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Wait, What's Turning Red?

Recently released, Turning Red has the attention of parents, kids, and teenagers alike as the film is surprising audiences across the world. Following the story of a thirteen-year-old girl of Asain descent in Toronto, Canada, the wonders of family magic combine with the difficulties of puberty. Family, friends, and independence are questioned as Meilin Lee discovers ways to become more herself. Although it sounds like most Disney movies, this storyline seems to teach more than anything we have seen before and its shocking audiences. But not in a good way.

An extreme amount of backlash arose with the film and the moments of adolescence it describes. Why? Because puberty, rebellion, and the realities of being a teenager are terrifying to almost everyone. It has become an aspect of life that many choose to ignore or forget, despite the evolution it allows. Let me clarify that the leading cause for backlash isn't the aspects of adolescence but the film's connection to periods.

Representation of menstruation has always been limited, if not nonexistent, in media. With tampon and pad commercials that ignore the reality of the menstrual cycle and films that highlight simple phrases to poke fun at periods, the stigmatization of periods is pursued on all accounts. This stigmatization and lack of representation create a barrier of shame for those who menstruate. Thus, fear is an unnecessary but expected response when the mention of a period is in a children's movie.

Throughout Turning Red, I was confused as to what the red panda represented. Could it be the beginning and continuation of Meilin's period? The uncontrollable feelings could have been a metaphor for premenstrual syndrome (PMS). At the same time, her family's choice to control their panda could relate to the options a person who menstruates has when deciding how they want to maintain their flow. The connections and similarities are highly apparent, but I don't believe this was the comparison the film was making. I think it highlighted the uncontrollable emotions of being a teenager and how one can choose who they want to be, whether that be similar or different from the traditions of before.

That leads to the next piece of backlash: the rebelliousness of teenagers. Through defiant acts of sneaking out and lying, many were outraged at the examples of rebellion that were portrayed. Many felt that Turning Red was moving away from family values and supported the choice of revolution. As Meilin and her mom decipher the importance of deciding between freedom and control, the significance of communication and community are emphasized.

Confused by the illustrations of what looked like anti-family, I believe that the outrage was misplaced. Turning Red illustrates the complex family dynamic that arises during adolescence as the parent and child relationship is changing. By showing a reaction of defiance to the control Meilin no longer wanted, the movie allows the audience to understand how dynamics can constructively and positively change. This simultaneously depicts how far from perfect this change can be as fighting and distance can form, but balance is achievable in the end.

Thus, Turning Red is a captivating portrayal of teenagers today and allows anyone, no matter their age, to understand something that they might have ignored previously. Ignoring the conflicts and evolution that occur during adolescence can prevent someone from genuinely learning from their experiences. As well as the lesson that perfect is not possible, and rebelling is a natural, almost necessary, aspect of growing up. Turning Red can inspire children to find a balance between respecting family, friends, and most importantly, oneself.

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Tags: #Disney #TurningRed #adolescence #parenting #destigmatizingperiods


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