Daily Egyptian

Lecture express the importance of heroes

By Jacob Pierce, @JacobPierce1_DE

Mulan, Martin Luther King Jr. and Star Wars will all come together in a lecture about the importance of heroes called “The Chinese Heroine Mulan,” a lecture presented by Melinda Yeomans, of the Women’s Resource Center, who are co-hosting the event.

The lecture, which is at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Missouri Room in the Student Center, springs from the course she teaches titled “Leadership through the lens of the hero and heroine’s journey.”

Mulan is based on a ballad written between the years 286 and 584. It discusses a woman who goes to war in place of her father, fighting for both her family and her land.

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The story spawned an animated Disney film, named from the title character various novels and a future live-action film.

Yeomans said the heroes in her class could be fictional or historical. In the presentation, figures such as Joan of Arc and Rosa Parks will be discussed along with Luke Skywalker and Mulan.

“We celebrate these heroes and heroines of all cultures because they exemplify the characters that we admire and help bring out the potential in our own character,” she said.

Mulan represents a key archetype, as she serves as the warrior princess who is compassionate, but willing to stand up for her country.

Women are sent mixed messages through the media, because for so long, Disney’s princess tales show an objectified version of many female stories. Cinderella and other 1950s adaptations have women forming identities from marriage, she said.

“It is not OK to tell young girls that your value comes from the man you marry,” Yeomans said.

The Asian stereotype of a woman is someone reserved, an individual who keeps to themselves and does what is expected of them. Mulan sheds the role and transcends what many think of an Asian woman, Yeoman said.

Society has a need for the Mulan archetype, she said, because a majority of the protagonists in the modern media are white and male. The culture has been whitewashed and the stereotypes need to be questioned, Yeomans said. 

Fang-Yu Li, a lecturer in the department of languages, cultures and international trades from Taiwan, said it needs to be remembered that Mulan may be just a character, and not a real person, because there is no physical proof of her existence.

The author of the ballad was anonymous. No one knows whether Mulan was an actual person or someone made up for an epic poem. There are some debates of whether the tale is even fully Chinese, Li said.

She said the hero serves as someone who can battle society, even today. Mulan counters many ideals of both Western and Eastern culture.  

“It is a character that is a symbol for a female or Asian raised to counter the patriarchal system,” Li said.

At the same time, the character does not break all boundaries, Li said. The original poem still shows a heroine making decisions according to what society says.

Mulan fights for her family and she fights for her country, but she only does it because her country says its right. The leaders say it is what to do, so she does it.  

“Her clashing gender roles is for a patriarchal system,” Li said.

Nathan Stephens, the director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence who is co-hosting the event, said the lecture is being held during Asian American Heritage Month, one of the several specialty months held by the center celebrating diversity.

The months are a way to let people with different heritages know SIU recognizes them, Stephens said. 

He said events like these also educate those who are unfamiliar with the various cultures around campus.

Jacob Pierce can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311. 

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