After an initial delayed release date, the March 27 theatrical release of Disney's live-action Mulan is nearly here. As expected of a live-action remake, there have been some changes from the original, and one casting choice — the decision to remove Li Shang from the film — caused significant concern among fans. Now, a producer on the film has addressed the decision, and they're attributing the removal of the central character from the animated film to the #MeToo movement.
According to Hoai-Tran Bui, a journalist with SlashFilm who visited the set of the live-action film, Mulan producer Jason Reed acknowledged those involved with the film had a concern regarding the relationship between Mulan and Li Shang, Mulan's love interest who's also her commander. Thus, the character was removed.
"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," he reportedly told Bui. "And we thought that 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. So we split Li Shang into two characters. One became Commander Tung (Donnie Yen) who serves as her surrogate father and mentor in the course movie. The other is Honghui, who is her equal in the squad."
As Teen Vogue previously explained, the #MeToo Movement was started nearly two years ago by Tarana Burke. The movement later went viral, with Alyssa Milano encouraging women who had experienced unwanted sexual misconduct to share their stories using Burke's hashtag of #MeToo. The movement is largely credited with encouraging a number of those affected to come forward, including people who experienced misconduct at the hands of Harvey Weinstein and major politicians.
Prior to Reed's justification for the removal of Li Shang, many fans had expressed disappointment with the news, as many believed Li Shang was a member of the LGBTQ+ community, pointing out that he initially developed a bond with Mulan's male alter ego Ping. He later fell in love with Mulan as a woman. Reed acknowledged that Li Shang had become a "LGBTQ icon" and he was initially taken aback by criticism of the character's removal. "There a little backlash online when we weren’t casting a character named Li Shang. I was actually a little surprised but it made sense without full understanding of what we were doing in the story," he said.
However, not all fans are sold on the movie owing the character's removal to #MeToo. "There wasn’t anything sexual or romantic between them until the very end where MULAN asked HIM to stay for dinner," one person tweeted. "Second of all, the #MeToo movement recognizes consent as being the most important; not once does Shang force himself on her. Have they seen Mulan?!" Another fan also agreed, noting that the character's actions are seemingly in support of the behavior that #MeToo represents. "Li Shang HELPS the Me Too movement. He starts off sexist to show Mulan's struggles, but then he changes and becomes the girl's romantic partner," they tweeted.
Some fans even attributed the decision to Li Shang's possible bisexuality, tweeting, "Reminder they're only doing this to remove the LGBT subtext from the original. Don't waste your money" and "Trivializing metoo as a smokescreen bc they just wanna no homo the fact that Shang had a crush on mulan when he was male presenting. This is so gross."
Ultimately, fans will have to wait and see how the film handles the removal of Li Shang when it hits theaters next month.
Teen Vogue has reached out to Disney for comment.
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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue