There are countless moments to dissect in Game of Throne’s final episode, but the finale’s most potent image may be Daenerys Targaryen, fresh off of razing King’s landing, framed by a dragon’s wings. Fans described the shot as “epic” and showered it with effusive social-media posts. But table turned and it quickly became a meme, mocked by viewers who thought the symbolism was too on-the-nose. The new live-action Mulan tries to pull off its own version of the scene in a dramatic moment, but only manages to capture just how cheesy this overused motif is.
Towards the end of the film, Mulan seemingly flies into a climactic battle against Bori Khan; the phoenix that has accompanied her on her journey rises up behind her, making it look as though its wings are Mulan’s. But it isn’t the triumphant moment it’s intended to be it looks silly, not least because the phoenix is so obviously a CGI creation.
The most infamous example may be “the first ‘influencer-only’ mural, which opened to intense criticism in 2018. The gatekeeping around the mural, which depicted a pair of angel wings meant as a background for social-media photos, was meant as promotional stuff for the scripted comedy Like & Subscribe. Still, the situation was believable enough that it provoked outrage on social media. As the situation was initially presented, anyone who wanted to take pictures in front of the mural would have to show a security guard proof of either a verified Twitter account or more than 20,000 Instagram followers in order to be allowed access.
The wing shot is fitting. Mulan is ultimately a shallow movie. But it’s still so unjustified, undignified, and silly that it yanks viewers out of the movie, and into all the other properties that have already claimed that iconography from Twilight to influence culture. It’s a scene ripe for a social-media-worthy screengrab, but not much more.