“A Girl Worth Fighting For” Soundscape Analysis

This song is hilarious, but apart from the first funny impression, after further listening, it’s actually one of the strongest songs in the film. I enjoy it (of course, I enjoy it- I wouldn’t write about it otherwise). Of course, being a GSU student where were situated in Downtown Atlanta and have to walk everywhere, I can feel the pain when the army is singing about how they’ve been marching into battle for what feels like forever.

Ling is one of my favorite characters, and I find it entirely realistic that as the comic relief figure, he’d be the one to try lightening the exhaustion of his fellow comrades. However, I started thinking a bit further when the men kept singing about “A girl worth fighting for”. It’s a nice concept when you think about it, but upon deeper examination, it seems rather like putting this false image in your mind- a girl worth fighting for? Is that supposed to mean there are girls who aren’t worth fighting for?

Furthermore, they go on to describe the traits they’d like their dream woman to have, and I’m just rebuffed. When I was a kid, I thought their ideals cute, but now, as someone with more life experience, I am positively rebuffed by the concept. Yao (the short one with a black eye) sings of wanting a girl who’d admire his strength and battle scars. Chien-Po wants a woman who can cook and satiate his never-ending appetite. That’s not what relationships are supposed to be about. For both boys and girls, it’s songs like this that gives them wrong ideas about romantic expectations.

It causes me to crease my as-yet unwrinkled brow and stop smiling and bobbing my head. Mulan speaks up (in her Ping disguise), asking about a girl who’s unafraid to speak her mind, and the idea is bashed immediately. They don’t want an educated, clever woman. They want an object who admires them, feeds them and (not stated in the film but rather implied) fucks them.

Despite the fact that Mulan saved the army from ruin, Shang (her love interest), still doesn’t entirely trust her. When the Emperor is taken captive and Mulan is proved right, only then does Shang get his head out of his ass and listen to Ping /Mulan.

Furthermore, Mulan holds lots of parallels to Twelfth Night. It’s 1am and my brain is wandering, but I just think about the endings of the two works and how Orsino refuses to wed Viola until she is in her woman’s weeds, just like Shang doesn’t come back to Mulan till after she takes off the armor and is in a dress! Food for thought- comment and let me know if you agree or do your own Soundscape!

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cammymoreno
    Apr 27, 2015 @ 06:36:56

    Actually, I feel like he changed when he decided to climb up the pillars with the scarf during the fight. He was on her side and liked her then. Granted, she was still in a dress to sneak in. But they were doing military things and that was plot problem, not necessarily clothes-only. He had to take care of military stuff before going back and finding her because he was a general and she was just a soldier. She didn’t have to be a soldier anymore and went back to her normal clothes for her peaceful life. I think he approved of her in both regards. I’d have to watch the sequel to know how they handled her clothes. I think she continued to be in women’s clothes, even though Shang was always in armour. I wonder why. I think that’s more the directors and writers than Shang as a character. They continue to advertise her in her dress, even though she was most remarkable with her armour or the dress she actually fought in the city with. Merida’s quiver was also taken away in marketing pictures, and instead she wears a belt without a quiver. I don’t think she’d bother with a belt or any other accessory without it. I haven’t seen any actual promos with Kida on it, but in the sequel, half her tattoos were taken away and she didn’t carry her own weapon or mask. Rapunzel is the only one drawn with her weapon because a frying pan is comical. That sort of marketing bugs me, but it’s not really a part of the movie. Just the way the company deals with the franchise. There was that whole spiff about ‘sexifying’ Merida in the glittery royal portrayals. And I think that if they want to portray strong women, then they need to show more of what they do that’s considered strong. I see so many gold-attired princesses, and I see NONE of them doing what they do, except Anna, Elsa, and Rapunzel. Show Mulan in armour, in fighting stances. she teaches kids in the Sequel. Show Merida riding her horse and shooting, or rock climbing. It’s what she loves. All I see is them in dresses with their castles and their men, and it’s like, “Ok, you did your part, your done. Now go be a housewife/ruler.” And they put those things in their past (Except for Aurora and Belle who still love dancing and reading.) Actually, I rarely see her with a book in merchandise. She and Aurora usually pose with a Rose. They usually pose statically, not doing anything. If you want to change a stigma, you actually have to change a stigma. Draw them doing things other than dancing and posing. This might have gotten seriously sidetracked. But it’s part of the D. Princess “culture.”

