BD Wong agrees. Li Shang is sexually fluid.
When Mulan released in 1998, the film became an instant classic. Between a compelling and inspiring lead character who broke the norm of what it meant to be a Disney princess and female lead, the comedic genius of Eddie Murphy, and the inclusion of surprise queer icon Li Shang, the film holds a special place in our hearts. In the film, Mulan crossdresses as a man and tries to disguise herself as a male soldier named Ping. While Mulan and her commanding officer Li Shang originally clash, the two soon grow fond of each other. That fondness even evolved into love.
But again, Li Shang originally thought Mulan was a man. While the ‘90s Disney movie did not have the allowance to explore the repercussions of this fact, many queer viewers have celebrated it. And now, the actor behind Li Shang’s speaking voice is joining the conversation.
Wong, who is openly gay, recently appeared on the Las Culturistas podcast. Hosted by openly gay comedians Bowen Yang and Matt Rodgers, the podcast explores current pop-culture moments as well as the formative experiences that made the two hosts who they are today. In the episode titled “Control King,” Wong joins Yang and Rodgers in discussing and dissecting Li Shang.
“I have a very important question to ask,” Bowen Yang asks in the middle of the talk, as Out transcribes. “BD Wong, do you think Captain Li Shang was attracted to Peng?”
“I would like to think that he was,” Wong responded. “I don’t want to disappoint anyone and I don’t want to be a coward or anything like that … ok, but you know what. OK, no. Fluidity is a very important thing to acknowledge.”
Wong noted that he used to deny the idea of Li Shang being anything but straight. But as time has gone by, and society’s understanding of sexuality and attraction has changed, so too has Wong’s answer.
“When we made the movie, fluidity was not a word,” Wong added. “We didn’t talk about fluidity. Now we have fluidity. Now we watch Shang and his choices and his actions, and see it through fluidity. And this whole idea that there’s a needle and it goes from zero to 100 and it doesn’t have to be one place or another. It can move. You can change your pronouns and then change them the next day if you want and that’s good and should be the way it is.”
“So in that case, I’m recalibrating my answer,” he explained. “Of course, he was. Of course, he was! What other reason would there be?”