Comfort Entertainment: ‘Turning Red’ and Life as a Young Woman

Screenshot from ‘Turning Red’. Copyright goes to Pixar.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I wasn’t really planning on watching ‘Turning Red’, and I definitely wasn’t expecting it to be good necessarily. I was optimistic when I heard about how many people behind the scenes were Asian and women, but Disney has been a bit formulaic recently and especially controversial. I don’t even want to talk about what happened in Florida. But several things made me change my mind in wanting to see this film. For one, I found out that a boy group was written into this film respectfully. And that intrigued me because of my absolute love of K-Pop. And I started hearing an outpouring of positivity over this movie, especially over its portrayal of young women. So, I had to relent and support this movie as much as I possibly could. And I’m so glad that I did. Not only is this one of my favorite movies to come out of the Disney company in a long time, but it was also so relatable in so many ways. I will absolutely admit to crying during this film. And I want to review this amazing movie as well as talk about some of the important points that it brought up. WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!!! Seriously, go watch this movie if you haven’t! The amazing women who created this film deserve your support!

The Good:

Mei- We need to start out with the main character, because this is one of the most excellent movies I’ve seen that addresses character flaws and makes them completely understandable. One of the main themes in this movie is generational trauma, which is something that I don’t have much experience in, but is something that is common in cultures that promote filial piety over most anything else. In several cultures there is often little more important than obeying your parents and making them proud. And this movie completely tackles how that can result sometimes in suppressing who children are and lead to a lot of confusion. There’s a moment in this movie where Mei throws her friends under the bus for something that she did because she is scared of losing her mother’s pride for her and faith in her. And in the moment you are just as angry at Mei as her friends, but you can also understand why she does it. It’s obviously not right, but it’s something she does out of fear. And fear as well as heightened emotions is what she learns to deal with for most of this movie. I’m used to movies turning characters into animals over mental issues and then finding a cure at the end. This was not what this movie was. In fact, Mei chooses to fully embrace the red panda and keep it as part of her. Mei is an adorable and quirky character that teaches young girls to embrace their weirdness and that having emotions is ok. I love how this character was created with the mind of showing others that they aren’t alone.

Mei’s Parents- It is definitely worth mentioning both Ming and Jin. Ming is Mei’s mother and one of the more antagonistic characters in the film, though she isn’t a villain. Ming expects Mei to be the perfect child and often reveres her for being so. Including blaming everyone and everything else for Mei’s mistakes instead of Mei herself. This makes Mei uncomfortable being around her and revealing aspects of her true self to her. While Jin remembers what Ming was like when she was more like Mei, and tries to be the softer support for both women as they go about realizing who the other actually is. I also loved Jin’s after credits scene where it reveals he’s a Jesse bias. While I don’t have the experience to fully appreciate these portrayals, I loved each of these characters for their development and their roles. And for what they represent to people who are victims of generational trauma. They represent those who are taught, through experiences with their own parents, to teach their children in a way that isn’t always the most empathetic. This movie breaks this down in a way that’s understandable for all and covers this topic that is becoming more and more of something talked about around the world.

Mei’s Friends- Miriam, Priya, and Abby were characters that I loved more than I originally thought I was going to. They are definitely side characters and are treated as such, but they all have unique personality traits. And they are all unfailingly there for Mei. Miriam is the more structured member of the group and the one that is constantly trying to keep them all together. Priya doesn’t talk much and has different interests, but often works as the protector. And Abby is just crazy in this absolutely endearing way. I fell in love with each and every one of them and especially the relationship they had as a group. I was one of those people who didn’t have many friends in school, but I had my group. I’m kind of still like that. And this reflects that perfectly. The way they geek out about 4Town reminds me of the way I geek out about K-Pop groups with my friends. Speaking of which…

4Town- This is the first time I’ve seen a decent depiction of any group that may be considered a boy group in any movie ever. They aren’t revealed to be awful people. The girls aren’t shamed for liking them or for having crushes on the members. In fact, the movie makes a point of showing that adults like the group too. The director made this group off of her own love for K-Pop groups and 90s boy bands. There is no shame in this portrayal. And the songs they created for them are catchy! (Thanks Billie Eilish and Finneas!) I also like how one of the main male characters at their school ended up also liking them and how this allowed for the director to showcase fans of all five of the members without leaving any out. There’s always talk about members of a group being left out (recently fans who saw ‘Permission to Dance Live’ in theaters complained about hearing less cheers for Namjoon and J-Hope), so I’m glad that she took so much care with this group. I loved that they helped with the final battle, though I do admit to laughing a little bit at their wing debacle. Also, Jordan Fisher’s voice is heavenly.

Red Pandas- I loved that all of the women in the family had the ability to turn into them, and I loved the ending of this movie. Seeing all of the women in the family help Mei in solidarity for all the generational family problems was amazing. And it was badass seeing all of the red pandas jump out at once.

The Bad:

More Time- I genuinely can’t think of much of anything other than I would have liked to see more of the friends and Mei’s father, Jin. But I think that the movie gave them all of the screen time that they could for what they had. It would be nice to see a smaller series following Mei, Miriam, Abby, and Priya though.

The Teenage Girl Argument:

One of my very first topics that I covered on this blog was this. I have an entire post about it! Teenage girls and young women in general are constantly held up to impossible societal standards and nothing they ever do is considered to be correct. Whether they are dating or not dating. (Ex. You’re too pretty to not date! You’re too young to be dating already!) Whether they spend their weekends at home or out. (Ex. Why didn’t you stay home and study? Why don’t you put yourself out there more?) Everything can be taken as the wrong decision by everyone. And things that young women like are generally dismissed as not being likable for “sane” people. Such as boy groups or certain books or movies. Women are considered crazy for traveling halfway across the country for seeing BTS. But men are considered perfectly reasonable for traveling to see their favorite sports team. Even if women don’t resort to violence over things like BTS not getting the Grammy, while men who like sports have been known for destroying property after their sports team loses. There’s this image that society sets up of this perfect girl. Someone who’s feminine and laughs at all the right times and looks just the right amount of graceful and likes all the correct things. And I think that falling into that image sometimes and trying to figure out who you are despite all of that is a difficulty that most women face at one point or another in their lives. I would highly recommend watching the behind the scenes for this movie as well, because the stories of all of these women were so relatable, that I cried again while watching it. The women who wrote and directed and worked on this film wanted to make a movie that was actually about what women have gone through and continue to go through. Watching their stories and relating to them made me love the movie even more.

I love this movie so much, if it wasn’t obvious. It was heartfelt, adorable, and so relatable. It was absolutely the type of movie that I’ve always wanted to see. It made me feel seen now and would have absolutely made a younger me feel seen too. I would automatically show this to any child, for both its amazing message as well as how entertaining it was. Go watch it immediately if you haven’t! I also want to apologize for not covering the PTD concert in Seoul. We did watch both streamed days, though not the theater one, and I think neither of us are still sure if we are going to post about it. Just because we’ve both made several posts for seeing the concert in LA and rewatching it, and there wasn’t much different to talk about. Especially because the concerts in Seoul were actually shorter than LA. But they were still amazing so don’t be surprised if you eventually see a post! Just don’t be surprised if you don’t.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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