Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"A Girl Worth Fighting For" Analysis

Mulan was released in 1998, introducing the last of the eight princesses and culminating our progression of princesses through time. After China is invaded by the Huns, the country enacts the conscription of one male from each household to join the army. In order to save her ailing father from going to battle, Mulan dresses up as a man to fight in his place. After struggling with the conventions of hegemonic masculinity, Mulan finally succeeds in a traditionally male-dominated sector. However, her success does not keep her from eventually conforming to traditional gender roles, as she eventually gets married. The song “A Girl Worth Fighting For” especially displays the conflicting messages regarding masculinity and femininity in Mulan.

Traditional masculinity is portrayed through the affirmation of strength and the negation of non-hegemonic masculinity in “Girl Worth Fighting For.” The song emphasizes strength as a necessary characteristic of hegemonic masculinity. Strength defines masculinity as exemplified in the following lyrics: “My girl will marvel at my strength, adore my battle scars.” The song presents only one hegemonic male, the captain, who looks down upon the other men because they do not fit the hegemonic definition of masculinity: one is short and chubby, one is ridiculously oversized, one is skinny and uncoordinated, one is a woman disguised as a man—Mulan. Through these characters’ inadequate portrayal of accepted masculinity, they show what hegemonic masculinity is.

Similarly, the song portrays traditional femininity through the depiction of what an ideal wife should be. It promotes domesticity, physical appearance, and masculine adoration while rejecting female intellect. For example, one soldier states: “It all depends on what she cooks like…beef, pork, chicken…mmmm:” His focus on the domesticity of women emphasizes women’s place in the private sphere. Another soldier emphasizes the physical appearance of women, suggesting that a woman’s outward appearance is more important than her intellect: “I want her paler than the moon, with eyes that shine like stars.” Yet another states: “I'll bet the ladies love a man in armor.” Women are portrayed as passive supporters of the men in war, rather than active participants in society. Their only role is to adore the supposed hyper-masculinity of the soldiers. Then when Mulan suggests that a “girl worth fighting for” is one with a brain, the men emphatically reject this notion. Thus, although Mulan suggests that women should be appreciated for their intellectual abilities, the men argue that domesticity, physical appearance, and masculine adoration outweigh common sense and independence.