Up until this point, the reason Li Shang was excluded from the upcoming “Mulan” remake has been mysterious as the dark side of the moon. Now, a producer for the new movie is finally revealing why.
In the 1998 animated Disney movie, Li Shang is Mulan’s commanding officer turned love interest. Since the film’s release, he’s also become an LGBTQ figure because he appears to start developing feelings for Mulan when he still thinks she’s actually a male soldier named Ping.
So when it became apparent that the character would be replaced in the remake by two new characters, Commander Tung (Donnie Yen) and soldier Chen Honghui (Yoson An), fans weren’t happy.
Speaking with /Film during a set visit, a producer for the remake, Jason Reed, said he was surprised by the backlash, but added that it made sense with the audience not having a “full understanding of what we were doing in the story.”
He explained that not including the Li Shang character had to do with power dynamics, saying, “I think particularly in the time of the #MeToo movement, having a commanding officer that is also the sexual love interest was very uncomfortable and we didn’t think it was appropriate.”
Reed said Li Shang’s original role was seen as justifying some behavior that the filmmakers would like to see out of the entertainment industry altogether, and the character was split in two.
Acknowledging that the character had become an “LGBTQ icon,” Reed said the relationship between Mulan and her new love interest, fellow soldier Honghui, will “play the same way as it does in the animated [film].”
“There’s no power dynamic between them but there is the same dynamic in the original movie that was with Li Shang which is, ‘Hey, I really respect you and why do I like this dude so much? And what does this say about me?’” Reed said.
In the years since Disney’s “Mulan” came out, time and time again, Li Shang was frequently discussed as a possible LGBTQ character. Recently, HuffPost spoke with Chris Sanders, who served as story supervisor on the original film, and he reflected on Li Shang’s LGBTQ icon status.
“I think that’s great,” Sanders said. “I think it’s really neat to see things that come out of your films either at the time that you make them or later on, things that people see in them. Because usually we’re just struggling so mightily to make our story work. And the key to that, after these things, you look back and think, ‘Oh golly, that was so simple. Why didn’t we just do that in the first place?’”
An, the actor who plays Honghui (the new version of Li Shang), told /Film that he chose a “different angle” for the character.
“There is a multi-dimensional layer to him and the audience will be able to see that when they watch the movie,” he said.