A producer on Disney’s live-action Mulan remake has provided some context about the decision to remove a fan-favorite character who was one of the leads of the 1998 original: Stern commanding officer (turned eventual love interest) Li Shang. And, not wholly surprisingly, it’s that whole boss/commanding officer/romantic partner aspect that appears to have been the problem. That’s per producer Jason Reed, who told Collider this week that “particularly in the time of the #MeToo movement,” the film’s creators were uncomfortable with the inherent power differential between Mulan and Shang, leading them to split the part into two characters: Donnie Yen, playing stone-faced mentor character Commander Teng, and Yoson An, taking up “budding romance” duties as Chen Honghui, a member of Mulan’s squad.
“Having a commanding officer that is also the sexual love interest was very uncomfortable and we didn’t think it was appropriate,” Reed said while explaining the decision, which, honestly, fair: The conversation around the sexual and gender politics of Mulan can get very complicated very quickly, given the source material, the nuances of Ming-Na Wen and BD Wong’s vocal performances in the original movie, and the whole messy Disney of it all. But in light of not just #MeToo, but also the wider conversation about sexual assault in the military— often either committed, or tacitly condoned, by commanding officers—the decision to distance the film from the issue is understandable, even if it does lose us the hottest Donnie Osmond jam of 1998. (Plus: Donnie Yen! Hooray!)
Directed by Niki Caro, the Mulan remake arrives in theaters on March 27.