“Has the red peony started to bloom?” Mei’s mother asks, whether she is worried and excited. The word “menstruation” or “period” was never mentioned, but “Turning Red” (now on streaming service Disney+) clearly raises the issue. Shortly after being asked, the character voiced by Sandra Oh comes rushing to the bathroom with a stack of sanitary napkin boxes. A little earlier, she caught her 13-year-old daughter making hormone-charged sketches of herself kissing with the boy she loves.
The gimmick in the new animation from Pixar (previously responsible for “Finding Nemo” and “Toy Story”) with an age rating of 6 and up: the intense emotions that arise in the little girl transform her into a giant red panda. It’s clearly a metaphor for adulthood that just broke out. It is rare that these topics (especially in this way) are covered in a children’s film. Some parents seem shocked.
There is a lot of negativity on Twitter. “Turning red is not suitable for young children”, is the prevalent content among critical viewers. Or: “The film is not suitable for those under the age of 10, as it deals with topics for which they are not prepared or cannot understand.”
However, there are many positive messages against it. These Twitter users are actually glad that a youth movie finally makes these matters a topic for discussion. Or: “Parents who complain that they have to explain to their children what menstruation is… well, it is really offensive that Pixar is pointing to some people about poor parenting.”
On Wednesday, Hilda Alberda, a menstruation expert from SEMAVI Development Organization, was a guest on Dutch NPO radio 1. As far as she’s concerned, “Turning Red” could have been more real. “Not only for girls in Africa and Asia where Simavi implements projects, but also for girls in the Netherlands, the first menstrual period is often a shock. It is important that we talk about this at home and at school and not be so secretive.”
According to “Turning Red” producer Lindsey Collins, tackling teenage problems was already in the early stages of the film project. “Everyone on the crew encouraged us to have these conversations about menstruation and other moments in little girls’ lives,” she told Polygon. “The hope is that people will feel a little embarrassed in addition to laughing and see it as something completely normal.”
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