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Mulan. Is She a Princess or Not?

Updated on June 13, 2015

Fans of Mulan

To begin, I want to say that I am a huge fan of Disney's Mulan, as I think she is a wonderful and exciting character. I always feel thrilled hearing other Disney fans say that Mulan is their favorite Disney character. However, there is one response that is usually attached to their statements that always makes me halt in my excitement. It is the exclamation, "Mulan is my favorite princess!!"

I sometimes respond that Mulan is not a princess, since she does not come from a royal family, nor does she marry into one; rather, Mulan is a warrior and marries a general. Often, the fellow fan I am speaking to will rationalize, "Well, Mulan should be a princess."

My question is, Why do people feel that Mulan has to be a princess?

Do you think of Mulan as a princess?

See results

Two Common Arguments

I believe that there are two possible reasons why people see Mulan as a princess:

1) Some feel that the princesses are Disney's perfect female characters, and therefore it is an honor and compliment that Mulan is thought of as a princess.

2) Many feel that Disney's princess category needs to include more realistic and well-rounded women such as Mulan.

A Comment on Argument #1

1) Some feel that the princesses are Disney's perfect female characters, and therefore it is an honor and compliment that Mulan is thought of as a princess.

When people make this argument, it brings me to compare Disney’s male and female characters, and the audience’s responses to each. It is interesting that people rush to point out that Mulan should be a princess, however, they don't rush to categorize Disney's non-royal male characters as princes.

Admittedly, I love the traits that Mulan represents and I certainly believe that she serves as a wonderful role model for children. For instance, despite being a female in a time and culture in which the ideal woman is silent and obediently cares for her husband, Mulan exhibits powerful and realistic qualities. She is brave enough to selflessly leave her family to save her father from battle; Mulan represents determination and courage as she masters the necessary skills for war; and moreover she is not only intelligent and beautiful, but also rather quirky. Mulan is pretty realistic--She sleeps in late, she is not perfectly graceful, and she is not overly interested in beauty and vanity. Mulan teaches people to be themselves, but also to improve themselves in the most positive manners. By pushing herself for a selfless cause, Mulan gains self-pride and honor.

But to return to Argument #1, it seems to present an underlying message that Mulan has to be a princess because the Disney princesses are perfect; so, if Mulan is not a princess then she is not perfect and is lacking something important. I want to stress that Mulan is not lacking anything. Her character is incredibly dynamic and is not missing a key piece that becoming a princess would fill.

Mulan is already a strong, admirable character, independent of being a princess. We already love her. So what would perceiving her as a princess add to her already fantastic character? And how would it change our attitude towards her?

Mulan does not need to be a princess. She is wonderful all on her own, without sharing a category with princesses.


A Comment on Argument #2

2) Many feel that Disney's princess category needs to include more realistic and well-rounded women such as Mulan.

In response to this argument-- I would say that this claim has merit, if it was only focusing on Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora, considering they quietly wait for their princes to save them and only present a few personal qualities; however, this claim addresses all of the princesses, and for that reason, I don't believe that this argument is very effective.

To explain, today, we now have unique and dynamic Disney princesses such as Merida, Tiana, Rapunzel, and Elsa and Anna. They all exhibit distinct qualities and possess great strength. The princess category has improved, so why do some continue to feel inclined to think of Mulan as a princess even though the Disney princesses are no longer in desperate need of strength and independence?

Actually, it seems that the fight for character equality has backfired, because -- considering the princess category outnumbers the non-princesses -- there is now a silent statement that a Disney female is only ideal and admirable if she is a princess. Moreover, it seems that there are more courageous and empowering Disney princesses than the entire number of Disney's non-princesses. Meanwhile, Disney’s male characters, are terrific and admirable whether they are princes or not. Are there no other other great roles for Disney female characters other than princess roles?


Advertisements of Mulan

Recently, things have gotten even more confusing regarding Mulan’s state of princess-hood: Now, she is often advertised and posed alongside all of the Disney princesses, implying that she is a princess. Perhaps Disney does this to please the number of people who want to believe that Mulan is a princess. However, I also believe that posing Mulan with the princesses is an intentional and incredibly clever marketing strategy to save time and money.

I know that sounds strange, but think about it: Lately, Disney has been creating princesses with different nationalities and unique traits. No longer are the princesses solely white, quiet, well-mannered and shy. Now, they show bravery, sass, determination, and independence. Today, Disney has Norwegian princesses, an African American princess, and a Celtic princess; and I heard that they will soon be introducing a Pacific Islander princess. Furthermore, I feel quite sure that they are not done with their celebration of different nationalities. However, wouldn’t it be clever of Disney to silently include Mulan as a princess to avoid creating a new, Chinese princess? How clever it would be to avoid the cost of a new princess movie that represents China. That maneuver would work perfectly -- and I feel that it already has -- considering that Mulan is already so loved. Some may wonder if China will be a nationality represented in one of the new princess movies, but I feel sure that many will answer, "Well, Mulan is Chinese..."


To conclue, I absolutely love Disney, and I love Mulan. I find Disney's movies so uplifting and HAPPY. They’re beautiful. I think Disney is doing a wonderful job of creating more realistic, empowering, and relatable princesses.

I also find it incredibly clever that by creating more relatable princesses, Disney has quieted arguments for better female role models while heightening their income, since fans no longer feel hesitant to love the princesses, not with the princesses’s new, stronger qualities.

For instance, Disney has now created dynamic princesses that serve as a defense against claims that Disney princesses are poor role models for girls because they are simply quiet, and pretty; simultaneously, Disney continues to make a hefty amount of money by adding new princesses to the enormously popular princess category that will no longer receive complaints from unsatisfied viewers who wish to see more complex female qualities.

I think it is great that Disney is adding new princesses that are so independent and admirable. However, I do wish that Disney would create more movies that broadcast a non-princess as the female star, as they did when Mulan premiered. After all, not every new Disney film with a male lead character is expected to be a movie about a prince. Likewise, not every Disney film with a female character in the lead should be expected to be a princess movie.

The thought of Mulan being featured as a princess does not make me bitter, not at all! The princesses are wonderful, and so is Mulan. I just hope people remember that she is an incredible character. Mulan does not have to be part of the princess party to be considered a truly incredible character; she can be celebrated apart from the princess category. After all, Mulan has shown us countless times in her film, just how strong and independent she is.


Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed it!


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