Film  Stories   ·   09 Sep   ·   01:09 PM   ·   4 minutes Read

This Canadian Chinese Girl’s Live Tweet of Mulan Went Viral


Xiran Jay Zhao is not alone in finding Disney’s Mulan, a movie that cost 200 million USD to make, painfully tedious. A South China Morning Post article by Xinmei Shen includes a quote from a reviewer, who left a comment on Chinese Q&A site Zhihu, lamenting that Mulan was like, “…that feeling when you go to a Western Chinese restaurant and have a pretty weird Chinese meal.”

The article itself is full of comments and complains from Chinese viewers who were unhappy with the movie.

Enter Xiran Jay Zhao, a twenty-something disease research student who lives in Vancouver, Canada. She is also a first-generation immigrant from what she calls “small town China”, who happens to be a history buff, especially when it comes to Ancient China.


Credit: @xiranjayzhao

On the 7th of September, she decided to watch Disney’s Mulan and live-tweet it from her Twitter account, @XiranJayZhao. Read the whole thread here.

The next morning, her thread’s meteoric rise in clicks and views meant that it was at the top when anyone types #mulan into the search bar on Twitter.

So much so that she tweeted this:

Credit: screengrab from Twitter

(In case you’re not familiar with Mulan, it’s an old Chinese story which centers around a woman who disguises herself as a man to join the army, as her father is too ill to do so.)

@XiranJayZhao’s critique of the movie can roughly be divided into 5 main categories: Witches Are Not A Chinese Thing, Ancient Chinese Makeup Critique, Not How Chi Works, Illogical And Dumb and lastly, Actually Good.

Let’s start from the beginning.

Credit: screengrab from Twitter

Problems were spotted right from the introduction.

Credit: @XiranJayZhao, Disney


Credit: @XiranJayZhao, Disney


Credit: @XiranJayZhao, Disney


Credit: screengrab from Twitter

I mean, one would assume your ancestors know more than you when it comes to old stories, no?

OK, we have now reached the 1st stop, which is…

Witches Are Not A Chinese Thing

Credit: @XiranJayZhao, Disney


Credit: @XiranJayZhao, Disney


Credit: screengrab from Twitter

@XiranJayZhao makes a reference to the fox spirit, or the hulijing, which is a playful fox spirit that can transform into a woman.

Shout-out also to the zhizhujing, otherwise known as the spider spirit, found in many low budget Chinese period fantasy pieces from 1980s Hong Kong.

Credit: @XiranJayZhao, Disney


Credit: @XiranJayZhao, Disney


Credit: screengrab from Twitter


Prior to reading this, I had never realized that witches were totally absent from Chinese myths and legends…

We now move onto…

Not How Chi Works

I’ll be honest, I don’t know how chi works. But this too, struck me as deeply weird, as somebody who has watched their fair share of wuxiapian, or Chinese fantasy martial arts epics.

Credit: @XiranJayZhao, Disney


Credit: screengrab from Twitter

It’s supposed to be innate, people.

South China Morning Post also notes that the movie’s treatment of chi was one of the biggest bugbears amongst Chinese watchers. As the author of the article, Xinmei Shen explains, “…in Mulan, chi becomes a magical power that the eponymous hero possesses. That power is limited by dishonesty, though, keeping Mulan from realising her full potential until she strips away her disguise as a man.”

Credit: @XiranJayZhao, Disney

I guess that’s why Dongfang Bubai needed to “come out” to reach her full potential, huh? Now it makes sense.

Credit: Film Workshop

Let’s now head on over to…

Ancient Chinese Makeup Critique

Because @XiranJayZhao’s incredible dedication to Ancient Chinese history includes an in-depth knowledge of how make-up was done back then, she posted an educational thread on it.

Credit: @XiranJayZhao

In it, she posts pictures like this one. It’s a quick and easy explainer on makeup elements iconic to China’s Northern and Southern Dynasties during Mulan’s time in 400 – 900 CE.

But mostly, I think she did it to tell us that Mulan’s interpretation of it didn’t have to be this ugly.


Now, let’s wash our faces and walk over to the next exhibit:

Illogical and Dumb

One of the most viral tweets, in her chain of extremely highly-read tweets, was about how these guys were maneuvering through a narrow corridor.


This is how Chinese people walk, OK? OK.

She also pointed out that Gong Li’s character demise stemmed from bad movie logic.

Last but not least, let’s move onto…

Actually Good

Of course, the movie was not a total stinker. There were scenes that were pretty to look at. After all, the budget was humongous, so no expense had to be spared when it came to set dressing or beautification through CGI.




She also had some subtle, understated praise for the way Gong Li played her witchy character.

Finally, @XiranJayZhao sums up the root of the movie’s problems.

That’s right, who could have guessed it wasn’t written by actual Chinese people???

What did you think of @XiranJayZhao’s viral tweets? Are you a fan of the animated classic?