It isn’t surprising to find out that a certain group of people have turned against Pixar’s latest film release. Those idiots on the internet who don’t like people who look, act and speak differently to them. I’ve seen snippets from reviews say that it is only relevant to a small audience or that it’s unrealistic. Yeah, and I guess Wall-E, Up, and Cars were all super relatable and true to life. The word woke has been tossed around a lot as you would expect. Then there are those who think children shouldn’t be made aware that periods are a thing. I don’t know why I expected anything else but it’s getting boring now. It’s an animated movie for fuck’s sake. There are worse things going on in the world to worry about that.
I don’t understand people (especially the kind of people who work for CinemaBlend) who try to argue that you can’t see yourself in a character of another race. For the first time since Beauty and the Beast, I can see myself in an animated film character. Yep, despite what some more conservative audience members might say, 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian Meilin will give you a pretty good idea of who I was at that age. She spends her time daydreaming about boys, drawing fan art, playing the flute and being a bit of a nerd. Okay, so I couldn’t draw but I was definitely writing fan fiction and obsessing over various actors and singers. In fact, I’d say that many people in the bookish community can understand where she’s coming from.
Turning Red is a very different kind of Pixar movie. It’s not an adventure and doesn’t involve a good vs evil struggle. Instead, it’s a coming of age movie. The animation style is also different and uses plenty of different pop culture references. If you didn’t know it was Pixar going in, you could easily think it was a different studio. Personally, I think this approach is really refreshing and makes a nice change from the previous films. It’s such a human film and I think that’s perfect. Not only is the character of Meilin really strong in the story but the whole film seems tailored to her. She runs through every detail and it really brings it to life.
In terms of the story, the central metaphor is really effective. Nobody will miss the fact that Meilin’s literal transformation into a Red Panda is also an exploration of puberty. We see her turn from a sweet nerd into a raging hormone monster overnight. A transformation that her parents are not ready for. 13 is a weird age for any gender but maybe more so for teen girls. Or maybe that’s just because I was a teen girl. I know a lot of people on the internet will try and say that the menstruration chat is too much for their darling kids to endure but I loved those scenes. Let’s normalise periods and show that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
I know that Turning Red isn’t exactly flipping the script in terms of narrative. It’s a simple and familiar idea. However, that doesn’t make it a terrible film. I’d also say that it tackles these themes in a refreshing way. I’ve seen a few negative reviews compare it to Teen Wolf but that’s not fair. We’ve seen plenty of stories about teen boys rebelling against their parents. Why isn’t it time for the girls to do the same? Anyone who says there is a lack of consequence for Meilin’s actions is a victim of our patriarchal society. Plenty of films have shown boys talking back to their parents and getting no punishment. There are plenty of Disney movies that are built on that premise. Turning Red finally levels the playing field. Let us have this one.