Friday, September 25, 2020

UIS Professor Lan Dong in the spotlight again as Disney's newest Mulan takes center stage

Ten years after her book about Mulan was published, UIS English Professor Lan Dong, Ph.D. is still sought out for her expertise on the subject. With Disney’s live-action film, Mulan, released to Disney Plus earlier this month, Dong again found herself in the national spotlight.

She said the inquiries began in earnest when the Mulan trailers were released in 2019.

“I was interviewed by a reporter for The New York Times in February,” Dong said. “They asked questions about Mulan’s story, her trajectory moving from a Chinese heroine to a well-known name among English speakers; and of her global capacity because of the 1998 Disney animation.”

Dong went on to write an essay for History Extra, the website for BBC History Magazine, was featured in the Wall Street Journal, Vox Media, and Radio Free Asia, sat on a Kissinger Institute Panel, and conducted a radio interview with the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC.)

“In February and March, I had to remind the reporters for NYT and WSJ they had attended the premier of the movie and I hadn’t,” Dong smiled. “I could not comment on the movie itself.”

Though she was almost a Disney insider.

Disney invited Dong to sit on a panel of Chinese cultural experts in 2017 as production for the film was taking shape. Other commitments kept her from being able to join at that time.

She says she is intrigued by Disney’s choice to bypass the standard theatrical release and pave a new route by offering the film on Premier Access through its streaming platform Disney Plus.

The movie’s release came with controversy as film credits included gratitude for filming in the Xinjiang Province, which has been in the news for its alleged human rights abuses against the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities. The film’s lead actress, Liu Yifei also came under fire for her support for Hong Kong Police who are cracking down on pro-democracy demonstrators. Dong said she is not surprised the film is mired in controversy.

“The U.S.-China relationship is full of tension right now. It is in a very precarious place,” Dong said.

Going back to her book, Mulan’s Legend and Legacy in China and the United States, Dong says it was published by an academic press, and has inspired additional scholarly work, but it was also written for general readers.

“I wanted the book to go beyond experts in my field,” she said. “I always wanted it to be more than that. It is meant for readers who have an interest in strong women and in Asian American culture. I’m glad to see it is still relevant. I still love her story.”

And she plans to watch it on Disney Plus soon.

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