A Hero’s Journey: Mulan


Growing up watching the family favorite movie classics, the protagonist of the story often has a journey that involves conflict, help throughout the challenge, and of course a final resolution. What does it feel like to experience a hero’s journey? An ordinary person can soon be destined to begin this heroic path in film and then set off experiencing highs yet also lows. Well in the Disney film Mulan directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook, the main character Mulan begins her hero’s journey that guides her toward success and new discovery. 

As ordinary Mulan is starting to reach a certain age in womanhood in China where she must be matched by the Matchmaker to see if she is deemed as a perfect bride for her future husband. In China meeting, the matchmaker is an ordinary part of their culture for women, and clearly, Mulan deviates from the typical standard for a perfect bride since she is courageous and willing to make sacrifices for her family. The expected behavior of women was to be obedient to the man and simply please him, which wasn’t an accurate reflection of Mulan and her interests. After her disaster meeting with the Matchmaker, Mulan realizes she can’t be her true self if she wants to bring honor to the Fa family. By taking her father’s place in the Imperial Army she can prove to her family and her village that she is not being dishonorable. It will also help her father in the long run since he is crippled and she doesn’t want to have to worry about him dying. Mulan securing her identity as a man with her father’s armor will prevent people from trying to stop her since she isn’t afraid to take control when things go awry. Mulan embarks on her journey as a soldier and sets off to the training camp immediately without her family noticed she’s gone which goes to represent how she’ll do anything to protect her loved ones. 

Of course, a hero in a story needs a trusty sidekick or at least a companion that aids the hero along the way in times of need. In Mulan’s case luckily the little tiny dragon named Mushu came to help her be a successful hero in China’s eye, but the ancestors that are spirits didn’t send Mushu originally since they ordered Mushu to awaken the stone dragon but of course, silly him broke the statue. Mushu then just decided to go in place of the stone dragon behind the ancestors’ backs. Mulan has Mushu as a companion that gives her advice when she struggles such as when she is sitting at the camp after getting injured so Shang, the captain of the army, figures out she’s a woman and not Ping which was Mulan’s man name. Mushu told her that she can’t give up and must complete her destiny of defeating the Huns and their leader Shan-Yu. Mulan’s strength on the inside and out attracts enemies and allies. Her enemies are the Huns who have invaded China to take over the emperor’s rule and Shan-Yu challenges Mulan’s inner strength and how she devises a strategy on how to defeat him. Also, she meets allies at the training camp that support her, Yao, Li Shang, Chien Po, and Ling after seeing how much potential she has and that she is determined to achieve her goal of defeating the Huns as a way of bringing honor to her family name. Both allies and enemies help Mulan grow to learn to beat the upcoming challenges and struggles but she is fierce and won’t let anything or anyone get in her way. 

There is always that classic tension between two characters when it’s evident that they are in love or view each other as more than friends. Shang and Mulan have multiple encounters throughout the film that spark a connection between them such as when Mulan is gifted the emperor’s crest and offered a position as his council member, Shang congratulates her by saying “you fight good”, which in response Mulan just said thanks in a disappointed tone indicating that she was hoping for him to compliment her courage or flirt with her. After the emperor told Shang that a girl like Mulan is difficult to come across in every dynasty, which made a light go off in his head that he should go find Mulan. Shang did eventually do this by showing up at her house making up an excuse that she left her father’s helmet just to get a chance to talk to her. Although their relationship doesn’t go into deep exploration throughout the film, there was definitely something that made them gravitate towards each other. Shang wasn’t really a distraction to Mulan since he helped her along the way and trained her, but there were only small hints that contributed to their secret admiration for one another.

At the climax in every story, the peak of conflict and tension between usually the protagonist and the antagonist grows more powerful leading to a final showdown or event that will take place that causes later the falling action. While the rest of the Imperial Army and citizens of China are celebrating what they suppose is a victory over the Huns after Mulan released a cannon at a mountain full of snow on the Huns, Mulan went to the emperor’s palace and warned Shang that they were still alive. When Shang didn’t believe Mulan due to her lying about her gender to fight in a war she took matters into her own hands and soon enough Shan-Yu showed up with a few of his surviving men and it was time for Mulan to devise a plan and outsmart him. Friends from the training camp of Mulan’s aid her in distracting Shan-Yu’s men while she fights him on the roof of the palace. Since Mulan is weaponless she uses a fan when he goes to slash her with his sword which makes a hole in it and she grabs the sword, but her intelligence displays how quick thinking led to her using a firework that Mushu would light and aim it at Shan-Yu. Of course, Shan-Yu gets caught in place when Mulan stabs the sword on his cape to render him powerless in place, which causes him to blow up to shreds. This represents how fierce and independent Mulan is and how people have underestimated her capabilities and she finally at last was able to defeat the Huns while expressing her authentic qualities. The emperor praises Mulan for her good work and rewards her with his crest and a position as a member of his council to honor her for a job well done, but she declines since her family awaits her arrival at home. Mulan is a caring person and would choose her family over being showered with compliments by all of China. Although Mulan’s journey home wasn’t difficult, she is reunited with her family who is very proud of what she has accomplished. The appreciation for Mulan’s real personality and achievements was finally evident by her father who thought she was a disgrace to the family.

Overall in Disney’s Mulan, the main character Mulan embarks on a heroic journey that brings about new recognition and courage for her. Although Mulan is a woman she proved through her hero’s journey that she can defeat a group of invaders just as well or maybe even better than a male soldier could which argues a significant point that womens’ social status doesn’t define them. After all, Mulan did what she was destined to do on her journey, and she was unstoppable while doing it.

Julianna Bullaro- Author