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The new live action Mulan from Disney is now playing on TV, put there by Covid-19. It is a remake of a hugely-popular and more, well, comical, animated version from more than 20 years ago, that has great nostalgic pulling power for many now-older online film addicts; the plan is to charge a lot of money to download it, and share with one's younger friends and family, to pass the bug on.

Reviews have agreed: It's well-made, apparently inoffensive state of the art, and the lead actor is appealing. It features several legendary Chinese actors, and is never less than good to watch, with a rousing score. It is also directed by a woman from New Zealand best known for the excellent Whale Rider from 2002.

Unfortunately, the movie is also, almost by accident it might seem, a disturbing propaganda delivery system, which will be most dangerous in China, the main market for the film in cinemas. The villains (Mongols apparently) are trying to overthrow the Empire/Emperor so it is the inversion of Star Wars which celebrated rebellion led by a princess.

This time, the rebels dress suspiciously like 'Turks' or the Islamic Other - and this is a thinly-veiled attack on all those ethnic minority groups within China that do not try to 'fit in'. Though there is a 'girl power' theme, Mulan the young female character, does not question patriarchy, militarism, patriotism, violence, or any other aspects of her society and agrees to be executed for impersonating a male soldier.

Her main aim, aided by a remarkable ability to balance very heavy water baskets, is to make her father proud. The leitmotif is a Phoenix - a symbol that reminds us China is resurgent again, as it once was at the time of Mulan. That an American company could make a film without any 21st century Western awareness of gender issues (a joke is she may have to marry a woman!), that panders to ultra-right/hard-left totalitarian ideology, is surprising, until one remembers that capitalism is the most fluid of viruses, and adapts to any host.


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