Home Hot Take Art vs. Artist – Mulan Boycott and Can We Separate Between Artist and Their “Crime”?
Art vs. Artist - Mulan Boycott and Can We Separate Between Artist and Their "Crime"?

Art vs. Artist – Mulan Boycott and Can We Separate Between Artist and Their “Crime”?

by Bernd Mueller

Mulan is currently on Disney Plus, where you can pay $30 plus to watch the film. After months of postponements and delays, Disney finally decided to release the movie in pay per view format. But with the release of the film also came the past Mulan boycott, which was picking steam in February and March of 2020.

So, where did all the animosity towards the movie came from? The Mulan boycott has nothing to do with the movie or the story; the Disney film is an excellent movie with an inclusive cast directed by a female director. The boycott has to do with some cast members involved in the movie and their political stance.

Mulan Boycott Explained

In 2019 when Mulan‘s marketing campaign was picking up steam, the lead actress of the movie Liu Yifei said some incendiary things. The actress who plays Mulan in the live-action remake of the classic film spoke against pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong.

As most people probably know by now, massive protests were going on in Hong Kong where pro-democratic protestors were speaking against China’s political involvement in the autonomous region. A year later, China has passed stringent laws, and protests have almost all been struck down.

But about a year ago, there was hope among Hong Kong protestors, and the Mulan boycott started because the lead actress Liu Yifei spoke in favor of the Hong Kong police. The same police were striking in an extra-judicial manner against protestors in the country.

In a Weibo message, the actress wrote, “I support the Hong Kong police. You can all attack me now. What a shame for Hong Kong.” The actress’s message started to trend in the China-based web service, and Twitter users fought back against the actress and her stance against pro-democratic protestors.

As the protest was picking up steam, Disney came out against the statement, but the damage was done. After the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, the movie’s boycott died down only to pick back up later when Disney announced the new format of release.

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Donnie Yen, another prominent Chinese actor who is beloved in the West, also spoke against the Democratic protests. This further fueled the boycott fire with American sympathizers for the Hong Kong protests starting their own protest against the film’s release.

The boycott movement is now a part of a bigger Democratic movement called the Milk Tea Alliance. The alliance is a combination of Taiwan, Thailand, and Hong Kong as they all fight for pro-democratic rights in their corner of the world.

The alliance in unison supports the Hong Kong protestors, and Hong Kong protesters support Thailand’s movement asking for its monarchy reform. Prominent Thai student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal also showed support for the #banMulan movement.

Art vs. Artist – Can we Separate Between the Two?

I grew up watching Mulan and other Disney classics. The movie had an uplifting vibe, and watching it with my sister was always fun. I was Mushu, and she played Mulan after the movie was done, so it was difficult for me not to watch the film’s live-action remake.

When the movie was announced, I was excited about the retelling of a story for a new generation. But when all the controversy happened, I could not figure out if I could separate between the art and the artist.

To find the answers, I went back to my past, and what happened when my own politics and the politics of the artists I followed did not align. For example, Kanye West, I do not listen to anything by the artist after 2013, but the same is not true about Michael Jackson.

I can maintain a boundary between what he has allegedly done and the beautiful music he produced over the years. Another singer is XXXtentacion, he had domestic violence allegations levied against him, but I remember him for the songs he provided the young generation to deal with anxiety, while also understanding he was a flawed man.

When it comes to movies, I cannot separate between Kevin Spacey and his filmography. Watching American Beauty, knowing what I know now, gives a nasty feeling about the whole film. I cannot even watch one of my favorite movies, The Usual Suspects, anymore.

So, for me, the idea of separating between the art and the artist depends from situation to situation. I am never in favor of cancel culture, but there are some valid concerns raised by the ban Mulan or boycott Mulan movements.

It depends on whether you want to take the art out of the artist in light of a heinous crime or take them both as separate entities. I am selective about the artists I follow even after a crime or controversy, but you have to make your own choices.

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