When the cast of Disney’s live adaptation of Mulan, set to be released in cinemas at the end of the month stepped out for the film’s premiere in LA, the social media reception was chilly.
The film has drawn criticism even before its general release at the lack of diversity among the behind the scenes crew of the beloved remake of a seventh century Chinese story of a young woman who becomes a warrior to protect her father from enlisting.
The film’s costume designer, Bina Daigeler was asked at the premiere about the research that went into costume design for the live adaptation.
“I went in Europe to all the museums that had like a Chinese department and then I travelled to China during three weeks,” Daigeler said.
Many then took to social media to vent their frustration at the fact that the on-screen diversity of the film wasn’t matched off-screen.
Others have echoed that sentiment, calling for greater diversity behind the camera. One social media commentator asked, “Why didn’t they hire a Chinese designer?” Another agreed saying, “what an incredible missed opportunity to give this project to a Chinese costume designer”.
Others criticised Daigeler’s decision to draw inspiration for the costuming from the Tang Dynasty, with many pointing out that Mulan is set in a different time period.
Responding to Deigeler’s comments, one said, “So this is why the costumes were so inaccurate and look more like Tang Dynasty clothes than Northern Wei like it’s supposed to.” Another appeared confused by the Daigeler’s decision saying, “Hua Mulan is not even in Tang Dynasty”.
Fans have pointed out that the issues with the film are indicative of an industry wide problem.
One commentator pointed out that the director and a large number of the production team were white and asked, “What’s the point of having Asian faces on a story that’s supposed to represent Asian culture when white people are driving the narrative”?
Another referenced Joaquin Phoenix’s comments during the recent awards season saying, “This is what Joaquin Phoenix was talking about - the industry go-to is always white they never try to diversify”.
Off Colour, a platform dedicated to empowering people of colour criticised Disney for hiring a significantly “white” behind the scenes team to “authentically tell the story of legendary Chinese warrior Hua Mulan”.
Zoe Victoria is a freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter @Zoe__V