Disney and Pixar’s latest animated film, ” Turning Red”, is exceptionally crafty as it targets “releasing the panda” and comes with an emotional rollercoaster that illustrates perfectly what is like to grow up.
While the coming-of-age premise is a highly overused trope displayed by animators everywhere, the film’s protagonist, Meilin “Mei” Lee, faces obstacles that truly highlight what it is like to become a teenager.
As the movie is set in the year 2002, Mei, a 13- year-old Chinese Canadian from Toronto, learns from her bold introduction she is highly confident in who she is and is very passionate about those who support her as well is very firm in her morals.
Though as any teenager growing up, she finds it hard to keep up the pressure of it all. She likes and is even expected to please her parents- especially her highly overprotective mother, Ming- by keeping the perfect model student and child act up.
At the same time, she wants what every teenager wants which is to have fun as she expresses her interests in things like karaoke and an idol group known as 4*Town.
Already struggling with finding her place in the world, Mei soon learns she carries a genetic trait that is passed down by her female ancestors- the ability to turn into a gigantic red and fluffy panda whenever emotions become heightened.
During her first transformation, Mei becomes very embarrassed which causes her mother to believe that Mei is receiving her first period, and attempts to console her by bringing an assortment of pads, tampons, and other menstrual products to try to teach her that is a normal part of puberty.
So why is this facing major backlash and why now are pads, tampons, and challenging menstruation and puberty finally being pushed more into such a huge light? Why is it so important?
Menstruation by definition simply means the periodic discharge of blood and tissue from the uterus.
Sex education and its topics are considered a very “hush-hush” topic. Throughout history, the resistance in teaching about periods and topics regarding sex education is deeply rooted in collective thinking.
In 1946, Disney released an educational video along with a pamphlet called “Very Personally yours”. Many animators shy from talking about the nitty-gritty- especially Disney with its audience. It is a nice change to see the director and Co-Writer Domee Shi doesn’t see periods or puberty as disgusting and even explaining how the red panda is a symbol for puberty and simply growing up.
Maybe it is time we all embrace our panda and talk to our kids about menstrual education as we can break the stigma around it being “gross” or “unnatural” and push towards the empowerment and management of it, by prioritizing mental health as well as physical health through the knowledge of menstrual cycles and how it affects each individual differently.
Kids learn by example, visuals, and hands-on experiences. In this new age of animation and teachings from creators, we can only hope to see old beliefs come to rest and a new future is created to embrace the natural and healthy bodily functions that people experience.