Mulan: Breaking Free From Traditions

I’ve recently watched the movie adaptation of Mulan and in this review, I will be putting aside all the differences between the cartoon version and this one, but I’ll give more emphasis on what the movie intended to highlight which was Mulan’s rise to power and her breaking free from China’s conventional role for women by disguising as a male warrior when she joined the imperial army in place of her sick father.

Here are some lessons we can learn from Mulan about breaking free from the traditions that are trying to hold us back from the things we can actually achieve. *May contain spoilers.


1. Being different does not always mean you are rebellious.

At the start of the movie, Mulan did not seem to fit the standard characteristics of women in their days. The women were required to be fine, to walk eyes ahead and chin up, to be good at housework, handiwork and be ever so pretty for the husbands -to-be- to whom they were to present themselves with hopes of being chosen, thus giving honor to their family. Mulan was the total opposite. She was an energetic, young woman who moved fearlessly, she was clumsy, but could save their animals that were in danger. She was considered a ‘disgrace’ in their society. Sometimes, being different may simply mean being misplaced and finding our place and role in and embrace it. It may also mean that the people around us may need a change of perspective on how they are to accept people’s differences and how these can be put into good.


2. Saying “NO” to what people want for you is saying “YES” to what you want for yourself.

Mulan’s family had everything planned for her. They thought it was the best for her that is why they prepared her for it and they pushed her to have her mind and body fit in the role they have prepared for her. This may be true for most of us. People who are close to us want us to take this course, job, or person, but it is not what we want. There would be those points in our lives when we just have to finally say NO to what other people think is the best for us and start saying YES to what we want and see ourselves doing.


3. Trying to fit into something that is not you worsens the situation.

When Mulan finally entered the imperial army, she tried again to fit in to another mold people expect her (him at that time) to be. She needed to pretend to be a man. She was successful at it, anyone can keep pretending, but the third principle of their oath was TRUTH and she knew she couldn’t go on doing it without being exposed in the end. There would be intimidating situations in our lives where we’d be tempted to pretend just to get away with something or to be accepted by someone. For example, at work, we may pretend to know it all because we feel people will look down on us. So we keep pretending until we unfortunately make piles of mistakes. All these could be dismissed in a simple “I don’t know that one yet, could you give me more information about that.” Another example here in Saudi Arabia is when women work with men, some women have that tendency to act strong and always ready to fight or win an argument with men. That is not needed at all. Be a woman and act and think like a woman in that workplace, be you because that it the balance needed in the company or in the group. We think and act differently from men and that helps in creating a harmonious relationship in a workplace.


4. People will follow you when you are confident about yourself

Once Mulan accepted her weaknesses and strengths, she became her real self. She didn’t have to pretend anymore. When she approached their commander and presented her strategy on how to defeat the enemy, others joined her despite the fact that she’s a woman. When you are confident of your strengths, others are bound to break-free as well from man-made traditions. They join and trust you not just because of what you’ve done, but because they see the confidence in you.


5. In the end, always value relationships

The greatest source of disappointment in life is the expectation of things to remain the same. They won’t. Change will always happen and the greatest protection against it is to expect that it is bound to happen. Mulan’s father never expected her to go to another direction, neither did Mulan, but she needed to do it. After the battle, the emperor offered Mulan a position right after winning. She could have accepted it right away, but she valued her father. She wanted to go back and make things right. She knew she had made unconventional choices that caused her father and her entire family to worry. Once she had the chance, she went back to her father and family to ask for forgiveness. There would be choices in our lives that would be very unconventional for our family, workmates, or society, but once we have proven our way was worth it, we should remain humble and go back to the people, especially those close to us and make the necessary move to keep the relationship healthy once again. When Mulan’s father saw the result of Mulan’s actions; gaining honor of the emperor and entire China, he needed not to condemn Mulan of what she did. He just welcomed her back.

Breaking free from something that has run been running on for generations can be difficult, but not impossible. Maybe there are some traditions in your family, work, organization, or society that are not applicable anymore in the present generation and maybe you are the first person to break free from it. Don’t be afraid. Who knows, you might be that Mulan everyone is waiting for.

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