Disney’s 1998 animated film Mulan is about a legendary Chinese girl who disguises herself as a boy to keep her elderly father from being conscripted into the Imperial Army. Queer fans have long praised the film for including General Li Shang (pictured at right above), a Chinese Army captain who trains and later develops romantic feelings for Mulan, even when she’s disguised as a boy. As a result of his affections, he’s been read by many as bisexual, though now it appears Disney is cutting the Mulan bisexual character from its upcoming live-action remake (due out in 2020), replacing him with toxic masculinity in the form of a douchebag character named Chen Honghui.
Disney saw us all appreciating Li Shang as an unofficial but obviously bisexual character and they were like, "nope, can't have that, erase the whole character and restart as hetero as possible"
— SAANVI (@Saanvizzy) April 16, 2018
A recently released casting call for the live-action film makes it seem as if Honghui will replace Li Shang as the love interest. Like Mulan, he’ll be a fellow military recruit serving under Commander Tung, whoever that is.
Honghui is described as “strapping, cocky and handsome … determined to be the best soldier in human history. Full of himself, with a mean bullying streak.” He’ll presumably start bullying and sabotaging Mulan during training. But “after learning that his rival is a woman,” the casting call says, “his intense feelings of rivalry turn into something very different, something like love.”
Honghui’s character is said to be in his early 20s, so perhaps we can understand a bit of immaturity, but losing a bi-encoded character has upset some LGBTQ fans, especially on top of news that the live-action film won’t be a musical. Geez … will we at least get that Act III action sequence in which the guys from Mulan’s platoon crossdress to defeat the villain?
Disney has long teased the possibility of gay characters eventually making an appearance in one of its films, but thus far the Disney Channel has done far better about actually showing openly gay characters.