When watching Disney's Mulan, there are really two questions to consider: Is Mulan feminist/anti-racist? And, is Mulan more feminist/anti-racist than the typical Disney film?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I'd say no to the first and yes to the second. While Mulan herself is undeniably a better and less stereotypical heroine, in terms of both gender and race, than previous atrocities like Pocahontas, Ariel, Jasmine, and Belle, and the portrayal of the culture and people of China is nowhere near so infuriating as previous Disney racism (as seen in Aladdin, or earlier in Peter Pan, or in dozens of other Disney films), I would be hard-pressed to describe Mulan as a feminist or anti-racist film.
Mulan is a re-telling of a Chinese legend about a young woman who goes to war for her country in the place of her ill father. To do so, she has to dress as a boy. This heroine, Mulan, ends up being outed as a fraud, but also saving her country. This premise is all fine and good. However, the film is still chock-full of stereotypes of both women and Chinese folks. In her Salon review of the film, Katherine Kim says she is thankful for Mulan's being in drag for most of the movie, so she won't be sexualized inappropriately, but goes on to say:
She is a banana -- yellow outside, white within. With her anglicized name, her perfect unaccented English and her wild gesticulations, it is easy to see she is not a Chinese woman warrior, but an Asian-American feminist.
While seeing Mulan as an Asian-American feminist is not necessarily a bad thing, making her more "white," in order, one presumes, to be more accessible to Disney's Western audience, doesn't garner them any points for anti-racism. Kim goes on to argue that the film portrays Mulan's victory as a victory of Western ideals over those thought to be more traditionally Chinese. She concludes her review with:
Of course, the film ends with a triumphant Mulan in the Forbidden Palace, throngs of Chinese bowing to her reverently, after she has sent the villain rocketing in the distance on a firecracker. In Disney, goodness will prevail. In Disney, the West will always win.
I can't disagree, and I think it rather rude, if typical, of Disney to usurp a traditional Chinese legend and use it in this way.
Another Salon reviewer, Andrea Quong, points out another problem with Mulan, and it is my biggest issue with the film an attempt at feminism. She writes that Mulan is shown throughout the film to be more competent and more heroic than any of the men, including her commanding officer, Shang. Still, Shang is at the end presented as a possible romantic interest for Mulan. The message, Quong writes, seems to be "Girls, you can do with or without men, but be prepared to accommodate some pretty childish behavior." She goes on to say:
For all the film's feminist messages, they are being broadcast into a world in which the relationships between the sexes are still far from ideal, and women as a matter of course compromise their own personhood to accommodate the damaging insecurities of the men in their lives.
It is here where the film really loses me. Throughout the story, Shang is in no way heroic. He likes Mulan when she proves herself as a man, but is immediately horrible to her when he finds out she is a woman, even after he's seen what she can do. Then, when she goes out of her way to try to help him even after he has rejected her, he is too stupid to figure out that she's right. So why in the world would the film end with him coming to "claim" her as a suitor? I just didn't get that.
All in all, Mulan is a pretty lousy movie in terms of both gender and race. The fact that it has been hailed as the first "feminist" Disney film says much less about how good it is and much more about just how poorly the rest of Disney's movies treat women and non-white characters. When taken as representative of all films, though, and not just the drivel produced by Disney, I can't see any reason to give it more than the "typical" one star.