Disney and Pixar’s ‘Turning Red’ effectively pulls off the trials and tribulations of womanhood

By Nadia Urbina, May 3, 2022

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably watched every single movie released by Disney and Pixar. Pixar’s recent release “Turning Red” is a movie that strayed away from the Disney movies we’ve come to love and know, and it is for the better. 

This movie accurately tackled the journey of womanhood and the relationship between mother and daughter. Undoubtedly, I am sure I’ve missed some Chinese Canadian cultural references that are key components that add to the message of this beautiful movie, but this aside, I was able to emotionally connect to it unlike any other coming-of-age film I’ve ever seen. 

Released on March 11, “Turning Red” is about Mei, a Chinese Canadian 13-year-old girl growing up in the early 2000s in Toronto. Mei is the perfect obedient daughter, the straight “A” student who respects and honors her parents, specifically her mother. Things take a turn one morning after Mei wakes up and discovers she’s transformed into a sizable, majestic red panda.  

Ultimately, Mei struggles to cope with her new “inconvenience” and her changing relationships with her mother and friends. The undertones of the movie make it hard for anyone to miss. The movie deals with the most universal human experience: puberty and the messy, raw emotions and awkwardness that comes with it.  

Sharon Wu | The Poly Post

CinemaBlend’s managing editor Sean O’Connell’s review on the film that called it “limiting in its scope” left a sour taste in my mouth. Similar reviews like O’Connell’s were made about this movie. A common thread I found that led to low reviews was the fact that some people weren’t able to relate to the movie. No surprise here that the majority who weren’t able to relate to the movie or called it confusing were cisgender men 

A scene where Mei locks herself in the bathroom after waking up to discovers she’s a red panda leads to her mother coming to check on her and asks if the “red peony had bloom,” an on-the-nose euphemism asking if her menstrual cycle came. What follows after is Mei’s mother coddling her and reassuring her everything is okay, but with a mother’s worried tone that only makes a touchy situation even worse.  

This is the first time in an animated movie that I’ve seen the issue of periods acknowledged or talked about in any way. Seeing pads in a Disney film is something I never thought would happen; it’s a concept that never existed in my mind. This topic is something that made me feel seen. My Hispanic background conditioned me to keep things like this to  myself, to think of the topic as taboo or gross to talk about. Therefore, seeing it so plainly discussed in animated film, a Disney film no less, is amazing. 

Apart from the hormonal changes within becoming an adult, the movie accurately captures the emotional turmoil of not being a child anymore but not yet a teenager or much less an adult. The teenage angst Mei experiences reminded me of my fair share of outbursts I had at that age. It reminded me of the times I felt angry, sad and confused for no reason. Like Mei, I too felt like a “hideous monster” that just wanted to lay down and cry while I pushed everyone away. 

From the outburst of emotions that washed over Mei as she struggled to find her footing as a red panda, a metaphor for puberty, to her uncertainty with growing up, watching the movie was moving. As an adult, I truly have a fresh perspective on my adolescence. I looked back at my teenage years and remembered the moments where I felt alone or confused about my feelings and having emotional outbursts out of nowhere. This same emotional concept was accurately portrayed in the movie, and it made me realize that what I was feeling back then was completely and totally normal.  

I can’t emphasize the importance of this movie; it truly soothes your soul and pulls at your heart strings. Anyone at any age can truly relate and understand the movie’s motifs and main message. My only critique for this movie is that I wish it could have been released earlier when I was at the age of puberty and trying to figure everything out and deal with change. My younger self would’ve found comfort in knowing what I went through is normal, and it would have made me feel less alone in the journey of growing up. 

Those interested in “Turning Red” can watch it now on Disney+ 

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