Bad news, Disney fans. Everyone’s favorite bisexual cartoon hero, Li Shang, is not going to be in the live action “Mulan” movie.
According to a new casting report, the story for the movie is being shifted around a bit from the traditional cartoon. Apparently, Mulan won’t fall for Li Shang while on the battlefield. The character may not be in the film at all.
Instead, Mulan has a romantic subplot with a wholly new character named Cheng Honghui. Honghui is a recruit who, like Mulan, will be training under Donnie Yen’s Commander Tung.
According to the casting report, Cheng Honghui is:
“In his 20s, must be able to speak fluent English and Mandarin Chinese; strapping, cocky, and handsome. Honghui is another recruit who joins Commander Tung’s unit, and he’s determined to be the best soldier in human history. Full of himself, with a mean, bullying streak to him, he quickly realizes that Mulan is his chief rival, but he does not realize that she is a woman. Grittily determined to be simply the best at everything, Honghui is increasingly peeved by Mulan’s ability to match or out-maneuver him. But after learning that his rival is a woman, his intense feelings of rivalry turn into something very different, something like love.”
Well this sucks.
In case you’ve missed the widespread appeal that Li Shang has earned among the Disney fan community, this is a big deal. The character is pretty much the most desired “Disney Prince” among the entire pantheon of male suitors.
Li Shang is hard-working, tough but fair to his students, and eager to live up to his father’s reputation. He’d kind, caring, and, if sideways glances and subtext can be trusted, he falls for Mulan before discovering she’s a woman, and he’s totally okay with that!
Losing an Icon
This new character, Honghui, feels like a major trade down. He’s more of a Gaston than a Li Shang, filled with a sense of his own self-importance.
It’s hard to imagine that Disney doesn’t know just how much of a bisexual icon Li Shang has become. Nor is it likely that the studio is unaware of his broader appeal to many fans of the animated “Mulan” movie.
To remove the character – and with him, the potential for greater sexual representation in the movie – Disney does its fans a disservice.
This is all the more perplexing considering that the most successful of Disney’s live action reboots thus far, “Beauty and the Beast”, adheres to closely to its source material that almost nothing changes in the story.
All characters, and many songs, are completely intact in the Emma Watson movie. Why then does Disney think it’s so essential to gut “Mulan” and start again by inserting a horrible love interest for the titular character?
Oh well. At least Li Shang will always remain in the cartoon version of the film, as well as in our hearts.