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To say that Mulan’s visit with the matchmaker went badly would be an understatement: it was an unmitigated disaster. And what’s more, the matchmaker pronounced these words of doom: “You may look like a bride, but you will NEVER bring your family honor!” In other words, Mulan has been deemed incapable of making a good marriage, and considering she’s the only child of her family, that’s nothing short of catastrophic. Upset because she’s let everyone down, Mulan heads home to think about where her place in life really is. This is the song “Reflection” and it touches close to my heart because I’ve been where Mulan is at times.
In “Reflection” Mulan expresses how she is suffering from an identity crisis. Her whole life she’s been prepared to be the “perfect bride”, and now that she’s failed, where does she go from here? She can’t really be herself, because that upsets her family. In her guise as a perfect young lady, Mulan doesn’t even recognize herself:
Look at me, I will never pass for a perfect bride, or a perfect daughter.
Can it be, I’m not meant to play this part?
Now I see, that if I were truly to be myself, I would break my family’s heart…
I think this song speaks to everyone, male or female, that is struggling to discover who they really are, not what society dictates they should be. I find the chorus to be very powerful.
Who is that girl I see? Staring straight, back at me? Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?
Somehow I cannot hide, who I am, though I’ve tried,
When will my reflection show, who I am inside?
And this image of Mulan with half the makeup on is really striking: this is the visual evidence that she is caught between two worlds: a world where she can be herself, and the traditional world where everyone wants her to live.
I also really like the conversation Mulan has with her father under the cherry tree. He doesn’t yell or rant, he doesn’t even act angry. Instead he talks about how beautiful the cherry blossoms are this year. One blossom, however, hasn’t bloomed with the others. But when it does bloom, it will be the most beautiful blossom of all. This is a beautiful analogy: as her father sees it, Mulan is simply a late-bloomer, and someday he’s sure she’ll make him very proud (despite what the matchmaker said).
One last note: people keep trying to tell me that this is Christina Aguilera singing in this scene and it is NOT. Christina Aguilera sings the pop version of “Reflection” while Lea Salonga sings in the movie version. What do you think of “Reflection?” Leave a comment below and tell me what you think 🙂 Next time, we’ll take a break and look at an orchestral selection with “Mulan’s Decision.”
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