    It does make an argument for “Are there girls NOT worth fighting for?” But it’s also like wanting a bunch of chocolate for when you come home at the end of a long day and KNOWING you have chocolate waiting for you, or a dog who is happy to see you when you get home. There’s certainty and an already established relationship. They wanted an easy relationship. Also, they said they WISH they had a girl worth fighting for, so they are off to war to protect anyone. All of China: men, girls both worth and not worth fighting for. So they’re doing it anyway (it is the law) but they wish they had a puppy they loved greeting them when they got back. Some Greek soldiers fought with their loved ones in wars, thinking it would make them fight harder to protect or impress them. Maybe having a girl they thought was above any other girl would make their outlook better and their fighting better? Is it still shallow? Sure. These are minor characters who spend most of the movie doing comic relief. Shang isn’t so flat, and he is more hesitant to trust someone who lied to get into the army illegally, even to save her father, a known hero. Mulan/Ping caused him trouble during training, killed the Huns, and was left on a mountain. Maybe claiming they were still out there would give her a place to be important again and he didn’t want to indulge that?

    But then the Huns really are alive, and Mulan risked her life again to come back and help because she was that loyal to China. He had no ideas because he’d been trained to work with armies, not a small group. So he followed her lead.
    Sexism being overturned by the end of the movie? The thing I disagree with about only using one song is that the songs are just PART of what the movie is as a whole. I don’t know what song you put on her page for the website, but if it’s Reflection (her song) it’s pessimistic and oppressive of human nature. But I actually thought of “Short Hair” which is more tense, aggressive, and determined. The drums give strength and a loud attitude, expressing desire to be heard or steadfast. This song was comical expressing outdated convention that the movie sought to disprove at the end, offering growth of characters to change their ideas about what good women can look like.

    I like Chien Po’s comment that he doesn’t care for what a girl looks like (which is a big stereotypical issue) but only her ability to cook. I see that as a way to connect. If they both love and appreciate food, they’ll get along. Yao’s best quality is his strength, and don’t we want the ones we love to like the best in us? Yes, these are shallow, but they haven’t fallen in love yet. What about what girls want in their ‘Prince Charming’s? I know I want a man who loves fantasy like me and is hopefully a Tolkienite and weeaboo. But I know it’s something I have to work around. They don’t get much time to say they’ll work around whatever. Also, it would be a good comparison to comment on who they end up with in the sequel. I know Chien Po does get a girl who loves to cook and eat ^^ It’s a sweet couple!
    Actually, I really want to know a guy’s opinion on the lyrics. These seem extremely stereotypical boy talk, so I am skeptical if these are even things that guys say. Ling wants a girl in make up, tall and slim, a looker. Yao wants to be admired, which reflects himself. Chien Po also reflects himself. They think girls are turned on by their manliness (armor) and flatter Mulan/Ping, assuming the ladies loved him without asking. But I really think the song was intended to show that change in what women is expected to do and what she can do.

    Also, they all flatter themselves. Just by existing/being them(soldiers, or manly) they think they won’t have to change or do any work to get a girl. By their status as soldiers, girls will automatically line up at the doors for them when they come home. But I think everyone fantasizes an easy relationship where neither of them have to change. They just fit perfectly and things go smoothly. In reality, when faced with an actual person, you learn to behave with them, and I think that was literally said in the sequel. Mulan’s parents said that to them as they gave them Yin and Yang necklaces.
    Of course a lot of this should be looked up professionally- the actual ballad, the actual time period and its customs.
    A lot of what makes the films successful is that we automatically filter stuff. We ignore what we don’t like, we magnify what we do. We love seeing Mulan navigate through the movie and transform with her skill and confidence and save China. We love the idea it presents: one girl can defy the odds and save her country. Women can don armour and be good with a sword and still love to wear pretty flowy robes. ^_^ and have Sakura trees in her garden. You can be manly and still get your man.

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  2. cammymoreno
    May 01, 2015 @ 20:37:42

    Also, I’m not entirely sure why you’re choosing which songs first, but if this was supposed to be ‘her’ song or encompassing the movie as a whole, it’s an odd choice, despite directly talking about Male gaze and female ideals. When someone mentions a song from Mulan, it’s usually “I’ll make a man out of you.” Anyone, boys and girls, even adults, sing that song with enthusiasm. There’s tumblr posts about it. Also, Mulan’s self-reflecting song is “Reflection” in the way “Just around the Riverbend” is, or “Once upon a dream.” They reflect the desires of their untried hearts before the action starts. I’d say “Short Hair” expresses her determination and decision, even though she hasn’t gotten into the army. I guess the track (if there is one) that plays while she’s rescuing Shang and fighting Xian Yu might embody her spirit more. I’m a film student and a writer, so I can’t just take one song and analyze it without the others. Things have to be a whole for me. 🙂

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