The Burning Question: Is Mulan a Princess?

Mulan is a wonderful animated feature that was released by Disney in 1998. Showcasing a young woman who broke tradition by disguising herself as a male soldier and saved all of China in the process, it is, in my opinion, one of the most empowering films for girls on the market. Yet, with my reputation as a self-proclaimed princess expert, there is one burning question that people are always asking me: "Is Mulan a princess?" She was not born to a king or queen, nor did she marry a prince, so why is her visage so often plastered alongside the other royal heroines? The short answer is that she's not a princess, but she is a Disney Princess. Why aren't the two mutually exclusive? The answer to that is a bit more complicated.

When the Disney Princess line was launched in 2001, it initially focused on the main six--Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine. However, since Jasmine was the only heroine of color in the line, it expanded shortly thereafter to include Pocahontas and Mulan as honorary or secondary princesses. Pocahontas fit the mold in some ways because she was the daughter of the Powhatan tribe, which made her Indian royalty. Yet, the lack of a sparkly ballgown made it difficult for them to feature her in group shots with the more traditional European princesses. Her story was also loosely based on history instead of a fairy tale, whereas Mulan's story came from an ancient Chinese poem. Unlike Pocahontas, Mulan also had some nice dresses to showcase. Thus, she was given a sparkly princess image to blend in with the others while making the line more diverse at the same time.

Now, if you're thinking "Wait a minute! That barely even looks like Mulan! She hated wearing fancy dresses!" you would be correct. However, at the time, this was the image that made the most money for the company. Times have since changed. You might also be wondering why they would feature Mulan, who was not actually royalty, whey they could have gone with a character who was, such as Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire or Eilonwy from The Black Cauldron (if you've even heard of that one). The answer is simple. Mulan was a much bigger financial success than either of them, so girls are more likely recognize her, which means bigger profits.

If being a princess in a Disney movie does not always make a character a Disney Princess, then what does? From what I've observed, it boils down to the three Princess Ps: Popularity, Personality, and Power.

Every character who is featured among the Disney Princesses is well-known among the animation community and sells a ton of merchandise. These are characters girls will recognize from a mile away and go crazy over when they see them in the parks. That's why Eilowny would never be caught dead on a Disney Princess product. She needs to take a lesson from Galinda and understand that she is simply not popular enough. Mulan's movie was a financial success, so many people love her, and it would be a shame if she was not prominently featured among Disney's finest.

All of the princesses also share specific personality traits, despite being unique in other ways. They are all kind-hearted, selfless, lovable, stubborn, and curious about the world outside their castle, or cottage, in some cases. Even the meek Snow White showed some of that princess stubbornness when it came to convincing the dwarfs to wash their hands. Mulan is no exception to this rule. She too was selfless when she risked her life to save her father from fighting in the war and put on a "tough" act as a man, when it was clear that was not who she really was inside.

Finally, all of the Disney Princesses hold a place of power in their kingdom or tribe. Even though Mulan was not born into royalty, she was given a position on the emperor's council and had the honor of seeing all of China bow to her. This was the final Princess P that sealed her into the Disney Princess line. Even though she wasn't a literal princess, she still earned some power within the monarchy. The company also attempted to reinforce her princess status by introducing the emperor's three daughters in the mediocre 2004 sequel when she selflessly agreed to marry a prince that none of them wanted to wed.

Believe it or not, there are even more non-royal Disney ladies that have been featured among Disney Princess merchandise than just Mulan. The second volume of the 1998 Disney Princess Collection CD included Megara's "I Won't Say I'm in Love" from the 1997 movie, Hercules as well as "Love," a song by Maid Marion from the 1973 movie, Robin Hood. You would be hard-pressed to find a princess fan who did not enjoy belting out Susan Egan's cynical rendition of "I Won't Say I'm in Love" along with their other favorite tunes. Later, Disney made the odd choice of replacing Ariel with Alice as a Princess of Heart the 2002 Disney-centric video game, Kingdom Hearts.

To conclude, being a Disney Princess does not always require a character to be an actual princess. Even though Mulan was not a princess in her story, her overwhelming popularity among Disney fans, selfless and curious personality, and attainment of power by the end of the movie were more than enough to earn her a place among the best of the best. In this blogger's opinion, that is right where she belongs.


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