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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Heroines Revisited
by Betty Jo Tucker

Independent. Brave. Strong-willed. Beautiful. Not without faults. No, I’m not referring to Lara Croft and/or Charlie’s Angels. But after seeing films about those intrepid female characters, I started reminiscing about two of my favorite movie heroines, Scarlett O’Hara and Mulan. Scarlett, as played by Oscar-winner Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind, lit up the screen with her luminous features and explosive temperament; and Mulan, a young Chinese woman who lived 2,000 years ago, shared Scarlett’s independent nature and courage – at least as depicted in Disney’s fascinating and artistically animated movie of the same name.

Both Scarlett and Mulan had faults that got them into trouble. Maybe that’s why they are so interesting to me. While Scarlett’s vanity and selfishness cause the loss of the man she loves, Mulan’s stubborn behavior leads her into a charade that almost costs her life. Both women try to fool others about their true selves. Scarlett disguises her poverty after the U.S. Civil War by wearing a gown made fom old draperies. Mulan poses as a man by dressing in her ailing father’s military uniform.

Like Scarlett, Mulan survives a perod of devastating warfare. She plays a more active part in the war by serving as a soldier. According to legend, she saved China from the invading Huns. This nontraditional warrior finally finds happiness by going home, just as Scarlett does by returning to her beloved plantation, Tara.

Despite their similarities, the differences between these two heroines are quite dramatic. Scarlett would deplore Mulan’s lack of concern over her appearance. With that tiny waist and jet black hair, Mulan should have just as many suitors as Scarlett, yet she is so clumsy even the village matchmaker gives up on her. While Scarlett uses her wiles to manipulate men, Mulan relies on her intelligence to carry out fiery battle strategies.  

The American Film Institute ranked Gone with the Wind as one of the five greatest American movies made through 1996 (along with Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Godfather, and Lawrence of Arabia). Although Mulan lacks that kind of critical distinction, it represents the joy of cinematic storytelling at its dazzling best. Still, like the two women they celebrate, neither film is without its faults. Gone with the Wind includes scenes of overblown sentimentality, and Mulan flirts with bad taste in its humorous treatment of ancestor worship. Nevertheless, these G-rated movies, made almost 60 years apart, give viewers two unforgettable heroines to treasure. Both movies are  worth seeing more than once.   

Thanks to Walt Disney Home Entertainment, a new Mulan 2-Disc Special Edition DVD is now available, and it’s packed with exclusive bonus materials such as a narration of the Mulan legend, deleted scenes, alternate openings, early presentation reels, trivia facts, production demonstrations, storyboard-to-film comparisons, fun games and delightful music videos. Among the latter are Christine Aguilera and Jacke Chan in pure entertainment mode while singing “Reflection” and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” respectively. Also included is “Keep ‘Em Guessing,” an amusing song that didn’t make it to the original film. Enjoy!

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