Success! Disney to Cast Chinese Actress Liu Yifei as Mulan

As a student in the U.K., I studied William Shakespeare’s play Othello. We were preparing for A-levels, exams that students take at the end of high school, and we were required to watch the 1965 movie of the play starring Laurence Olivier.

Olivier played the title role in blackface. At the time we all thought it was ridiculous; We knew that the most famous actor in England was a white man, so it was both funny and disconcerting to watch him in his black paint. Could the makers of the film not find a single person of color in the U.K. to play this role?

Black face was a common and shameful habit in Hollywood’s past, and it has since taken a new racist form — whitewashing.

Whitewashing refers to casting white Caucasian actors in roles originally intended to be characters of color, and Hollywood abounds in examples of this practice.

A few prominent ones come to mind immediately: Scarlett Johanson in Ghost in the Shell, cast as a Japanese woman; Ridley Scott casting white actors Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton to play Biblical Egyptian characters in Exodus: Gods and Kings; the Netflix production Journey to the West, which is a remake of a popular Japanese series, based off an ancient Chinese story, but featuring not one Asian actor.

The list goes on and on.

So when Disney announced that it was developing a live-action version of its popular animated film Mulan, Care2 member Natalie Molnar jumped into action and created a Care2 petition demanding that Disney cast an Asian woman as Mulan.

As she explained in her petition,

“Mulan was based on a Chinese legend, the story of Fa/Hua Mu Lan, in which a young girl disguises herself as a man to serve as a soldier in the battle against an invasion by the Huns. The character, story, and fans deserve the best retelling of the story Disney can produce.” And that of course means starting with an Asian Mulan.

Molnar’s petition garnered over 112,000 signatures.

As this petition signer from the U.K. put it: “Why would you have white actors/actress playing original Chinese roles? That completely ruins it. Mulan is one of my favourite movies, they must have an Asian cast.”

Success!

Thanks to all those signatures from Care2 members as well as pressure from other activists, the Walt Disney company announced on November 29 that they are casting Liu Yifei (also known as Crystal Liu), (seen above), a Chinese actress, as Mulan.

Congratulations and thank you to Natalie Molnar and all you Care2 activists who added your signature to her petition. It’s good to know we can make a difference and break the tradition of whitewashing in Hollywood.

Whitewashing is not just about casting only Caucasian actors to play people of color. Sometimes it can mean heroes of movies are always white actors, while the villains are characters of color, which seems to imply that people of color cannot be heroes.

This is tremendously harmful to millions of children of color growing up in the U.S. who either have no one to identify with in a movie or can only see themselves in the “bad” guy.

Disney apparently spent a year searching for the right actress; They sent casting directors to five continents, where around 1,000 candidates auditioned for the role.

Liu will have to display excellent martial arts skills and will be speaking English as she disguises herself as a man to take over her father’s place in the army in 5th century China.

Liu does in fact speak English fluently, having spent part of her childhood in New York. She is already one of China’s most popular actresses and had a series of hit television dramas in the mid-2000s, when she was still a teenager.

She is also familiar to English-speaking audiences from her role in The Forbidden Kingdom, with Jackie Chan and Jet Li, and from Outcast, where she played opposite Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen.

A huge shout out to Natalie Molnar for her successful Care2 petition, and to the thousands of Care2 members who signed on in support.

If you’re impressed by the power of Care2 petitions, you can be part of the change and create your own petition. Begin by checking out these guidelines and soon the Care2 community will be signing up to support you.

 

Photo Credit: cywoody

67 comments

Cathy B
Cathy Byesterday

Thank you for posting.

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sharon b
sharon b5 days ago

Thx

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Paulo R
Paulo R8 days ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R8 days ago

ty

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Cathy B
Cathy B12 days ago

The right think to do.

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Jim V
Jim V18 days ago

thanks

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Jim V
Jim V18 days ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S18 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Jerome S
Jerome S18 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Cathy B
Cathy B19 days ago

A good choice. Thank you.

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