The Issue Of Gender Roles In The Movie Mulan

Mulan shows many different gender role stereotypes from both the male and female sides throughout the movie from being dressed up feminine at the beginning of the movie to joining the army by posing as a man and fitting into the male gender roles to help save China.

Mulan shows both female and male gender role stereotypes as soon as the movie starts one of the first things you see is Mulan getting all ready with makeup and being put in a dress with her hair put in a bun with flower hair accessories. She is very punctual and very much showing feminine gender roles. In the background of these scenes is a song called Honor to Us All. “The film makes it clear that Mulan rejects strict gender roles. Yet here, she calls on this experience to ask her team to engage with Shan-Yu's men as women by adopting traditionally female traits.” The whole song is based on how as a woman you need to look a certain way so you can find yourself a husband which would result in her bringing “honor” to her family. All of this is before she finds out that her father is being drafted to the war in which she then decides to chop all of her hair off.

“Mulan has to disguise herself as a man to take her father’s place as a soldier. Just by doing this she’s committed a crime punishable by death.” (The Fandomentals). This is a gender stereotype because men are known for having short hair, and since Mulan had very long hair she knew about that because of what society enforced which resulted in her cutting her hair with a sword to help her pass as a male so she could fill in her father’s spot in the war. This is shown in an article called The Balance of Gender in Mulan which says “All words said by Mulan herself to describe an ideal woman, according to her society. All words she’s shown to be the opposite of.” (The Fandomentals).

Not only are there gender stereotypes being specifically shown but in the songs played throughout the movie, there are many songs and lyrics that portray the gender roles expected by society. One of those being just the name of the song which is I’ll make a man out of you. This song talks about how the soldiers need to become more masculine and manly so they will be able to fight in the war. The men are compared to things like typhoons and raging fires which are both very powerful and overall very masculine things to be compared to. “Be a man, we must be swift as a coursing river, be a man, with all the force of a great typhoon, be a man, with all the strength of a raging fire, mysterious as the dark side of the moon”.

Another song that shows gender stereotype is a girl worth fighting for. This song talks about the expectations women are required to live up to and go by based on what society believes women should do. This whole song is very much based on stereotypes. At one point in the song, it says “I want her paler than the moon with eyes that shine like stars. My girl will marvel at my strength, adore my battle scars. I couldn’t care less what she’ll wear or what she looks like it all depends on what she cooks like”. This goes to one of the more popular stereotypes that women should do all the cooking and men should do all the working outside of the house you know the “real work” that according to society only men should be able to do. Instead in this movie although it does mention women doing the cooking in the song Mulan shows not only the men who she was friends and fellow soldiers with that she could not only do what men could do but the fact that she was a woman and could do even more than the men. Without her help, I highly doubt they would have been able to save China just because it was all pretty much her idea.

I think one of the main things this movie focuses on is that men and women should be treated equally. And also if you have a woman who is good at something that is not normally accepted solely based on the fact that she is a woman she will not get the same amount of praise or respect. On the other hand, if a man were to do the same thing because of society and the things that certain cultures preach about and teach you he will get all of the respect and everything good that comes with it even if the woman did that thing a million times better than him. You see this all the time not only in your everyday life but in many other books, movies, and TV shows.

This movie is one of the best examples in my opinion that talks about gender roles and gender stereotypes and how they play into things that you could not imagine them playing until you get into the movie. At first, listen I did not even notice how stereotypical some of the things that were happening were, for example, the song lyrics talking about how the only thing that matters about women is how they present themselves in a feminine way by wearing makeup and dresses and having their hair put back in a slicked-back bun. This just goes to show how much people pay attention to things that have to do with stereotypes and gender roles which I think is a problem. These things do go unnoticed most of the time just because society puts it in our heads that women have to look a certain way and men have to do things that women should not do because they are not capable of doing it. Granted it is becoming a lot more talked about but I feel like it will always be a problem because you have certain religions that require women to wear dresses and skirts just because they are women.

This movie not only showed the gender roles as they are in society but it also showed at the end of the movie that things can happen outside of gender stereotypes. The end of the movie plays a really important role in the theme of gender roles and gender stereotypes because it shows that both men and women can work together and do well for the people around them. It also shows that women can do more than just cook for their husbands and make a pretty wife by working at home and the men doing all of the hard work and fighting for the country in the war.

Works Cited

  • “The Balance of Gender in Mulan.” The Fandomentals, The Fandomentals, 10 Sept. 2018,
  • “Walt Disney Records (Ft. David Zippel, Harvey Fierstein, James Hong, Jerry Tondo, Lea Salonga & Matthew Wilder) – A Girl Worth Fighting For.” Genius, Genius Media Group Inc., 2 June 1998,
  • “Walt Disney Records (Ft. Donny Osmond, Eddie Murphy, Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Tondo, Lea Salonga & Matthew Wilder) – I'll Make a Man Out of You.” Genius, Genius Media Group Inc., 2 June 1998,
  • Hough, Soren. “How Disney's Brazenly Challenges Gender and Sexuality.”, Elbert Digital LLC, 28 Dec. 2016,
  • Mulan. Directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook, Performances by Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, and BD Wong, Disney, 1998.
16 December 2021
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