Why Mulan’s Big Solo Makes Me Cry by Nix Pendergast
My freshman year of high school was as sort of big year for me. Not only because I officially made the cross over between pre-teen to full-fledged teenager and was finally free from the dress code of my middle school (still hate you Mac-Attire), but also because this was the year I came out as trans-male.
My 8th grade year had been a very confusing year because I was really starting to look like a grown up and since I have XX chromosomes, my physique was rather feminine. I used to hide it all the time behind sweatshirts and jackets but I had let my mom pick my wardrobe for the year since I did not care about it. She chose comfortable shirts so I would be happy, but they were form fitted so I looked my age rather than a little kid in their older brother’s old, worn out shirt. This was also when I had been introduced to the concept of gender neutrality. This led to feelings of confusion all year until the summer in between 8th grade and my Freshman year, when I found out what being transgender was and had clarity. I had intended to just keep it secret until I was in my twenties but ended up coming out at the beginning of my freshman year, instead. I had been scared of my family rejecting me, a reaction that is common in such a case. However it happily turned out to not be my case. I was (and still am) super happy about it.
Fast forward a few months and I am sitting in my mom’s classroom. We live far away from my high school, which is just down a hill from where the school my mom teaches at is, so she drives me to school in the morning then I ride the bus to her school to relaxed before she goes home. On the fateful day I am speaking of, my mom had a meeting to go to after school and she left me with her computer for entertainment. I plugged in my headphones and turned on Netflix for something to listen to while I do homework. I saw that Mulan had been added and remembered that I loved it when I was younger and had not seen it in years. Feeling nostalgic, I turned it on while I tried to do homework. The keyword there is “try”. I ended up paying more attention to the movie than my homework, mainly because I came down with a case of emotions as I actually listened to Mulan’s big solo number.
Before watching it again as a teenager, the last time I had watched it I had been ten or eleven, not really a time when I understood the deeper meaning of things from listening. However, as Mulan sadly put her horse away and began to sing her big solo number “Reflection,” I found myself overcome with emotion as I listened to the words. I realize that the meaning of the words, in context with the movie, Mulan is just saying that being pretty and girly does not interest her. She does not conform to the norm that is standard for women in the society she lives in, that many girls live in. However with the wording used in the song, it could easily be interpreted as a song about one’s feelings about a trans-person being afraid to be who they are or a trans-person who is afraid to come out because of how their family would react.
The chorus of “Reflection” says:
“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?”
The wording of the song really connected with how I felt before I came out. The fear of being rejected by those who love you it is not a fun one. Without even talking to a trans-person, I knew instantly it was something that would be persecuted. It is something that is viewed by many to deviate from what is considered the norm. In turn, to many it is thus deemed to be something that is morally wrong. It is not.
However, the legitimacy of the fear and such put aside, it was obviously an emotional song for me. It, in fact, made me cry, and usually I am not one to cry from movies. I feel sadness like anyone else but crying is not something I do easily. I usually get a headache when I cry so I make it a point to cry as little as possible.
Yet my connection with the song was too powerful. My emotions were over-whelming and the dam broke. I began to sob, alone, at my mother’s standing desk in her classroom which is coincidentally my old 8th grade English classroom.
I luckily was able to straighten myself up and be presentable by the time my mom came back to her classroom, but I still had a major headache that night.
Still to this day, three years later, intently listening to that song puts a pit in my stomach. Now in a way, it is a welcomed pit in the stomach. Trans-people, as a whole, are unrepresented in media, and this is a case where we can reflect on ourselves. It is a song that can be an anthem for many within our community. It is relatable for people who just do not fit the mold that their family and/or society have previously enforced. It is a song for people who just need to be heard.