There's a lot of talk surrounding the phenomenon of Donald Trump during this election cycle. I disagree with everything he says and stands for, but I think we focus too much on him as the disease itself needing to be treated rather than the symptom of something larger, something more pernicious. Donald Trump has not changed nor will he change. He is who he is. He was one of at least a dozen other candidates who ran for the Republican nomination, and he won the nomination because he accrued the largest number of votes. Again, until his lacking first debate performance, Donald Trump was in striking distance to Hilary Clinton because a sizable portion of the country supported him.
Why do so many in our country think in a way that aligns with Donald Trump's values and vision? It's possible to blame Fox News, but there are many other outlets that stream and portray a subjective reality to millions of American homes on a continuous daily basis -- like Hollywood.
Today, I ran across this anonymous leak that the newest Disney Live Action Mulan movie would star a white male lead while subjugating the original Mulan character to a secondary role needing to be saved and completely erasing the original Chinese Captain Shang character.
To be clear, Mulan is factually based off a millennia-year old Chinese legend, one in which Chinese people live perfectly fine without white interference.
Now let's take a look at the implications of this altered storyline.
a) A narrative is not a narrative unless it has a white male lead;
b) Asian women can't be the hero, need to be saved, and need to be saved by a white man;
c) Asian men just don't exist in narratives.
d) Facts and history don't matter -- certain white folks are allowed to rewrite stories to boost their own ego and make themselves feel better.
Now let's look at the current American political and cultural world.
We have a substantial block of the population that
a) Does not believe in #blacklivesmatter
b) Supports a candidate who calls Mexicans rapists, Muslims terrorists, and black communities "living hell."
c) Supports a candidate who promotes misogyny and talks about the sexual assault of women.
d) Uses openly sexist double-standard claims to delegitimize the most qualified presidential candidate in American history.
Hollywood makes the argument that white people can't relate to the stories of others. Hollywood is selling the American people short. This false belief is precisely why we have the massive chasm of real life empathy for minority lives and stories in this country. That's why we ultimately now have Donald Trump.
Now let's go back to the present and current Mulan situation. What is Hollywood doing to the Mulan narrative? Disparaging an entire ethnic group and belittling the role of women.
We are fundamentally a product of our environments and what we expose ourselves to.
Too long ago, I stopped watching TV and mainstream movies because I was sick and tired of only seeing one type of narrative, and I turned to literature instead because it provided me the humanizing caricatures of a diverse set of human experiences that Hollywood has so consistently failed to portray.
I believe in this democracy that is America, and that our candidates and our political representatives are ultimately a reflection of our values and our beliefs. But we are not born with our beliefs. Some of us discover our beliefs through deep introspection and a wide immersion into literature, philosophy, and religion. Many more of us just adopt the beliefs we are fed, the beliefs we see others hold.
How do we prevent another Donald Trump from ever manifesting himself in American politics? We must open ourselves to the lives of others, to those who are different from us, we must respect and empathize.
I refuse to accept a portrayal of China and the Chinese, a people I am proud to be a part of, in the negative light depicted by Hollywood. I spent too much of my childhood visiting China and reading Chinese American literature reversing the psychologically damaging stereotypes I saw and faced growing up as a Chinese American. I don't want any other child to feel this way. I want them to feel hope and optimism instead. We have a responsibility to our children to make Mulan right.