Out of more than 1,000 artists who auditioned for the role of Mulan, one star stood out: Liu Yifei. Also known as Crystal Liu, the casting of the Chinese actress has gained popular support amidst the intensifying call for Hollywood to historically and culturally appropriate casting. But things went awry for Liu as now she becomes the reason why many fans, including popular personalities, have called for a boycott of the remake of the popular Disney classic.
Last week, Disney dropped the first trailer of the live-action reboot of the epic Mulan. When Disney announced that Mulan would be played by Liu Yifei, who is one of China’s most famous and bankable actresses, the people in social media began expressing their disappointment over the decision.
The outrage stems from earlier comments made by the actress in support of the Hong Kong police amidst the increasing violence against protesters in the Asian nation. Protesters have staged months-long of street protests against the decision of the Hong Kong government to legislate China’s demand that would allow the extradition of Hong Kong citizens to mainland China. The protests have grown increasingly violent with the police, and the protesters have had multiple bloody encounters.
Back in summer, the hashtag #BoycottMulan has begun trending on Twitter. The sentiment stems from Liu’s pronouncement in social media supporting the Hong Kong police against the protesters.
“I support Hong Kong’s police, you can beat me up now,” Yifei wrote in an August post published to Weibo, a social media platform similar to Twitter. “What a shame for Hong Kong.”
As the hashtag began reignited after the release of the first-ever trailer of the most anticipated remake, which has made rounds in popular conversations since it was announced back in 2015, issues have been piling up against its main actress.
Many argue that Crystal Liu does not embody the character she is playing. If you can still remember, Mulan is one of the strongest and bravest Disney princesses. She took up into herself the responsibility bestowed over men and joined the army disguised as one to fight against the invaders, Huns. Liu’s testimonies against the Hong Kong protesters go against Mulan’s value system. In times when Hong Kong is in the midst of being invaded by mainland China, it is the responsibility of the Mulans of today’s world to fight back against oppression. Instead, Liu sided on the oppression.
The issue does not end with her pronouncement against the Hong Kong protesters. Netizens also began digging up the previous pronouncement from Liu, where she acknowledged the existence of China’s nine-dash line. A geopolitical issue that has been arbitrated between China and the Philippines in favor of the latter.
Amidst all the political backlash against Liu and the Mulan remake, it can still be expected that the film will become a blockbuster success nonetheless. However, the call of the boycott is an important message to Disney and to other production houses. It lets them know that the audience and moviegoers nowadays have more sense of political righteousness and elements like casting a problematic actress to play the role of a hero is never the way to go.