Pixar’s newest film “Turning Red” has gotten some critiques about being a movie “for girls only.” While you may be able to see it as a menstruation reference and how young women handle puberty, there are also other lessons that are for all genders. Children go through puberty, that’s a fact of life. But preparing them is another thing, shown to us by Mei Mei’s mother when she says “It’s Happening,” and she’s so clearly not prepared for it to be.
You can catch “Turning Red” on Disney+ now.
Instead of some outlets saying this is a movie only for girls, I’m going to talk about why boys can also be the audience for this. I believe that this movie is universal, and should be shown to everyone, no matter what gender they are (or identify with.) I’m going to make this list as spoiler-free as I can. If you’d like to read a review for the film, you can do so here.
1 1. An Opportunity to Explain
I’m not sure schools still use that old video presentation for puberty that mine did. But if they’re doing it the same way (if they’re doing it at all), they split up boys and girls to explain what’s happening to them, and ONLY to them. Boys don’t learn about menstruation, girls don’t learn about night emissions. I’ve seen so many Reddit posts where men think periods are disgusting, wrong, or that a woman could “hold it in.” This is a wonderful opportunity for a mother figure to explain to a young man what a period is, and how it’s handled.
You also see cultural differences at play. Mei Mei is trying her best to be her best, for her mother’s sake. You might explain different cultures can have different motivations. And just because someone says they are busy, doesn’t mean they don’t care, it just means they have different priorities.
2 2. Teaches Empathy & Understanding
This film will teach young men what it’s really like as a girl. Sure, boys might understand that hitting puberty can bring other things to worry about like accidental erections, and voice changes. But for young women, it can be even more daunting. When boys learn about the changes women go through from a young age, it will help them understand, and maybe even be better partners in the future.
“Turning Red” not only focuses on Mei Mei, but also her mother. You can see that she is desperately trying to connect with her and failing at every turn. You can say the same for parents of young men when they hit a certain age. Try as you might, it can be an impossible task to get them to WANT to hang out with you. Because lets face it, making a teenager do anything is like pulling teeth. He will be able to see how hard the parents are trying and possibly be able to connect the dots to see how you are trying your best as his parent.
3 3. Girls ARE Weird Too, Be Kind
When girls start their periods, it’s not uncommon for them to lash out at anyone and everyone. Including boys in class, or around them that have nothing to do with the emotions they are feeling. I know that I was probably rude and curt to a few (okay a lot) of boys (and girls) when I experienced the unexpected first visits from Aunt Flow.
Girls are going to be weird, they know it, and you know it. But like boys going through physical and emotional changes, they also won’t be able to control them. Like outbursts, randomness, and smells. That’s right, girls get B.O. too.
Be kind to others and treat people how you want to be treated. Even if they lash out in the moment, they will remember that you were kind. And most likely come back when they’re in a better place and either apologize or make it up to you with a friendly conversation.
4 4. An Excellent Coming of Age Film
Within “Turning Red” are a slew of embarrassing moments for all genders. While it’s easy to focus on how Mei Mei is feeling when her mother storms into show Devon the drawings she’s done, you also have to consider how embarrassing it is for Devon. In the film, he seems to take it in stride, but the movie doesn’t give him a whole lot of brain cells to begin with. In fact, they kind of use the stereotype that girls see men as big dumb beautiful animals, which can be kind of insightful for a young man watching the film. It may also encourage him to show off his mind when it comes to having intelligent conversations.
Then you also have Tyler Nguyen-Baker, the school bully or really the awkward boy who’s desperately trying to fit in. Sure you can see his lashing out as being incredibly mean but for viewers like me it’s showing that he’s crying out for attention any way he can. This is also a teachable moment because you can explain that by doing things like he did, it isolates Tyler so that many are weary to be his friend at all. And it also puts him in an incredibly lonely space. It’s not until later in the film when they finally realize that Tyler is relatable because they catch him in a moment of vulnerability. It’s ok to like things, and you should never feel like you can’t like something because you’re a boy.
5 5. It Makes Body-Talk Normal
While themes in this movie are a little more adult because it deals with puberty and feelings, you can show this film to any age. The sooner you do, the sooner the conversations can be had. And while they may not understand if they’re under 7, eventually they will. And they will be thankful that this movie created a “normal” atmosphere. Discussing these things with your children should be seen as normal and not put off. If you want to talk about trauma, try going through something and not knowing what’s happening. Ranging from “why are my sheets wet,” to “why is the bathtub water red?”