stereotypes in Mulan

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About this sample


Words: 971 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Words: 971|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Mulan (Ming-Na Wen), was a young girl of Chinese descent, who was uninterested in anything to do with traditional womanly duties or tasks. She was further concerned about the military draft, that demanded each family send a son to serve in the battle against the Huns. The only son in her family was her disabled father, so to protect him from fighting, Mulan disguised herself as a man and enlisted into the army. With her helpful guardians by her side, Mushu (Eddie Murphy) and Cri-Kee (Frank Welker), Mulan sets off on an adventure to defeat the Hun Dynasty. This movie urges the audience to never let limitations stop them, especially limitations regarding social expectations like gender roles and stereotypes.

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Mulan (1998) begins by demonstrating a society revolving around gender roles and stereotypes, which the main character, Mulan rebels against. The first song of Mulan, “Honor to Us All”, depicts women preparing and clothing themselves like dolls to meet The Matchmaker (Miriam Margolyes). In order to bring honor to their families as women in society, they were expected to convert into a wife with, “good taste, calm, obedience…and a tiny waist”. Mulan is told that this doll-like appearance and behavior will win her a husband, which will, therefore, make her family proud. Women should not be expected to portray certain traits, in order to satisfy other people and to make their family proud. They should be accepted for who they are on the inside. The song continues by repeating, ‘We all must serve our Emperor, who guards us from the Huns. A man by bearing arms, a girl by bearing sons”, this explicitly shows the wildly different expectations of men and women. This scene inspires the song “Reflections”, where Mulan contemplates what her community and family is asking of her. Mulan recognizes that she is unable to live up to these expectations of women if she wants to continue being herself. Mulan was not willing to give up her self-identity because her society wanted her to act a certain way. She rebelled against them and showed them that not every woman wants to restrict themselves to solely taking care of a family and doing nothing else.

When Mulan joins the army disguised as a man, she goes against the “rules” her society put in place for gender roles. Mulan took on a new persona, Ping (Ming-Na Wen), while she was in the army. She goes through many failures and accomplishments while in training. The song “Make A Man out of You” reinforces stereotypes as Li Shang (B.D. Wong) sings, “Did they send me daughters / When I asked for sons?”, reinforcing the idea that women belong at home, while men belong in the military. The song then lists off traits that men should exhibit, including, swiftness, tenaciousness, forcefulness, and strength. But, Ping, Mulan’s alias, goes beyond this list adding intelligence, making her one of the best soldiers in the army. Everyone doubted her skills since she had a harder time in training, but their doubts only made her work harder. Proving, that gender is just a stereotype and with hard work, it is easily conquered. Once the army went against Shan-Yu (Miguel Ferrer) and his raiders, they realized that they were extremely outmatched. To save everyone, Mulan used her intelligence to build a rocket that triggered an avalanche, burying their enemies. The price of her victory, however, was revealing her secret which caused a lot of chaos since everyone believed she truly was a man. Mulan single-handedly saved everyone, but as soon as they found out she was a woman her accomplishments were immediately invalidated. However, that didn’t stop her from fulfilling out the promise she made to protect the Emperor (Pat Morita) from the Huns. No matter what anyone had to say about her being a woman, she knew she was still a wise, strong soldier.

Moving on to the last scene, Mulan finds out that the Huns weren’t defeated and were going after the Emperor. Even though she was exiled from the army, Mulan raced to the Emperor’s palace to protect him. However, she was rudely ignored due to her lying about her gender, and the Emperor was captured. Using her wits, Mulan worked hard to convince the other soldiers that gender doesn’t matter and got them to help her. The soldiers then started to respect her as a fellow soldier, regardless of the fact that she was a woman. Once they got the Emperor back, Mulan was acknowledged for her accomplishments as a person, rather than as a woman or man. Even though Mulan was doubted and ignored, she never gave up on her promise. She fought to make other people see that she was worthy, no matter her gender.

A common argument against Mulan is that it doesn’t go far enough to break the boundaries of gender stereotypes. Todd McCarthy, a top critic, emphasized that Mulan, “Goes about halfway toward setting new boundaries for Disney…”. Many might think this, because although Mulan was previously against marriage, in the end, she marries Li Shang, weakening the notion that she’s against traditional feminine roles. However, the complete opposite is true. Li Shang knows and accepts her masculine and feminine sides, believing that having both makes her a stronger woman. To him, genders aren’t locked into one specific stereotype, as their society believes. He loves Mulan for who she is- both her masculine and feminine sides.

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Despite living in a society where it was commonly believed that women should be seen not heard, Mulan didn’t allow gender stereotypes to stop her from doing what she wanted and believed in. In conclusion, Mulan is a movie that portrays the value of independence for women, as well as an awareness of gender roles in different communities. Pushing people to become more understanding of women and their different roles. 

Works Cited

  1. Altman, R. (2004). The Disney Treatment of Gender and Race. Gender, Race, and Class in Media, 8(1), 37-51.
  2. Bell, E. (2018). “Reflection” and the Disney Princesses: Analyzing the Content and Effects of the Representational Messages in Disney Films. Global Tides, 12(1), 52-71.
  3. Douglas, E. (2019). “A Girl Worth Fighting For”: The Ambivalence of Romance in Mulan. In Disney’s Mulan (pp. 187-202). Routledge.
  4. Goldman, M. (1998). Disney's Mulan: A Feminist Challenge to Hollywood? Canadian Journal of Film Studies, 7(2), 40-51.
  5. Kitamura, K. (2016). The Cultural Translation of Disney’s Mulan in Japan. Asian Journal of Social Science, 44(4-5), 555-577.
  6. Li, X., & Li, Y. (2018). A Comparative Analysis of Disney's Mulan: Animation and Live Action. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 8(11), 1409-1418.
  7. Lombard, M. (2018). An Analysis of Disney's Mulan, an “Imperfect” Feminist Text. The Journal of Popular Culture, 51(4), 1024-1038.
  8. Raza, M. (2019). An Analysis of Gender Roles in Disney's Mulan. Language in India, 19(3), 70-81.
  9. Rogge, M. (2020). Mulan's journey: Disney's adaptation of a Chinese legend. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Research, 3(1), 1-12.
  10. Stevens, A. (2017). Mulan, Male Gaze Theory, and the Disney Princess. The Forum: Journal of the Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society, 14(1), 19-30.
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Gender Roles And Stereotypes In Mulan. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 24, 2024, from
“Gender Roles And Stereotypes In Mulan.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021,
Gender Roles And Stereotypes In Mulan. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 Jun. 2024].
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