Mulan producer gives the absolute worst reason for axing ‘bisexual’ character from live action remake

Li Shang from Mulan (1998) and Liu Yifei as Mulan in the 2020 remake

Mulan fans were outraged when Disney confirmed it had removed Li Shang from its live-action remake, and now the film’s producer has revealed the perplexing reason for the decision.

Li Shang has long been considered a bisexual icon by queer Disney fans faced with a total lack of representation in the studio’s animated films (a dearth which, it should be noted, will only be broken by the March release of Onward).

In the original Mulan, Li Shang falls in love with the titular heroine after she enters the army disguised as a man.

Thought never confirmed as bisexual by Disney, queer fans have always claimed Li Shang as one of their own, and were furious when it emerged in 2018 that the character would not appear in the upcoming live-action Mulan.

Addressing the controversy, producer Jason Reed explained that Li Shang has been split into two separate characters: a new army superior, Commander Tung, and a new soldier love interest, Cheng Honghui.

He said that the character was split because in the original, Li Shang is Mulan’s commanding officer as well as her love interest, creating what he believes to be an uncomfortable power dynamic.

I think particularly in the time of the #MeToo movement, having a commanding officer that is also the sexual love interest was very uncomfortable and we didn’t think it was appropriate.

“And we thought that in a lot of ways that it was sort of justifying behaviour we’re doing everything we can to get out of our industry,” he said, according to SlashFilm.

As many fans pointed out, the #MeToo movement is largely concerned with consent and sexual assault.

Reed said that in the new Mulan, which is not a direct remake of the 1998 film but rather based on the original Chinese folklore, there will be “the same dynamic” which saw Li Shang wonder “why do I like this dude so much?”

“We have that same dynamic and in this movie, I actually think it plays in a more sophisticated way because he’s trying to befriend this other soldier who is, like, he’s ambitious, he wants to be the best student in class and all of the sudden this guys is sort of challenging him.

“He’s sort of standoff-ish also like, ‘Hey, we could team up. We’re going to war, let’s work together.’

“And she, because she’s got this secret she keeps having to push him away and it creates a lot of tension in the movie of him being drawn to her, her being drawn to him, but because she has this secret she constantly has to push him away.

“So we’re playing with that as well. And I think we removed the icky-ness of the power differential.”

Mulan is released in cinemas on March 27.