More than 30,000 people have signed an online petition demanding an Asian lead, as the legendary story is about a Chinese girl who goes to fight the Huns disguised as a man to save her ailing father’s life.
Hollywood has come under fire recently for the casting of white actors as characters meant to be from other races. US actress Rooney Mara will play ‘Native American’ princess Tiger Lily in Pan this summer, while Christian Bale starred as Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings because director Ridley Scott did not want “Mohammed so-and-so from such-and-such” in the main role.
Natalie Molnar, who founded the Mulan petition, writes that so-called whitewashing has a “direct, harmful impact on not only the movie itself but the audience”.
“Whitewashing implies that people of colour cannot be heroes (although they may at times be villains or supporting characters), leaving it far more difficult for countless children around the world to see themselves in the stories they love and think that they too can make a difference,” she says.
“It perpetuates a standard of beauty and goodness wherein whites are considered the ideal and norm despite that not only are Americans diverse, but the entire world is.
“As for the acting community, keeping diverse actors out of what should be diverse roles severely limits the number of roles they can get, especially a potentially name-making role such as Mulan’s eponymous character would surely be.”
Macau-born Ming-Na Wen originally voiced Mulan for Disney and can currently be seen in Marvel’s superhero series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
However, a recent study found that just 4 per cent of all female characters in Hollywood films last year were Asian or Latina, with only 11 per cent identifying as African-American.
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Mulan will follow The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo and Pinocchio into a modern remake, with Disney already having enjoyed huge success with Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent and, most recently, Cinderella starring Lily James and Cate Blanchett.
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