My hubby thinks I’m so weird for bawling my eyes out over this “cute panda” movie. Turning Red hits home for Asian girls though, and YOU ALL KNOW IT! Krisandryka from The Mad Tea Book Club first recommended this to me so here I am sniffing my snot.
Themes in Turning Red
The “tiger mom” culture. The pressure to continue a line of tradition which you don’t really understand fully. The constant demand of having to behave well. Those themes are all explored in this animation. But when our protagonist, 13 year-old Meilin activates the family curse and turns into a “monstrous” red panda, how is she supposed to behave? Herein is the main message of the animation: that you CAN be ugly. You CAN get angry, let your emotions out. In fact, if you try to always bottle it in, there can be disastrous effects. Like what we see with Meilin’s mother. Y’all, I’m just so glad themes like these are being brought up into popular culture. Finally.
There is definitely a lot of cringe factor (like their craze over boybands) but I think it’s special in that way! So few movies raise up this unabashed feminine side. How does a teenage girl go through puberty? In that way Turning Red is courageously controversial! I honestly think that teenage girls are the smartest representatives of humankind. Because of that, society cracks down during that crucial period and tries to conform girls into “the way women should be”.
This topic can be a whole NOVEL but let me try to condense a bit here. Raised up as a conservative Christian, it’s been pounded into me from the sacred book that a woman is dirty when she is in her period. Great, thanks. Add to this the social stigma of not being able to talk openly about my periods, how to deal with it, what to do when it really hurts, when I’m PMSing, and we have ourselves a continued rejection of the very way our body works. What a sad twist on how amazing our reproduction cycle is. And yet women are also baby machines. The irony is complete.
That’s why I think Turning Red is controversial but also so important for teenage girls to watch: so we know our cycles are to be celebrated, not to be hidden away in shame. Another similarly empowering movie for teenage girls is Netflix Enola Holmes.