Disney-Pixar’s Turning Red has recently come out. But before I even got the chance to watch it for myself, I was already seeing controversy and arguments online surrounding the movie. Still, I went into it with a neutral state of mind, since online discourse tends to blow things out of proportion a lot of the time.
Honestly, judging from the trailer, I really wasn’t sure whether I’d like it or not. After finishing the movie, however, I can genuinely say: I freakin’ loved it. In my opinion, Turning Red addresses important issues–like generational trauma and the crushing pressure of expectations on some adolescents–while still being a fun and charming experience.
Looking deeper into the controversy surrounding the movie, I can’t say I agree with the backlash at all. In fact, I pretty much feel the exact opposite way. Let’s take a look at what the backlash entails.
The controversies of Turning Red
There are actually multiple issues that people have brought up, not just one. These issues are the following:
- Turning Red depicts what happens during puberty to many teenage girls, and it’s “inappropriate” and “too sexual.” Many are calling the movie too sexual and inappropriate because of certain scenes in the movie. One such scene is where Meilin, the main character, starts doodling art of herself and an older teenage boy after she finds that she has a crush on him. They also complained about the “inappropriate dancing” in the movie, like in this scene.
- Turning Red has more than one scene about period talk, and both mentions and shows pads multiple times, which is “gross” and “unnecessary.”
- Turning Red has “too narrow” of an audience and is “clearly” not for men to watch, especially adult men. Sean O’Connell from CinemaBlend got a lot of heat for his review of Turning Red, where he wrote that he couldn’t “connect” to the film and that it was “a tad limiting in its scope” because it focused on “the Asian community of Toronto.” O’Connell has since apologized and taken down his review, but I’m sure many more share his sentiment.
- Turning Red “teaches children to disobey their parents” and should thus not be watched by children
Frankly, I find all these claims to be a load of bologna, and I’ll be explaining why one by one.
My issues with the issues
To preface, the following is just my opinion, though I’ve seen many people on social media with the same thoughts, which is always nice. That said…
- To the doodles, I don’t know if those complaining completely forgot how they were as teens, or if their experience with puberty was totally different, but doodling your crush–real or fictional–was something so many teenagers, including me, did. Puberty is when adolescents start picturing their crushes or favorite celebrity shirtless, and showcasing a funny, relatable scene isn’t telling children to go out and be sexual.
- To the dancing, maybe it’s just me, but not once did I feel like I was watching something inappropriate when any of the characters were dancing. If anything, I found it funny. That’s how a lot of teenagers dance, and somehow seeing something sexual in it makes me question you more than the movie, honestly.
- When will we be free of treating periods like they’re taboo things that shouldn’t be discussed out loud? They’re a natural part of life for many people, and children possibly knowing about them early on isn’t a bad thing that will somehow ruin their innocence. And if the period talk made you uncomfortable as an adult? Consider trying to broaden your maturity level and getting rid of the prejudice against periods. Personally, it was a pleasant surprise to see period talk and pads be talked about and shown so casually!
- I can’t help but feel that the criticism of unrelatability mostly comes from a place of racism and sexism, conscious or not. I’m not even anywhere near Canada or America, nor am I Asian, but I related to Meilin’s struggles to the point where it made me cry watching the movie. Plus, it’s interesting that there’s usually no arguments about relating to the movie or character when it features and tells the stories of boys, men, and inanimate objects. Yet, a teenage girl is where we cross the line?
Besides, Meilin’s struggles aren’t something that only girls go through. Generational trauma and the pressure to be perfect can definitely happen to men too. (Also, we all know we can still enjoy content without specifically relating to it, right?)
- Turning Red is not about disobeying your parents, and I fear that anyone who took that away from the movie has too much of a need for control. The movie starts with Meilin being her mother’s “perfect daughter” and having to suppress her interests and desires in order not to disappoint her mother. It ends with her being more free to indulge in her interests and hang out with friends, though she still helps her mom out like she used to.
Her mom understands her much better by the end of the movie and has realized that, although she only had the best of intentions, she was hurting Meilin and their relationship due to her expectations. Yes, Meilin snuck out, lied, and disobeyed her mom, but that’s because she felt she had to, as is the case with many kids who have too much pressure put on them.
So, if anything, Turning Red is just teaching children to not be so afraid to be themselves to the point of hiding it, and teaching parents to listen to their kids and understand that they’re their own humans with their own interests, too.
Personally, I think both kids/teens and adults have something to learn from Turning Red. Parents can learn to understand their kids a little better and compromise sometimes, while adults without children can still take the movie as a way to unpack their own experience with puberty. The entire movie is a metaphor for that stage in life, after all. And in my opinion, it hits the nail right on the head!