Aesthetic Essay by Krystal W.

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Krystal Wong

Dr. Robb

FIQWIS 10113 HA21

5 September 2018

A Call To Loving Music

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” (Nietzsche, Friedrich, Twilight of the Idols). It was on a rainy late-afternoon in Brooklyn where my father and I were in our old living room, lying on the cozy family couch with blankets wrapped around us to catch some warmth, while my mother and younger sister were napping upstairs. My father was forty by then, whereas I was twelve years old. I remembered looking up to my father as one of my biggest role models. My father’s adaptive nature and acquired talents had never ceased to amaze me. At that age, I was a young, shy and naive girl who was usually confused yet curious about everything, always wondering about who I’ll be when I get older. I didn’t find myself too invested in music either, I only ever tapped my knee to whatever popular song came on my father’s car radio or listened to any basic sounds that accompanied my ears everyday which varied from chirping morning birds to loud car traffic.

My eyelashes fluttered against my own cheeks, my ears distinguishing the steady rhythm of the rain pattering against the window panes and the soft voices emitting from the Prince of Persia video game that my father was playing on his old console on the television. My eyes occasionally drifted back and forth from the video game displayed on the television screen to the glowing streaks of water running down the window glass. My father glanced at me for a few seconds and noticed how unbothered I was. He turned his body towards me. “Do you want to watch Mulan?” I shrugged as a response since I had already watched it when I was younger than twelve. I watched him rummage through the bottom cabinet filled with a collection of DVDs. Before returning to his seat on the couch next to me, he inserted the DVD disc into the player.

Now, when I first watched this film, I was a tad young to fully understand what Mulan was going through, which meant it did not interest me. The same opening scenes of the film had just started to fade into color, with Chinese black calligraphy ink trailing across papyrus paper onto the screen and Chinese instrumentals playing in the background, along with the title Mulan with a red printed dragon underneath following after. The camera zooms out of the Great Wall of China to exhibit the great lengths and strength that the wall symbolized. Fa Mulan, a brave, young, and beautiful maiden who lived during the Han Dynasty in China, decided to risk her life and disguise herself as a man to take on her wounded father’s place in the emperor’s army to defend her family and country from the Huns, developing a love interest throughout her adventures.

Carefully, I rewatched the first scene of Mulan’s failed meeting with the matchmaker to determine her worthiness for marriage, the mood changed, and my whole demeanor softened in a way it hasn’t before, feeling a sense of vulnerability. Mulan returned home with dishonor and misery, struggling to reconcile her gender’s role in her stern traditional society to play the beauty and obedient, son-bearing object that would satisfy men. My eyes remained focused on Mulan’s sorrowful facial expressions, as I listened attentively to the raw emotion displayed in her harmonious voice during the verse. “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.” It was at that moment when I realized the lyrics resonated so similarly with my thoughts and feelings. Growing up, everything seemed to be a social construct. Everything had to be a certain way for it to be worthy enough in today’s society. People frequently compared themselves to others to the point where it became demoralizing that they lose their assertiveness. I worried a lot about what other people thought of me that made it difficult for me to try new things. I tended to feel conflicted with what I really felt and the way I presented myself to others. “Somehow I cannot hide who I am, though I’ve tried. When will my reflection show who I am inside?” Mulan is the perfect epitome of a girl who was too scared to explore and embrace who she really is because she was afraid that she would disappoint the ones she loves. Mulan reminded me that I am more than just a delicate pretty flower and that I am stronger than people peg me to be.

As the rest of the movie progresses, Mulan struggled with challenge after challenge during her training to prepare for war, often failing at each drill, eventually told to return home. Goosebumps encased my arms when the powerful manly voice joined the strong pounding of drums and tense emphasized bass, filling my ears and sending a satisfying shiver down my spine. I watched Mulan determinedly reach the top of a pole to retrieve an arrow with her cleverness. In successfully doing so, she was allowed to stay. Her accomplishment had resulted in the whole group of comrades to improve and complete their training. This scene inspired me as a person growing up because it explained that you might face obstacles at first but if you keep trying, it will work out and be worth it in the end. If you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything because determination and perseverance are what you need to succeed. Mulan, being an inspirational icon who broke gender roles, teaches the audience that beyond of what gender we are or how we look like, we are the ones that are in charge of our own destiny, and that we are not alone.

When the ending clips had appeared on screen with a song, I sat there gawking with a glowing expression at my television screen until it was pitch black, and by then it was already ten o’clock on the dot and had stopped raining. I had forgotten that my father was right next to me the entire time throughout the film, and there he was, watching me with pure amusement. “You want to watch another one?” He asked, averting his eyes to the set of DVDs in the cabinet. I stood up with a toothy smile and said, “let’s get down to business!”