why we should boycott the new Mulan (and maybe Disney, too)

Maybe you’ve already heard some of the controversy surrounding this recently-released movie, or maybe you clicked on this post because you saw the title and thought I was crazy. But I’m here to give you some facts so you can make an informed decision about your media consumption.

(As a side note: friends, this year has been heavy. I know you might feel burdened by everything going on, and I’m not here to pile another crisis on your shoulders, but I do believe you should know about this. Take a deep, deep breath. Good? Okay.)

I’d like to start off by acknowledging that there are multiple controversies surrounding the new live-action Mulan (firstly, that this representation of POC was written, directed, and produced by a largely white crew; secondly, that the lead actress Liu Yifei has vocally supported China’s violent suppression of protestors in Hong Kong). But I’m not going into detail about either of these issues. I’m asking you to join me in boycotting this movie because it is highly likely that Disney is complicit in China’s forcible detainment, enslavement, and genocide of Uighur Muslims.

Parts of Mulan were filmed in China’s Xinjiang region, where more than a million Uighur Muslims have been forcibly detained and systematically mistreated. The situation is so severe that the United States is considering designating it as genocide—a formal label that is usually applied long after the actual behavior it describes has begun. Not only were parts of Mulan filmed in this region, but in the credits of the movie, Disney thanks eight government entities in Xinjiang, including one that has been placed on the United States’ blacklist for buying or selling goods due to human rights concerns.

Ignorance is not a believable excuse on Disney’s part. The plight of Uighur Muslims has been highly documented. (I’ve intentionally provided a lot of sources in this post so you don’t have to just take my word for it.) Additionally, recent US legislation has shed light on the issue. This year the Uyghur Human Rights Act became law, and the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is currently being deliberated by lawmakers. The United Nations has also drawn attention to these human rights abuses. This is not a secret issue, and there’s no reason for Disney to turn a blind eye to it.

I love Mulan, and I’m disappointed I can’t pay for the film and view it with a clear conscience. But as an American citizen, I expect American corporations to abide by our standards of due diligence and human rights. And more importantly, as a follower of Jesus I refuse to selfishly consume media that is at best ignorant, and at worst complicit, in the suffering of my Uighur neighbors. And I ask you to join me in this. 

So now that we have this information, what should we do with it?

  1. The obvious first step: don’t purchase Mulan.
    Encourage your friends and families to join you. If you’re attending an institution or are part of an organization that plans to show it, urge them not to. I’ve given you a lot of information & sources so you don’t have to come up with them on your own. And to those of you who’ve already purchased the film—I’m not here to shame you! But I would encourage you to take one (or all) of the actions below now that you’re better informed.
  2. Reconsider your attachments to Disney.
    I know, I know. We love Disney! It’s part of our childhoods. And season two of the Mandalorian is coming out next month… But let’s be real: living ethical lives requires sacrifice—and as far as real-life sacrifices go, this is a pretty wimpy one. So please reconsider that Disney+ subscription. Remove that Disney merch from your online shopping cart. Plan a non-Disney vacation.
  3. Ask your lawmakers to support the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.
    Click here for an easy form that doesn’t take long to fill out. You can personalize the message or just leave it as-is. (If you feel like going above and beyond, you can also call your representatives asking them to support this act!)
    Here’s the ugly truth: until we have more accountability mechanisms in place in our law, it will continue to be possible for companies like Disney to profit off of complicity with China. Which leads me to the next point…
  4. Pay attention to where you’re buying your disposable masks from.
    Okay, I’ll admit it. This one isn’t really related to Disney, but I had to slip it in because it’s relevant. Eighty percent of China’s cotton supplies comes from the Xinjiang region (80%!!). This means that cotton exports from China are highly likely to have been made using forced labor. Try finding masks that aren’t imported from China (and in general, try to avoid any cotton products from China).
  5. Pay it forward.
    This issue is much bigger than Disney’s new Mulan movie, but you don’t need to be an expert to pass information along. Tell your friends. Your family. Your coworkers. Share about it on social media. Get in touch with your representatives. Awareness leads to accountability.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or are looking for more ways to get involved!


Header image from The Hindu: “Hong Kong protesters rally for Uighurs


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