- Last year, Disney’s live-action film “Mulan” faced boycott calls after its lead actress, Lui Yifei, made comments supporting police who were violently cracking down on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
- Those calls were reignited ahead of the film’s September 4 release date because of activists in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand in a movement dubbed the Milk Tea Alliance.
- Thai activists are showing solidarity with Hong Kong and Taiwan as they fight their own freedom of speech movement against the nation’s strict lèse-majesté laws.
- Despite the controversy, it’s unclear just how much it will affect the film as accurate numbers are hard to obtain due to Disney’s distribution method.
The Milk Tea Alliance
Amid uncertain reviews and hidden streaming and VOD revenue numbers, Disney’s live-action reboot of “Mulan” faces on-going criticism by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and now Thailand.
The calls to boycott the film ahead of its release on September 4 started last year when lead actress Liu Yifei voiced her support for police in Hong Kong. At the time, police in the city were accused of excessive force when dealing with pro-Hong Kong and democracy protesters; sentiments that haven’t calmed down in the intervening year.
Liu isn’t the only star from the film to face criticism over her comments. Donnie Yen, known for his martial-arts movies, also received backlash after posting in July, “[Today is] the celebration day for [Hong Kong] returning to motherland China 23-years-ago.”
The latest rounds of boycotts started to regain traction last month when Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow was arrested, leading supporters to call her the “real Mulan.”
However, if you go to Twitter, anti-Mulan activism is centered around the #milkteaalliance, a reference to the different varieties of popular milk tea in each area. For many, it’s understood why Hong Kong and Taiwan would want to boycott a film starring an actress with pro-mainland China sentiments, considering the two polities’ long-standing controversies and conflicts with the mainland.
Thailand seems like an outlier, but the nation recently had its own revival of pro-democracy and freedom-of-speech movements against its severe lèse-majesté laws that prohibit any negative speech about the monarchy or royal family.
Chayen Solidarity for Bubble and Silk
For supportors of the boycott, participation is a sign of solidarity. As Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal wrote on twitter, “I invite everyone to #BoycottMulan #BanMulan to let Disney and the Chinese government know that the state’s violence against people is unacceptable.”
Despite the social media presence, activists in Thailand have a big hill to climb. The institution of the monarchy there is extremely popular and highly revered by most Thai people, yet activists are buoyed by King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s waning personal popularity.
Before becoming king, he was seen as a party-goer and spent lavish trips abroad, often to the embarrassment of the royal family. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, King Maha Vajiralongkorn has been out of the public eye, which to many has seemed callous.
His latest actions are what has sparked calls for the ability to even criticize the king when he reinstated his Royal Consort (the first in 100 years) after she was deposed over accusations of conspiring against the queen.
Box Office Smash or Bust?
Even with the support of the so-called Milk Tea Alliance, it’s unclear if “Mulan” will actually see a reduction on expected revenue. That’s partly because Disney is largely releasing the film on its Disney+ streaming platform. Doing so makes its extremely difficult to figure out how much money a film actually made at the box office since Disney gets to control the revenue information. For Hollywood, this could signify a major shift in how a film’s release is evaluated.
However, beyond distribution, it’s unclear just how much effect the Milk Tea Alliance will actually have on “Mulan,” considering the film is bound to draw in large numbers from China. Additionally, despite the views of the film’s stars, many support the project for casting actors less-known to Western audiences. Jon Chu, director of “Crazy Rich Asians,” praised the film Thursday by writing, “I am so excited to see all the Asian excellence on display TODAY. What a win for the @Disney fairytale!!!”
Despite one movement on Twitter disparaging the film, Disney seems to have partnered up with the platform. When a user “likes” any post that features the “Mulan” hashtag, falling petals and the logo for the movie quickly appear and disappear, driving conversations that can push the film in front of potential viewers.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Guardian) (Fortune)
Jodie Sweetin Releases Statement After Getting Pushed By Officers at Pro-Choice Protest: “This Will Not Deter Us”
“Love everyone out there in the streets fighting for what’s right,” she wrote on Instagram.
Actress Pushed at Protest
After viral footage showed Jodie Sweetin getting pushed to the ground by officers with the Los Angeles Police Department while attending a pro-choice protest, the “Full House” actress said demonstraters “will continue fighting” for their rights.
Sweetin was attending a protest off the 101 freeway on Saturday following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Photojournalist Mike Ade, who captured the video, said the actress was “trying to lead a group of peaceful protestors away from the freeway” when officers pushed her. Sweetin was standing on a curb when she was pushed and fell down on the cement road. Ade wrote that she was “fortunately…okay.”
Ade shared a handful of other videos depicting officers using similar tactics on other protesters. As these videos started circulating online, many became outraged by the LAPD’s response to the protests.
Sweetin Addresses Incident
Following the incident, Sweetin released a statement where she said the fight against the court’s decision is not over.
