A Rachel L'Antigua Critique
It has long been disputed that children’s films carry many messages; most of which are absorbed consciously by adults and subconsciously by children. Most children’s films carry cliché messages of responsibility, selflessness, independence, and respect. While many parents criticize the seemingly overt messages presented to their children, it would be difficult to find a children’s film that has harmful messages. In fact, many children learn values and norms from animated films. According to an article titled, Subliminal Messages in Disney Movies, “Disney movies send a lot of positive messages to children and teach them lessons about honesty, good, and helping others. They also fulfill some stereotypes and send subliminal message that can affect the ideas children form and grow up with”. I know that my childhood was filled with Disney movies from which I learned a great deal. One film that impacted me greatly as a child is Mulan. I would like to use the film, Mulan, as my example of how producers of children’s movies can use messaging in a helpful way.
While Mulan has several underlying themes, the one that I would like to focus most greatly on is identity. The first time the audience sees Mulan she is racing around her house to get ready for a meeting with the town’s matchmaker. Mulan’s father, mother, and grandmother all make it very clear that their expectations are for Mulan to find a suitable husband and to be a good wife. These stereotypes enforced upon Mulan by her family are because of the “traditions, institutions, arts, myths, and beliefs that are characteristic of a given community or population” (Understanding Movies, 418). The theme of identity is obvious as Mulan is struggling to reconcile who she is with whom her family and society want her to be. The film continues to address the theme of identity as Mulan refuses to allow her father to go war and instead masks her identity as a woman by disguising herself as a man. While Mulan is disguised as a man she is able to fulfill many of her goals; she is able to speak her mind and have the rights of the males in her society. As the story unfolds and Mulan ends up saving all of China, she also comes to understand who she is as a person. She comes to realize that she does not have to be who society tells her to be and that it is okay to be different. In fact, she is rewarded and her country is saved because she decides to be different. This overall theme of Identity shows young viewers that they should not conform to whom society tells them to be. Although some critics could argue that Mulan promotes rebelliousness, the themes of respect and love for family run deep within the film as well. Girls, in particular, are shown that they can fight the gender bias within society and that they can perform and even outdo their male counterparts. Indeed, Mulan has and will continue to inspire young viewers for generations to come.
As you might have guessed, I rank Mulan with a three out of three for use of messages. Not only were the messages helpful and empowering, but they were also done in a way that made the film enjoyable for all ages.