When I first saw the title and pictures for Pixar’s new movie Turning Red (streaming on Disney+), I honestly thought it was going to be a story about a group of friends who have a giant pet fox (yes I thought it was a fox at first). Little did I know, it would be a trip down memory lane.
When I saw Mei, I was instantly transported back to my 13-year-old self trying to experiment and figure out my style and identity. She is the epitome of every 13-year-old girl going through those life changes and trying to understand and navigate those changes. The tag line for this movie was ‘growing up can be a beast.”
While trying to tame her inner beast, Mei’s relationship with her mother also evolves. The movie does a fantastic job of showing the cycle of this. Mei’s relationship with her mother starts to shift as she is developing her own interests outside of her mother’s preference. Mei, like any pre-teen girl, starts to show interest in boys and music while her mother doesn’t understand.
It was humbling for me to see this dynamic unfold. I remember being that age and having those same feelings, thinking my mom doesn’t understand me at all. Flash forward to today and I couldn’t make it one day without my mom.
I love how fearless her tribe of friends was. Again, it took me right back to my group of friends growing up and still have now. We learned the songs and dances of our favorite boy bands. We even spent time writing our own songs and performing them for our elementary music teacher, thinking she might somehow give us a record deal. That group of friends is the type of group we all need in our corner. They showed her so much empathy when she needed it, even after she threw them under the bus. It is a great example of how we should treat anyone at their lowest point.
There is also a great detail of representation in this film. Mei’s family is Chinese-Canadien. Mei’s family runs a temple and we get a quick glimpse of their culture and the importance it signifies for their family. Her group of friends are also diverse and relatable.
Now, we should probably talk about the elephant, or should I say panda, in the room. There has been quite a bit of buzz and mixed reviews surrounding this film due to the topics, one in particular, puberty. If you aren’t comfortable with those topics or aren’t ready to discuss them, then of course don’t watch this movie. For parents who are looking for an opening to have that conversation in a light manner, this could be for you. In today’s world where kids are able to learn about anything anytime anywhere due to social media, it’s important for parents to be prepared and ready to have these conversations. Healthy conversations help shape your child’s view on tough topics.
My biggest takeaway from watching this movie is that we all have big feelings and that’s okay. We are all going through things people don’t know about. The way Mei’s mom and friends responded to her is a great lesson for us all. Be kind.