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Samantha Nason
Professor Dan Lintin
Communication Studies 283
25 April 2012
Analysis of Mulan

Disney is well known for creating movies that contain subliminal messages

and the movie Mulan is no exception. Set in China during the Han dynasty, Mulan
tells the story of a young Chinese teenager who is trying to bring honor to her
family. When she fails at becoming the perfect woman to be a wife, she finds
opportunity to bring honor to her family by fighting against the Hun invasion. Mulan
has to impersonate a man to be a soldier and through the process, she becomes a
hero to her country. The following paper will discuss Ciceros three functions of
oratory and then analyze how they are used in Mulan.

The famous Marcus Tullius Cicero is well known for many works; the one

that will be focused on in this paper is Ciceros three functions of oratory. These
functions include docere (to teach), delectare (to delight), and movere (to
persuade). Docere, or to teach, focuses on what the audience learned from the act.
This concentrates on facts and knowledge presented in the act that the audience
could gain from listening, or watching the act. To delight is referring to how the act
keeps the audiences attention. This looks into the information presented in the act
to keep the attention and involvement of the audience. Lastly, to persuade looks at
which rhetorical aspects are present in the act that would make the audience think
or take on a certain point of view. This can involve both intentional and

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unintentional persuasion. As stated in The History and Theory of Rhetoric, Cicero
believed that one must maintain the audiences attention by employing a vigorous
style that might when necessary sacrifice restraint to persuasive impact. Rhetorics
arguments, ornaments, and appeals must all be accessible and acceptable to the
ordinary audience member (108). In simple terms, Cicero is trying to say that one
must adapt to the audience in order to appeal to the audience.
An example of the three functions of oratory can be found in many speeches,
most commonly Martin Luther King Jr.s I Have a Dream speech. Overall, King
teaches the larger audience about segregation and what they can do about it. King
delights his audience by reiterating the line I have a dream and the speech
persuades the audience to do something about segregation. The three functions of
oratory can be found in many acts such as speeches, songs, commercials, and even
Disney movies.

As previously stated, the three functions of oratory can be found in many

acts, especially Disney movies. Mulan is a great example because it is persuasive, it


keeps the audiences attention, and it can teach the audience many things. One of the
key topics that the audience can gain knowledge about while watching Mulan is the
tradition of the Chinese people. Mulan shows the audience the process women have
to go through to bring honor to their family and to be acceptable to marry a man.
The audience can get a full understanding of this in the montage that goes along
with the song Honor To Us All. This montage shows that women are perceived as
pretty and become acceptable only by looking perfect. Along with the expectation
of the women, men also have a tradition they must follow by being tough and

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fighting for the honor of their family and country. Listening to the lyrics of Ill Make
a Man Out of You makes this expectation apparent within its lyrics. The overall
moral of the movie is that good overcomes evil. This becomes apparent in the scene
where Mulan and her cohorts beat the Hun invasion.
The moral that good overcomes evil can also delight the audience, which is
the second function of oratory discussed. The fact that good overcomes evil leaves
the audience with a good feeling and a positive look at the movie. The animation,
songs, and color help delight the children and make it more interesting for them to
watch. Throughout the movie, one can see many bright colors and fun animated
characters that sing songs that appeal to the younger audience. To appeal to adults,
Mulan focuses on making the audience laugh with characters like Mushu, the horse,
cri-kee, and the recruits that Mulan is grouped with. These characters create
different levels of humor to appeal to all audiences. The movie also has storyline
that is easy to follow and contains love, action, and as previously mentioned, humor.
For teens, this movie made it easy to connect with the character of Mulan because
she is a teenage girl who wants her familys acceptance. Teenage girls can relate to
the song Reflection where Mulan is searching for who she really is.
By delighting the audiences, Disney made it easier to persuade them. For
example, by delighting the audience with cute characters and a Chinese princess,
Disney was able to create products that would appeal to children, such as stuffed
replicas of characters, and dolls that looked like Mulan. The movie also
unintentionally persuades the audience to pick a side during conflicts such as the
Mulan vs. Li Shang, Mulan vs. her fellow recruits, Mulans team vs. Shang Yu, and

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many others. By creating a villain that is ugly and unpleasant, Disney persuades the
audience to pick the side of Mulan, the strong and powerful woman. In addition, by
getting the audience to connect with Mulan, they persuade the audience to pick
Mulans side.

Overall, the creators of Disney followed the three functions of oratory when

making Mulan an appealing movie. By teaching the audience about Chinese culture,
delighting the audience with a good storyline, and persuading the audience both
intentionally and unintentionally, Disney was able to create a touching storyline.
This helped make Mulan a successful and enjoyable movie, which assisted in the
$304 million it grossed.

Works Cited
Herrick, James A. "Chapter 5: Rhetoric at Rome." The History and Theory of Rhetoric:
An Introduction. 4th ed. Boston: Pearson Education, 2009. 109. Print.
Mulan. Dir. Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook. Perf. Ming-Na, Eddie Murphy, BD Wong.
Walt Disney Pictures, 1998. DVD.

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