All eyes are already on Walt Disney’s live-action remake of its 1998 animated favorite Mulan due to its reported $200 million price tag and global release plan at a time when coronavirus concerns have led some high-profile blockbusters to switch release dates. Now there’s another piece of news that has fans concerned: the new adaptation will omit a popular character from the original film, Li Shang, voiced by B.D. Wong. In the 1998 version, Shang captained the army that the titular female warrior (Ming-Na Wen) joins under the guise of being a male recruit named Ping. Like Shang’s signature song goes, he somehow makes men out of his soldiers-in-training and, in the process, finds himself drawn to Ping in particular. By the end of the movie, romance has blossomed between the captain and his best fighter, whose real identity is exposed before the climactic battle.
It’s that kind of questionable power dynamic between a superior and a subordinate that the creative team — including director Niki Caro — behind the 2020 version wanted to avoid in their telling of the ancient Chinese legend that serves as Mulan’s source material. Speaking with the website Collider and other journalists as part of a set visit, producer Jason Reed said that Shang’s burgeoning romance with Mulan (played by Liu Yifei) didn’t make sense in the #MeToo era. “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,” Reed remarked. “In a lot of ways that it was sort of justifying behavior of we’re doing everything we can to get out of our industry.”