New Things in the New Mulan

Over the weekend I sat down to watch the new live action Mulan on Disney+.

There were two things I liked about the remake. One was referencing qi, and the other was additional character of Xianniang, the shape shifting witch.

What interested me most about the film was how it incorporated qi (ch’i), a principal used in many Asian belief systems that is described as a vital force forming part of any living entity.

As someone who’s interested in spirituality and exploring similarities and differences between belief systems of other cultures, I was excited that a mainstream film used it as part of the story to explain what makes Mulan, Mulan.

However, I think they could have gone deeper into explaining it, or how Mulan connects to it spiritually, instead of just physically with her fighting moves.

It felt like they were too busy trying to make sure they hit all the same plot points as the animated film, rather than exploring this new aspect to Mulan’s character they added in and what it means to her.

As an example of what I’m looking for, in Avatar: the Last Airbender, there’s an episode that shows Aang learning how to connect to the Avatar state by unblocking his chakras. Chakras are another spiritual principal that is used to help someone connect to their energy force. The episode does well in explaining what chakras are and what Aang has to do for each one in order to unblock it.

I understand that a film can’t spend thirty minutes on explaining a whole new belief system, but there could have been a way from them to explain it better, and have us get to know Mulan in a way we’ve never seen before.

The second new thing I liked about the movie was Xianniang. If you remember in the animated film, Shan Yu had a pet falcon that acted like his eyes and ears. In the live-action, Xianniang replaces the falcon as a witch who can shape shift and works along side with Khan.

I love that Xianniang was meant to be Mulan’s dark counterpart. They both have powers that they’ve developed by remaining true to themselves, but have been judged and shunned by others when they use them.

This is why I wished they showed Mulan connecting to her qi in a more spiritual way, so that we can see how it compares and contrasts to Xianniang.

Obviously Xianniang has accepted who she is already, while Mulan is just learning how and what that means. But what choices did she make to get her to where she’s at? And how do those differ to Mulan’s choices?

Again, I felt like the issue was the pressure of hitting those same plot points as the animated film. It didn’t feel like there was room to explore this new character and what qi means to her.

At it’s core, the story of Mulan is about a young woman being true to herself in order to fight for what she believes in. I think adding the concept of qi and the character of Xianniang would have deepened the theme and made the live action more satisfying, if they were given more time to breath.

And I’m going to say it, I don’t think we need Mushu and the songs to fully enjoy the retelling of this story.

What did you think of the new Mulan? Are you looking forward to any more of the live action films? The Little Mermaid is the next one for me!

That’s So Raven’s Home

Growing up, I was a huge fan of the show That’s So Raven. I made sure to catch every new episode that came out on Fridays. Since Disney+ came out, I went back and rewatched the series to revel in my nostalgia for the show.

Not long after that, and after watching Christy Carlson Romano’s YouTube show where she had Anneliese Van Der Pol as a guest (highly recommend, it’s really funny), I decided to watch Raven’s Home, the spin off series to That’s So Raven.

In the series, Raven is all grown up, with twin children, and living with her best friend, Chelsea, and her son. The show mostly focuses on the kids, and how her son, Booker, deals with his own visions.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the show (even though it’s technically for kids) and have some strong opinions about it, naturally.

YA NASTY!! (What I didn’t like):

I’m going to start off with the negatives, just to get them out of the way.

My first disappointment in the show was to learn that Raven DID NOT end up as a famous fashion designer. The show starts her off as working for a mean boss making designer clothes for… dogs. She’s also driving for a Uber/Lyft type company to help make ends meet.

Now we’re supposed to assume (based off the title sequence song) that Raven ended up having kids really young and therefor it got her off track of her fashion design dream.

Part of me appreciated that although Raven had big dreams when she was young, as an adult and through the course of the three seasons I watched, she was trying to figure out how to reach those dreams and took action on those steps. It was part of her story I could relate to at the moment.

However, another part of me wished the show had already gotten to the point where she made it as a famous fashion designer while taking care of her kids. I just felt frustrated to see her struggling to take care of her family while doing something she clearly didn’t like to do.

And Chelsea’s story was also kind of disappointing. She ends up living with Raven because her husband is in prison after stealing her very lucrative idea and all the money she made off of it. Her role seemed to be just navigating house work.

I was hoping that Chelsea pursued a career in environmental activism, which is what her character was very into in That’s So Raven.

Her character is still very much ditsy, but I think she could still have that as her personality, while fighting for clean energy and turning Raven’s household into one that composts.

Raven’s daughter, Nia, turns out to be an inspiriting activist through the course of the show and that would be something she and Chelsea could bond over (which they did in one episode).

So overall, the career trajectories of Raven and Chelsea were not very satisfying in the beginning. But as the show goes on, they eventually get a handle on it and become business women. And while I get this show isn’t really for people my age, I’m still a fan of the That’s So Raven world and invested in their character growth.

OH SNAP! (What I liked):

The number one thing that got me excited about this show was to learn that Devon Carter was Nia and Booker’s dad!! I had a major crush on Devon… and still do, haha.

I don’t mind that he and Raven had gotten a divorce (prior to the show’s narrative) and the show didn’t try to get them back together. It was refreshing to see a healthy divorce relationship on TV and completely realistic, especially with the notion that they married right after high school. It’s natural for people who get married that young to find themselves growing apart and realize that they’re different people when they get older and have more life experience.

But I’m just glad they included him in the story as a present father in his children’s lives.

And yeah, eye candy.

My favorite episode with Devon was the father daughter dance one. It was a call to the prom episode on That’s So Raven. So cute!

That leads me to another thing I liked about Raven’s Home. There were a few episodes that did call backs to That’s So Raven. It was perfect for nostalgia and wasn’t over done.

The BEST one was season one’s finale episode where Liz Anya comes back and raves over a design Raven made. It made me LAUGH OUT LOUD.

“Do you carry a lunch box?”

Oh yeah, the kids were entertaining. The best one is Chelsea’s son, Grayson. He made me laugh the most. He’s a super smart, nerdy and self aware kid.

I also enjoyed Raven’s relationship with her kids and how much of a bond they had.

HOME SKILLET BISCUIT! (What I wish they included):

EDDIE!!

I was missing Eddie so much in Raven’s Home. It’s a little weird to have Raven and Chelsea and no Eddie. He didn’t even have to be part of the main cast, a guest star would have been just fine, like Devon.

I did a little reading as to why that might be and sadly, it doesn’t seem like Orlando Brown and Raven Symone have the greatest relationship following the end of That’s So Raven. Not only that, but Brown has domestic violence allegations against him and overall, doesn’t seem to be in the best place in his life right now. I’m putting aside any hopes that he might appear on the show, but I hope he finds help.

It would also be cool to see what Raven’s brother Cory was up to. Would they go back to him having a crush on Chelsea? Who knows.

GOTTA GO! (In conclusion):

It’s exciting to see reboots of shows that I grew up with, even if they are meant for a kid audience.

Even if you don’t have kids, like me, I recommend the watch. Especially if you grew up watching That’s So Raven. Just, have it be one of those shows you put on in the background while cleaning up your place or working out, whatever.

I just saw that they’re putting out season four episodes of the show, but I think I’ll wait for all of it to be out before catching up.

The next one I’m looking forward to is the Lizzie McGuire spin off!!