So Let’s Talk About the Red Panda in the Room…

I got my period at the age of 12. It happened in the middle of English class and I was humiliated and excited all at once.  It also happened in 2002. In Pixar’s new Movie Turning Red, the year is 2002, and 13-year-old Mei gets her period. I sat and watched this film, alone in my bedroom, and was instantly transported to middle school. The details in this film are remarkable. It has bucket hats, Tamagotchi’s, stick-on earrings, and doing the electric slide at boy-girl parties.

All in all, Turning Red is a misunderstood film. It certainly is a major step away from the typical Disney/Pixar production, but not surprising. Ever since films like Inside Out, it’s become more on-brand for children’s films to touch on serious topics like mental health and representation. The social media response from parents has been a mixed bag, most notably parents turning the film off in shock from the subject matter.

So, let me tell you who should and shouldn’t watch Turning Red.

First, if you are not ready to touch on the subject of puberty and hormones, then hold off on seeing this movie with your kids. 

If you are, however, seeking a resource to open up that dialogue, I think this movie can be a decent one! It doesn’t approach subjects like sex, but does venture into ‘feelings’ and having crushes. There’s a point in the film in which Mei draws some pictures of her and a cute boy together. Her mother finds them, and it becomes an embarrassing ordeal.

The biggest takeaway I gathered from this movie is that it is the perfect film for mothers and pre-teen daughters. The main theme isn’t just puberty, but Mei and her mother drifting apart due to her growing older. Her mother doesn’t understand the music she likes (a boy band called 4-town). She thinks her friends are weird, and overall can’t understand why Mei doesn’t want to hang out with her anymore.

That’s hidden theme for us moms. Our daughters will someday not be our best friends. It will happen when we aren’t ready for it. We will have to accept it and choose whether we want to try and keep them as close as possible, or let them explore the wonders of finding themselves and wait for the day they return. 

Mei’s mom goes through her own acceptance of the past when she drifted away from her mother. A clear cycle happens within the family. The entire metaphor of Turning Red is a pretty obvious one: taming our inner beast. A monthly cycle that brings emotions and Midol. There’s nothing scandalous about Turning Red; in fact, it’s humorous with its nostalgia of being an awkward Y2K teen. 

Today’s preteens are growing up in a world of social media and pressures like no other. What today’s teens have (that I wish I had!) is a society making these touchy discussions less taboo. Let’s be real moms: your kids are going to find out about all of the delicate subjects even sooner than you learned them. How we handle that will dictate how safe and successful your kid’s teenage experience will be.

I wish I had Turning Red when I was a pre-teen. It opens a dialogue, but most importantly it makes it ok to feel feelings. I think as mothers we just want to hold our daughters as close to us as possible and pray they find that perfect path. Turning Red took me back to being 13 and reminded me that when the day comes for my daughter to go down that path, I need to listen and be ok with letting go for a while. 

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Hi! I’m Jessie! Born and raised in Central Oklahoma, I am currently enjoying suburban life with my toddler, husband, and a sweet little terrier. I love diving into anything nerdy from engaging in a fantasy novel to playing a tabletop game with friends. I love to make people laugh. Catch me watching a football game, making cookies, or painting dinosaurs with my daughter. My struggles once defined me, but now they help mold me. I want to lift fellow mothers who silently suffer in the shadows. Chronic illness and pain are invisible, but very real. Our battles are tough, but our resolve is strong. You’ll never see me hide my tears, and neither should you.


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