Australian Council on Children and the Media

Mulan (2020)

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Not suitable under 10; parental guidance to 13 (Violence)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Mulan (2020)
  • a review of Mulan (2020) completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 7 September 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not suitable due to violence.
Children aged 10–13 Parental guidance recommended due to violence.
Children over the age of 13 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Mulan (2020)
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and Battle Violence.
Length 115 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

This is a live-action remake of Disney’s 1998 animated film, originally based on Chinese folklore tale, Ballad of Mulan. Mulan (Liu Yifei) is the oldest daughter of a retired warrior and stands out because, unlike the other girls in her village, she has a strong and fierce energy, or Qi, which is making it difficult for the match maker to find her a suitable marriage proposal. When the emperor of China calls for one man from each family to join the army to protect the country from invasion, Mulan’s father has no choice but to go himself, as he has no sons. Mulan secretly takes his sword and his conscription papers and steals away in the night to take his place in the army. She pretends to be a young man and must work hard not to be discovered as a woman amongst the other soldiers. Mulan’s exceptional abilities draw attention from the other soldiers and her superiors, but will she be able to fight for China and win the respect of her nation and her father without revealing her true identity?

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Gender stereotypes and traditional roles; Feminism; War and Invasion; Loyalty; Honour; Bravery; Family; Magic and Witchcraft; Supernatural powers.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is extensive violence in this movie including:

  • Numerous battle scenes with use of weapons. People being shot with arrows or with swords. Dead bodies.
  • Soldiers charging at the enemy on horseback set to dramatic music.
  • Many scenes of one to one combat using martial arts and weapons.
  • The witch has long talons which she uses to claw at people.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • A large and poisonous-looking spider crawls around on the table during a tea ceremony.
  • There are several characters who are quite scary. For example, the fierce leader of the enemy army, Bori Khan, has a scarred and angry face.
  • The battle scenes are very dramatic and the visual impact of lines of angry and agitated soldiers preparing for battle is quite intense and intimidating.
  • There is a witch who can transform into a bird of prey or also into a flock of birds. Sometimes when she is in human-form she has long talons at the end of her fingers. In one scene there is blood dripping from the end of her talons. She is quite scary with a band of white paint across her eyes.
  • In one of the battle scenes, the witch takes the form of thousands of birds who swoop down and attack the soldiers on the ground.
  • Mulan walks with some other soldiers through a battle ground that is strewn with dead bodies.
  • There is a huge avalanche which crashes dramatically over the soldiers whilst they try to flee. Some are swallowed by the crashing snow.
  • There are some scenes of peril, such as when Mulan is balancing on a high beam which is swinging over pots of molten lava.
  • Mulan cries when her father is preparing to leave them. She is so worried about him and doesn’t want him to leave.
  • Mulan’s father gets angry and bangs his fist down onto the dining table, saying “I am the father!”.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Children in this age group will also find the above scenes quite disturbing.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Children in this age group may also find the above scenes quite scary or disturbing.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are mild sexual references and mild romance in this movie, including:

  • The soldiers look at a picture of a woman painted on a scroll and joke amongst themselves about the qualities of a good woman or wife.
  • There is some mild romantic tension between Mulan and Yoson An, one of the other soldiers. They briefly hold hands.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • There is a scene where Mulan is bathing naked in the river (hidden under the water). Another soldier comes down to bathe with her and you can see him stripping off at the water’s edge. She keeps her back to him so that he will not see that she is a woman.
  • Several scenes of men without tops on.

Use of substances

  • None noted.

Coarse language

  • None noted.

In a nutshell

Mulan (2020) is a beautiful and lush adaptation of the original Disney animation. It is perfectly pitched to appeal to children between about ten and thirteen, with a relatively simple storyline but plenty of dramatic tension, moving moments and exciting battle scenes. Due to the sheer volume of violence in this film (it is a film about war!), it is not suitable for children under ten and parental guidance is recommended to 13.

There are very strong messages in this film about having the strength and bravery to break free from gender-based cultural norms and stereotypes. Mulan is a great feminist role model because she realises that her strength lies not in her deception (pretending to be a man) but in being a powerful woman. The other central message in this film is loyalty and servitude both to family and to country.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Learning to value the gifts people have and their differences, even when they don’t conform to what society believes is right.
  • Standing out from the crowd – not being afraid to stand out from the crowd in order to do what is right.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • The reality of war – parents could discuss whether the movie accurately portrays the horrors of war. You could also discuss the differences between war in the past and modern warfare.
  • The movie is set far in the past and there are very defined roles for men and women. Parents could talk to their children about whether there are defined gender roles still in our society and how they are changing over time.

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