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After Agnes Chow Is Arrested in Hong Kong, a ‘Mulan’ Meme Is Born

2020-08-13 08:06:04

HONG KONG — Soon after one of Hong Kong’s best-known democracy activists was arrested this week under the national security law imposed on the city by the Chinese government, supporters turned her into a “Mulan” meme.

The social media storm around the activist, Agnes Chow, coincided with Disney’s online campaign for its upcoming movie “Mulan,” about the Chinese folk heroine who disguises herself as a man to stand in for her ailing father in the army. Disney’s slogan: “The legend arrives.”

Supporters on Twitter quickly anointed Ms. Chow, 23, “the real Mulan.” One meme featured three images, each accompanied by text: the “Mulan” star Liu Yifei (“I want the real Mulan”); the cartoon version of Mulan from Disney’s animated 1998 film (“I said the real Mulan“); and Ms. Chow (“Perfection”).

The dueling campaigns illustrated the power of rapid-fire memes to serve as a form of virtual protest: Ms. Chow’s name, along with #Mulan, has been trending for days. They also merged Hollywood fantasy with 21st-century geopolitics and ancient Chinese folklore.

Neither Ms. Liu nor Disney could be immediately reached for comment.

Unlike mainland China, Hong Kong has a tiny domestic market with limited commercial clout. But its internet users have become a voice to be reckoned with, using savvy and aggressive online campaigns to raise awareness about the city’s political crisis.

The release date for “Mulan,” initially set for March, has been pushed back to September because of the pandemic. Disney says it has been approved for theatrical release in China.


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