Twelfth Night and Mulan Through the lens of formalist and gender theory

The gender theory lens helps one understand Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and the adaptation Mulan directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook, by demonstrating society and culture's expectations and norms of gender roles on how it impacts the individual's view on what's masculine and what's feminine. Twelfth Night shows that changing clothes has a powerful meaning on one's identity, while Mulan shows that no matter what gender you are you can achieve anything.

Through the formalist theory, there was figurative language of allusion in ACT 1, SCENE 2. For instance, "To a strong mast that lived upon the sea, where, like Arion on the dolphin’s back, I saw him hold acquaintance with the waves so long as I could see" (Shakespeare). The captain assured Viola that her brother might survived the shipwreck because he saw him hold onto the debris of the ship in the stormy sea. In fact, he compared Sebastian to the immortal horse, Arion from Greek mythology because Sebastian holding onto the debris of the ship resembles Arion riding on a dolphin's back.

Through the lens of gender theory, Mulan proves that women can accomplish things just like men. For instance, she undergoes training in the Imperial army training camp. She had difficulties of keeping up with her peers during her training and the general notices her slow progress and decides to send her packing up and leave. But, she refuses to give up because she is determined to fulfill her father's place and become stronger. She practices day and night and finally catches up with her peers. She was also the first to reach the arrow on the tall wooden pole. Her determination and efforts proves that no matter what gender you are you can accomplish anything.

Both heroines impersonated themselves as men, but had different reasons for this. Viola was masking her female identity as a man to survive while Mulan wanted to replace her father from entering the war. What's similar between the protagonists was that they both fall in love with their superiors and the time period was set in ancient times. For instance, Twelfth Night took place in Illyria and Mulan took place during the Northern Wei dynasty. The differences that separates Twelfth Night from Mulan was that Viola is an aristocrat while Mulan doesn't inherit any kind of royalty. Also, in Twelfth Night Viola is married, on the other hand Mulan is not. The lens of gender theory changed throughout the movie, Mulan from the beginning of failing to become a bride to the savior of China. Even though women didn't had much privileges than men, that didn't stop her from joining the Imperial army. She was an inspiration to thousands of girls because she broke the stereotypical terms placed on women. For example, from the 2nd movie, there was a group of young girls who wanted to train and fight like her. She motivated them to follow their passions and dreams instead of following society’s presumptions of gender roles.

In conclusion, the lens of gender theory helps one understand Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and the adaptation Mulan directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook, by demonstrating society and culture's intentions and rules of gender roles on how it affects the person's view on what's masculine and what's feminine. Twelfth Night shows that changing clothes has a powerful meaning on one's identity, while Mulan demonstrates that no matter what gender you are you can accomplish anything.

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