Imagine growing up with an animated movie that normalizes and celebrates periods! Well, this is what the Pixar movie “Turning Red” is doing and I am extremely excited for future generations to watch it and be able to relate to it. Menstruation is still a big taboo in our society, to a point of showing blue die in pad commercials instead of the actual color red. Any effort to try to normalize and teach young girls what their physical and mental changes during their periods will be is a huge step forward to get them prepared for what’s to come.
I remember being thirteen and experiencing my first period, it was traumatizing, to say the least. Even when your mom or a loved one explains to you what might happen, it truly doesn’t compare to the explosion of emotions caused by hormones. Turning Red confronts the messiness of adolescence by showing Mei (a thirteen-year-old girl) transformation into a Red Panda which is clearly a metaphor for the onset of puberty, when your body betrays you and becomes
Mei soon figures out that her panda persona comes out only when experiencing intense emotions and whenever she calms down, she turns back into her human self. In order to deal with this, her mom tells her to suppress her feelings which in turn would keep the panda from coming out. Turning Red is so bold that it not only focuses on what happens during this time within your body but simultaneously it touches on other related aspects that change because of puberty. It was refreshing to see the messiness that puberty brought to the relationship between Mei and her mother and friends, as it was a reminder of the shame, repression, and social anxiety that young women have to face.
Mei’s puberty changes are comically portrayed as she starts liking boys and as she starts to believe she is an independent “woman” already. Turning Red takes you back shamelessly to that age when you with your friends were obsessed with boy bands. Plotting a master plan with your friends to be able to go to a concert is the underline story of the movie. This concert becomes a passage to womanhood for these girls.
The big twist comes when instead of suppressing her panda as her mother suggested, Mei decides to embrace her panda with a little encouragement from her friends. Mei becomes popular in school because of this and she starts having fun while accepting this new part of herself. Like many of us, puberty is a time of a lot of change and within that time we tried to find the truest expression of ourselves, one that brings the best characteristics out like our happy, goofy, or emotional self. Turning Red does a great job at understanding that teenage life can sometimes feel like a scary movie, an action movie, or even a chick flick movie all simultaneously.
I found myself being in Mei's shoes, not only with the tension and embarrassment as she was torn between her family and friends but also at specific moments like her mom being on top of her every move and being what we call a “mama bear”.
I clearly remember my mom going to school to bring me pads and being in many aspects like Mei’s mom. Cultural and generational differences also have room in this movie and if you read “The Joy Luck Club” in school, this is somehow a PG version of it.
I loved how cleverly they used all aspects of a young women’s life and somehow found a way to incorporate cultural differences that immigrant families have to deal with. Intergenerational trauma is hard to see in a Disney movie but in the context of the movie, I think it was necessary to touch on it as many young girls are going through this right now and need to know they are not alone.
Turning red is one of its kind and it is breaking many standards in the studio animated world with an honesty that's refreshing. It was created by an all-female leadership team, the first in Pixar Animation Studios’ history. I am sure that this movie will continue to turn heads for many years to come. I hope that young women can relate and not feel so alone in a society that tends to want to suppress and makes us feel ashamed of our truest selves. Periods are normal and are here to stay so it is about time to start talking about them without any filters!