“I’m extremely proud of the hundreds of people who showed up yesterday to exercise their First Amendment rights and take immediate action to peacefully protest the giant injustices that have been delivered from our Supreme Court,” Sweetin said. “Our activism will continue until our voices are heard and action is taken. This will not deter us, we will continue fighting for our rights. We are not free until ALL of us are free.”
Sweetin also shared footage of the incident and other clips of officers clashing with protesters on her Instagram story. She cheered protesters in a comment on a video of the push shared by a social justice group called The Progressivists.
“Love everyone out there in the streets fighting for what’s right,” she wrote.
According to a statement obtained by Deadline, the LAPD is looking into the matter.
“The LAPD is aware of a video clip of a woman being pushed to the ground by officers not allowing the group to enter on foot and overtake the 101 freeway,” the statement said. “The force used will be evaluated against the LAPD’s policy and procedure.”
See what others are saying: (Deadline) (Rolling Stone) (The Hollywood Reporter)
Dave Chappelle Decides Against Having Former High School’s Theater Named After Him
“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,” the comedian reportedly said.
Theater Named Announced
Comedian Dave Chappelle opted on Monday to not have the theater at his alma mater high school named after him, according to a report from The Washington Post.
The Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. previously planned to name its theater in honor of Chappelle, as he is a distinct alum and donor. While Chappelle formerly said such a gesture would be “the most significant honor of [his] life,” he announced during Monday’s naming ceremony that it would bear a different title.
The school’s theater will instead be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
A naming ceremony was initially set to take place in November, but was postponed after the comedian began facing backlash for transphobic jokes in his Netflix special “The Closer.”
Among other things, he said he was “Team TERF,” which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. He also made a joke about Caitlyn Jenner and remarks comparing the genitalia of transgender women to Beyond and Impossible meat.
The jokes embroiled Chappelle in controversy, and reports claimed that some students at Duke Ellington took issue with the comments. When Chappelle ended up visiting the school amid the scandal, Politico reported that one student told the comedian, “I’m 16 and I think you’re childish, you handled it like a child.”
Chappelle Defends Controversial Special
According to The Post, Chappelle said the criticism against him “sincerely” hurt, but added that “the Ellington Family is my family.” He claimed he did not want the theater being named after him to distract students.
“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,” he said according to Josh Rogin, a columnist for the outlet.
Rogin also tweeted that Chappelle took time out of the ceremony to slam the criticisms levied against him, accusing upset students of promoting someone else’s agenda.
“These kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression,” he reportedly said.
“You cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance,” Chappelle continued while denouncing the press coverage of his Netflix special.
According to David Frum, a staff writer for The Atlantic who attended the ceremony, Chappelle suggested he was open to potentially adding his name to the theater at a later date when the community is ready.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Variety) (The Atlantic)
Chris Evans Says People Upset With Same-Gender “Lightyear” Kiss Are “Idiots”
The kiss was previously removed from the film until a surge of backlash from Pixar employees prompted Disney to reinstate it.
Chris Evans Supports “Lightyear” Scene
“Lightyear” star Chris Evans is standing against people who have criticized the same-gender kiss scene in the upcoming Pixar film.
“The real truth is those people are idiots,” the actor told Reuters this week when discussing negative reactions to the scene’s inclusion.
“The American story, the human story is one of constant social awakening and growth and that’s what makes us good,” he continued.
Countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, and more have banned the release of “Lightyear” over the kiss, which is between two women. Right-wing pundits in the U.S. have also slammed it, and user reviews for the picture on websites like IMDB have claimed that movie-going has “become an avenue for political propaganda.”
Evans argued those opinions are outdated.
“There’s always going to be people who are afraid and unaware and trying to hold on to what was before. But those people die off like dinosaurs,” he said. “I think the goal is to pay them no mind, march forward and embrace the growth that makes us human.”
“Lightyear” hits theaters on Friday starring Evans as the titular Buzz Lightyear. Evans, however, is not playing the action figure made famous in the “Toy Story” movies and is instead playing an animated human astronaut who inspired the toy.
Kiss Scene Almost Never Made it to Big Screen
According to outlets that have reviewed the film, the same-gender kiss is between Alisha Hawthorne, a character voiced by Uzo Aduba, and her wife.
Multiple reports have stated that Disney was always supportive of depicting a gay couple in the picture, but was more hesitant about showing an on-screen kiss between the two. The studio previously had the scene removed from the film until a swell of backlash prompted it to reinstate the kiss.
The decision came in March amid criticisms over Disney’s slow response to Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill. At the time, a group of Pixar employees wrote an open letter claiming that they have pushed for more inclusion in their films, but “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest.”
Now that the scene made the final cut of “Lightyear,” it has been a large topic of conversation leading up to the film’s release. On Monday, Evans told Variety that the inclusion of the scene makes him “happy,” but he hopes one day, scenes like this will be considered standard.
“It’s tough to not be a little frustrated that it even has to be a topic of discussion,” he said. “That it is this kind of ‘news.’ The goal is that we can get to a point where it is the norm, and that this doesn’t have to be some uncharted waters, that eventually this is just the way it is.”