So, just recently I had the pleasure of watching the movie Turning Red. I’m sure you’ve probably at least heard the name as it’s been in the news quite a bit lately. It’s an animated coming-of-age film by Pixar (subsidiary of Disney) that tells the story of Meilin “Mei” Lee, a confident, average, dorky 13-year-old girl who struggles with being her mother’s obedient and perfect daughter amid the pandemonium that is adolescence. Her protective, and oftentimes overbearing mother, Ming, is never far from her child, which is a rather unfortunate reality for the teenager. School isn’t even a safe haven as Ming often shows up, keeping an embarrassingly close eye on Mei. On top of maintaining her honor roll grades, navigating relationships, and valiantly trying to to meet her mother’s impossible expectations, Mei Lee turns into a giant red panda every time she has strong emotions… which, as a 13 year old, happens quite often.
Overall, it’s a great movie, I really enjoyed it, and I plan on watching it again. There were a lot of cringe moments in the movie, which went along beautifully with the story, and, if we’re being honest, encapsulated the awkwardness that is being a teenage girl extremely well. I may be a few summers removed from my youth, but not so much that I don’t remember being a 13-year-old girl or what the household was like when my daughter hit the teenage years. The movie was spot on. And, if you’re a fan of kids’ movies (like me!) or you have young kids of your own, this is probably a movie you all would enjoy. I highly recommend it.
This brings me to someone else’s opinion on the film. Now, I don’t have any problem with people who aren’t into this kind of thing. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who wouldn’t find this movie, or any kids’ movie, enjoyable at all. Different strokes for different folks, right? But when you’re a globally recognized company with a verified YouTube account and claim to be “the go-to source for today’s information and updates on new movies, tv shows, games, and celebrity news and gossip,” that’s a different story.
According to CinemaBlend’s managing director, Sean O’Connell, it’s a niche film. Now, to be fair, after having read his original review, I thought surely this O’Connell dude must be an old white guy. I was wrong. He’s a middle-aged white guy, and it shows. So, according to this middle-aged white guy, Turning Red is relatable to only a select few, namely the film director’s friends and family. This so-called managing director goes on to add that “some Pixar films are made for universal audiences. ‘Turning Red’ is not. The target audience for this one feels very specific and very narrow. If you are in it, this might work very well for you. I am not in it. This was exhausting.” You can check out the drama here. If you ask me, his opinion is shite, um, less than credible. He put his foot in his mouth and then shoved it in as far as it would go while saying hmmm, this tastes delicious.
Okay, let’s start with the “very specific target audience” and these are his words, not mine. The target audience, ok? So the lead is an Asian girl, and Asians alone make up nearly 60 percent of the world population. But ok, that’s just the main character. Who relates to the main character of a story anyway right? Well, the lead, as well as her friends, are all female. Wait a minute. Females? That’s like half the population, right? But for the sake of Mr. O’Connell, managing director, let’s continue. The movie is about kids, primarily young teens, and who knows how many of them exist out there in the world. I’m sure someone has the stats, but I’m guessing it’s a lot. Alright, that does it. Mr. O’Connell, managing director and middle-aged white dude, I’m going to need to see your credentials, because clearly you have no idea what you’re talking about.
So yeah, perhaps the movie’s reach isn’t such a narrow niche after all. Not to mention, that literally everyone can relate to this movie unless you somehow skipped your entire childhood. We can ALL relate to the nerves, the anxiety, the crushes, and most of us can relate to the mother who loves us but will also accept nothing less than perfection. Like I said before, it really is a coming-of-age film. Who hasn’t come of age? I mean, who can’t understand what a young person goes through?
Similarly, Luca is a film about a young boy who experiences an unforgettable seaside summer on the Italian Riviera filled with gelato, pasta, and endless scooter rides. Stay with me here for a minute. So, Luca goes on these fascinating adventures with his newly-made best friend, Alberto, but things take a mysterious turn once Luca’s deep-dark secret comes to light. The fact that he is a sea monster from a world that exists just below the ocean’s surface. Oh, and so is Alberto. It’s a great movie, don’t get me wrong. It even had a similar storyline to Turning Red – a coming-of-age tale where a young person is not all they appear to be. Both stories have a suffocating mother, and both kids want the freedom to be who they are and explore the world. It’s a well-loved movie, in fact, it was rated 4-stars by CinemaBlend. Of course, the leads were all males so therein lies the difference. Mr. Managing Director could relate to a movie about a boy-who-turns-into-a-sea-monster. A. Sea. Monster.
In regard to Turning Red, a few conservative critics have even gone as far to say that the film deals with topics that aren’t suitable for kids. Like periods and girls having crushes. *GASP* I know, right!? I’m scarred for having watched it. Scarred, I tell you! You know what’s a-okay with these conservative critics though? Killing Bambi’s mother. Killing Nemo’s mother. Killing Elsa and Anna’s parents. Killing Tod’s mother (Fox and the Hound). Killing Quasimodo’s mother (Hunchback of Notre Dame). Killing Koda’s mother (Brother Bear). One word, Mufasa. Hmmm… there seems to be a pattern here. Even Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben died in the streets, just the same as Batman’s parents. What else? The hanging of Clayton in Tarzan. Sid, the sadist in Toy Story. But a story about a young teen girl getting her period and experiencing her first crush just isn’t suitable or relatable viewing material.
Here’s the kicker. CinemaBlend called Turning Red unrelatable as compared to other animated films. What the hell are they even talking about it? Do they mean Finding Nemo, where the lead is a fish? Or Luca, where the lead is a sea monster-boy-hybrid? Or perhaps it was Finding Dory, oh wait, that was about a different fish. It was probably Toy Story. No, wait, that’s not right either. All the leads in that one were toys. Now I know they couldn’t have been referencing the movie Cars because they were all actually cars. CARS. I love Wall-E, it’s one of my absolute favorites, but even this one is all about AI and robots. The humans in Wall-E are secondary characters at best.
So, what I’m getting out of all this is that CinemaBlend can relate more to a FISH or a TOY than they can a Chinese GIRL. I happen to love Shrek, also a fantastic movie. Soundtrack is phenomenal. It’s a film that CinemaBlend gave 4.5 stars, maybe because they relate more to ogres and donkeys than humans? Misogyny and racism has always played a role in non-kid films, but here you go folks, puffed up old middle-aged white men want to keep girls out of kids’ movies because they’re unrelatable.