Disney’s Mulan remake removes Shang, but his new love interest is better

When the news came two years ago that Disney is animated Mulan The character Li Shang, captain in the Emperor’s Imperial Army, workout singer classic “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” and bisexual icon, were not venturing into the new live-action Mulan, Fans of the original film resorted to social media to complain.

Director Nikki Karo’s reason for replacing Shang was due to Mulan’s unfortunate implication of reuniting with his commanding officer. In the live-action Mulan, Li Shang is divided into two characters: Commander Tung (Donnie Yen), Joe Mulan (Liu Yifei), and Cheng Honhui (Yosan An), acting as the father of a fellow soldier. The casting call revolving around the Internet described Honghui as “full of himself, with a mean, rude streak” and positioned him as Mulan’s main antagonist until he realized It happens that she is a woman and starts respecting him.

People were not happy with this, claiming that Shang’s alleged bisexuality should be ruined. For years, fans have argued that Shang, who is disguised as Ping while beginning to develop feelings for Mulan, is bisexual. Animated Disney films are still beyond any meaningful LGBTQ representation, so viewers eagerly claim the characters and stories. Mulan, With its interrogation of gender roles, is always full of queue subtext and it does not take too deep reading or fan theories to read Shang as bisexual. When it came to its elimination in the film, many felt it was a deliberate move by Disney to erase the queer subtext from the original animated film.

See, I love bisexual icon Captain Lee Shang as much as the next Disney fan. But Chen Honghui won my heart when I saw him in action. He may also be a more articulate character than Shang, especially when it comes to his sexuality.

[Ed. note: This story contains spoilers for Mulan (2020) and Mulan (1998).]

Blasphemy, I know. But listen to me: Because Honghui is now just a soldier, he establishes a genuine rapport with Mulan in the film, so the attractive attraction he feels is present from the beginning. Which means that Hongui should only be considered a bisexual icon as Liang. Placing him on the same pedestal with Mulan gives the story a different flavor, and creates a complete arc for the character, from a charm to a mutual respect.

In the original 1998 film, Shang does not actually interact with Mullan, beyond the musical sequence where he barks at everyone. When Emperor’s advisor Chi Fu states that Shang is not ready for his troops, Mulan reassures Shang that he is a great captain. (After that conversation, the guardian dragon Mushu scolds her for checking out and being distracted by the mission at hand). But aside from that brief conversation, Mulan and Shang never spend much time together on the battlefield.

By keeping Honghui in close proximity with Mulung, the filmmakers immediately forge a connection between the two characters. He is arrogant, but he is far from the bully that the casting call kicks him out. That character description made him dirty. They, admittedly, get on the wrong foot, but Mullan gets off the wrong foot about everyone in the army. She meets Honghui for the first time when she is accidentally knocked back into the line by some fickle soldiers and falls on her butt. He offers her a hand up, graciously calling him a “little man”. Defensive and thirsty to prove herself, she refuses his help and immediately goes for her sword, holding him up to the throat – and she does the same for him. Not the best first visit, but no evidence that she is a bully, either.

Picture: Disney

Indeed, Honghui is one of the first soldiers, who is originally beginning to talk as a friend, directly addressing him when he is in a group setting. If live-action Mulan Anytime succeeds, it is in the face of the sheer strangeness Mullan feels in the camp, trying to hide his true identity and fit in between male soldiers. He is more out of here than in the original film, adjusting his bindings in the privacy of the morning, and volunteering to do a guard shift during shower time.

Honghui is clearly ready for him, even though he can’t explain specifically why. He looks at her closely in a way that definitely reads like he has a crush on her, even though he thinks he is a man. She notices that she is very skilled, especially when she demonstrates her superpower Chi thing. But instead of being ugly that initial reports excluded her from being, she is the first person who approached him and tried to form a friendship. Mulan flatly refuses him, though it comes as a retribution to protect his identity, and not because he doesn’t enjoy his company.

Honghui’s overbearing crush on Mulan becomes even more determined when he becomes heart-to-heart with her, asking if she is married yet married to anyone. Again He convinces her that she has a hard time talking to women, and it is so easy to talk to men. She doesn’t seem to be saying “Hurr dur, women are so complicated,” so much as confessing that she feels emotionally attracted to men. This is also the scene where Mulan’s own feelings begin to flare up, as she quietly tells him that she thinks women will like her.

Hong khan mullan

Ah yes, a friend is looking at his homie in a completely platonic way
Picture: Disney

Kairo admitted that other troops were sidelined for Hongui’s rise. Instead of being cute comedic buffoons, they are all mixed together, apart from wide-eyed cricket, another new addition to the film, played by Yoo Yoo. He is given loud dialogues in group settings, which usually serve as a noise for Honghui to cut so that he can directly address Mulan. It feels exactly like he wants to talk to his crush, who is a bit awkward to speak during a group banquet. Multan appreciates this and the two share some strange smiles as they bridge the friendship gap.

If the filmmakers intended to initiate this relationship in an antagonistic, non-romantic way, they were a complete failure. As it plays onscreen, Honghui has bad For Mullan, even though he thinks he is a friend.

But the real difference between Honghui and Shang comes from the stakes attached to their positions. In the animated film, Shaan spares Mulan’s life and is one of the few people who hears him when he reveals that Shan Yu and his followers are out to kill the emperor. He is able to do this partly because he is an army officer, and has the right to bring his own people to thwart Shan Yu’s plot.

But when Honghu stands for Mulan – when he is exiled from the army, but warns them that the emperor is in danger – he has no position of power. He is risking his life and situation, because he believes and trusts him. Unlike Costing Call, her attitude about him does not change as she realizes that she is a woman. It was built from the beginning.

As an animated film, Honghui and Mulan do not officially get together at the end. They share just a moment before Mulan returns home. Honghui is a little smoother than Shang and her “you’re good fight” line, telling her that she wants to say goodbye to him properly before she gets out of her life. They share a brief hand of respect, and he says he will meet her again. The ambiguity of the state of their relationship works: At that time, Honghui’s fascination and curiosity, combined with Mull’s aloofness, has developed into mutual respect. Unlike the animated film, Honghui Mulan does not follow the house and shows up at her door.

Yes, Shang still has my whole heart, especially his awkwardness when he reunites with Mulan. But I am a sucker for an end where the two characters change fundamentally and deeply each other, and participate in a bitwise way from each other. Honhui can never follow Mulan home. But it led him to defy direct orders and do what he believes is right, while he gave his support, friendship, and recognition when he needed it most. And it enhances a possible romantic arc with a deep satisfaction. He is not Shang, but he is also not weak.