I’ll Make A Mulan Out Of You

Apr 14, 2020   |   Ruth Loo

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Do you remember watching the American animated historical action adventure musical Mulan (1998) as a child or teenager? In case you forgot or didn’t watch it, here is a quick recap! Set in ancient China, young Mulan is distraught when she learns that her weak and aged father must enlist in the army to fight the Huns who are invading the country. Unwilling to endanger his life, she resolves to joining the army in his stead by disguising herself as a man. With the hype of upcoming 2020 live-action Mulan movie, here are some key takeaways from the 1998 animated film that we hope you will apply in your life. Enjoy!


Filial piety/ selflessness

When Mulan’s family received the order from the emperor to send one man from their family to enlist for war, Mulan knew her aged and ailing father would not be able to survive the tough training and fight the war. Out of filial piety and concern for her elderly father, she takes it upon herself to enlist in her father’s place. This shows her selflessness and love for her family that she would go to that extent to undergo tough training while disguising herself as a man.

Mulan had a strong sense of duty towards her family, especially towards her frail and vulnerable father. In the same way, we should all care and look out for the vulnerable groups of people in not just our family, but in the community we live in. For example, we can play our part in easing the difficulties faced by our elderly by choosing to serve them in the simplest of things; delivering groceries to them, visiting and spending time with them and even helping them spring clean their homes.

The vulnerable deserve our care and protection the most, and we have nothing to worry about unlike Mulan who was undercover. Maybe it’s time for us to volunteer our time and effort to serve others with selfless and compassionate hearts J



In the iconic song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, an exasperated Li Shang orders Mulan to go home as she keeps falling behind during training.

Training to be a soldier was a tough and painful struggle for Mulan as she had no prior experience. Moreover, she was disliked and often mocked by her peers. In the iconic song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, Mulan was ordered to go home by Li Shang due to her incompetency. However, she persisted in proving her capabilities by purposely waking up early in the morning to practice climbing a pole, which was an almost impossible task set for all soldiers. She eventually succeeded and earned the respect and admiration of her fellow soldiers and even Li Shang.

Anyone can be a leader. As long as there is willingness to put in the extra effort and perseverance, you will attain the respect of those around you. In the later part of the same song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, Mulan set the example for her fellow soldiers by running ahead and leading the group while carrying weights on her back. By proving that you can do it, others will be able to place their confidence in you and listen to what you have to say.


Sense of loyalty/responsibility

When Mulan found out that the villain Shan Yu and some of his men were still alive, she went to warn the troops and Li Shang despite her being kicked out of the army. Her loyalty and sense of responsibility towards her nation’s safety was greater than her own fears. She did what she had to despite the reality that she might be ignored and punished. This also emphasises Mulan’s selflessness as she could have chosen to be spiteful as she was kicked out of the army with her pride hurt.

Mulan was concerned about her country’s security and safety and placed it before her own. Likewise, we as the youth and future of our nation should care for our country’s wellbeing and safety. It’s up to us to make our society a pleasant and comfortable one for the future generations to come. We can start doing so by standing up for issues that matter such as sustainability, global warming, gender equality, mental health and so on. By raising awareness about these matters and having open discussions about them, little by little we will see our society progress.


Breaking Gender Stereotypes

Mulan grits her teeth in determination while climbing the pole. She eventually makes it to the top, proving to all that she is a capable soldier.

At the start of the song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, Li Shang sings:

Let’s get down to business, to defeat the Huns
Did they send me daughters, when I asked for sons?
You’re the saddest bunch I ever met
But you can bet before we’re through
Mister, I’ll make a man out of you.

In this song, he implies that men are the standard to aspire towards, while women are weak and inferior. However, Mulan proves him wrong when she becomes the first person to climb the pole and becomes the finest soldier in the army. She beats an entire army of men, showing that women are strong and can do the same or more than men! Whether you are male or female, it is important to believe that you can achieve what you want to and not let anyone discourage or tear you down because of your gender.

Mulan earns the respect of her fellow soldier who used to tease her for her incompetency.

The lyrics of the song “Bring Honor to Us All” go like this:

A girl can bring her family

Great honour in one way
By striking a good match

And this could be that day

Men want girls with good taste

Calm, obedient, who work fast paced

With good breeding and a tiny waist

You’ll bring honour to us all

We all must serve our Emperor

Who guards us from the Huns

A man by bearing arms

A girl by bearing sons.

These lyrics imply that the sole purpose of a woman is to just marry well, have children, take care of her household, please her husband, and be docile and submissive. Women are way more capable and talented than that. Mulan saved her entire nation by defying these stereotypes. She joined the army which then forbade women from enlisting, she did not get married despite being of age, and spoke up when she had to. Women can be leaders and can contribute to the society greatly in any field as seen from Mulan’s example.

When Mulan was being treated for her the injury she sustained during the war, her identity as a woman was exposed. Her gender hindered her from being recognised as a national hero and almost caused her to be killed even though her achievement of single-handedly defeating the Hun army was a significant one. Recognition for women in her day was little or close to none, but in our society now, we are fortunate that many women are given chances to showcase their skills, talents and accomplishments; and are recognised for them.

Mulan’s story is really one that is inspiring and thought provoking. Her character encourages us to challenge ourselves to be better people and contribute to society in a greater way. There are so many valuable lessons we can learn from her story that can be applied to our daily lives as individuals who are contributing to the greater good of our community. May we be inspired by her story to be kind and courageous as well.