Disney and Pixar’s Turning Red

March 25, 2022
Leslie Dixon

mei and her panda from disney pixar's turning redIt was Tuesday night, and my grandson and I were looking for a movie to watch on Disney+. We saw the banner for Turning Red. I had no idea what the theme was, but it looked cute. We were about five minutes in before the message became clear. By that time Mei’s panda had emerged, and I thought, “What perfect blog material!”I wondered: how were mothers who were watching this movie with their daughters going to explain the whole period / emotions / panda story? I wondered if the moms were aware of the theme in advance, or if they just thought it would be a cute, innocuous Disney movie about a teenage girl turning into a panda.I would hope that the moms used the movie as a teachable moment to address puberty, periods and the multitude of emotions their daughters might experience. (I had to laugh that a Pixar movie might open the door to the period talk!)I appreciate the fact that Disney / Pixar handled the subject matter with humor and addressed the fact that puberty evokes real feelings and emotions, although thankfully most of us don’t have huge pandas emerge. Besides the normal issues around puberty and periods such as breasts, cramps, periods and blood, girls dread experiencing uncontrollable emotions. Unfortunately, girls and boys usually aren’t given healthy outlets to express them. It’s a good thing real parents merely deal with our children’s human form, not some huge pandas in the throes of hormonal upheaval.I feel like the crux of the movie is the mother’s own experience when she got her period and the emotional disruption that followed. She learned quickly there was no controlling those feelings and emotions, plus her own mother couldn’t give her the support she needed. As a result, the dread and shame she experienced transferred to Mei. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence that leaves an impact on girls generation after generation. Luckily, Mei was able to overcome the generational influence.Our society generally tends to have a negative attitude when it comes to puberty and periods. As a whole, we seem to be shrouded in taboos, shame and general denial. Many of the moms in my classes share similar stories about their own negative experiences going through puberty and getting their periods.What was evident in the movie was Mei’s resiliency and determination. There is something so powerful about a teen girl coming into her own. It is so important to adequately prepare them for womanhood.Mei had a choice: she could follow the traditions of her elders or embrace her true feelings and self by changing the narrative. Choosing the latter helped her and allowed her mother and grandmother to heal.I have often observed at the completion of my classes, that the mothers who had a negative puberty and period experience leave with a more positive attitude, and, in many cases, a mental and emotional healing takes place.I strongly encourage mothers to help their daughters to listen to their inner voices and never be afraid to speak up. Mei’s inner power, strength and determination not only impacted her, but her friends and family as well.A note from Nurse Leslie: Tradition and celebration at important rites of passage is an imperative if we are to change the whole “yuck! puberty & periods” narrative. When your daughter gets her first period, create a period celebration, instead of handing her a pad and telling her, “good luck!”Obviously, this movie addressed what girls experience, which does not negate a boys puberty experience. if you have a son, educating him about the physical changes he’ll experience, and how hormones will impact his feeling and emotions. This invaluable guidance will help him navigate the tween and teen years. Help him in finding constructive outlets for the emotional ups and down so that his teen years have less drama. Plus, it will also make your life easier as well.Finally, a reminder that our parent/child courses foster a connection with children that opens the door for future conversations about puberty and other sensitive topics. After all, do you want your nine-year-old daughter watching Turning Red and then thinking sometime soon she’ll be turning into a giant emotional panda??

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