Amid rumors that the live action remake of Mulan is going to replace the handsome hunk Li Shang with a European trader, I would like to take the time to appreciate this Asian warrior that has stolen the hearts of many… including mine!
The movie Mulan is generally underrated, which is a shame because it is a classic produced during some of the golden years of Disney animation. One of the most underrated Disney men is Li Shang. He is nothing short of being a Disney hero, coming close to those in the Marvel Corporation, with his looks, build, character, and charisma.
However, most importantly when you watch Mulan you see a man that has an incredible sense of responsibility, honor, and strength.
Li Shang was born into a military family. His father was the head of the Chinese army, and he appointed Shang as a captain of his own division. Shang has been trained physically and mentally to defend and protect China. He has taken it upon himself to defend and protect those who cannot do so for themselves. That alone makes him one of my favorite Disney men!
The division that was given to him by his father was one of the laziest and weakest groups among the Chinese army. Instead of shying away from the daunting task of leadership over such a group, we see that Shang adopts a no-sense style. He understands the weight of responsibility that has been placed on him and his division, and he does not take it lightly. Even though he may seem sexist with the song, “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, it is clear that he wants to do the best he can, and I have always admired his dedication.
Shortly after he has trained his division, we come across the scene when he finds that his father has been slain in battle. It’s a heart-breaking moment for Shang as he realizes that his lifelong hero is gone. He takes a short amount of time to grieve, but he still recognizes the urgency to press forward and defend China. His honor and strength are key factors that push him through this difficult time. He stays true to his purpose in defending and protecting those that cannot do so for themselves, regardless of the personal pain he experiences.
Some may argue that movie pushes the boundaries of sexism, and that Li Shang is the biggest culprit of them all when it comes to being sexist. However, you have to remember that the society in which he lives in is incredibly sexist. While men can bring honor to their family through brave acts, women are looked down upon, bringing honor to the family only when she is obedient and complacent.
When Shang first finds out that Mulan is a woman, he is taken aback. Because she had broken such an important cultural stereotype, it would have been customary for him to execute her. But we see an internal conflict within him. He is starting to see that men are not inherently better than women. Instead of following protocol, he grants her life. When studying Chinese culture, that is practically unheard of. Protocol is very important in the early Chinese dynasties, and according to their standards, Mulan deserves death for her defiance. Li Shang is the hero that has the courage to break that protocol and stereotype.
When Mulan saves the emperor of China, Shang is also capable of changing his viewpoints on gender stereotypes further. He is one of the first individuals to give praise to Mulan after she saves China with unbeatable bravery. He recognizes that gender is no matter in terms of heroism. What an amazing man!
Li Shang is undoubtedly my favorite. He recognizes Mulan as an independent hero, and he respects her for that. He also makes such an adorable yet awkward attempt at flirting with Mulan when he says, “You…fight good.”
I might be biased, but if I ever met Shang, you can bet your bottom dollar I would ask him to stay for dinner, and I hope he’d stay forever.
Do you feel the same way about Shang? Let us know in the comments below why you love him as much as we do!