Do you remember being thirteen years old? I know I do, though I definitely try not to remember. Let’s be real here. Even if now you’re some hotshot CEO or a popstar or a NASA astronaut, at some point, you were an awkward 13 year old. Don’t deny it. You might me smooth and cool now, but let me tell you, nobody was cool at thirteen. No one. At thirteen, you are hitting puberty and trust me, it’s dreadful. Your emotions are all over the place. If you’re a girl, you suddenly get this thing called a period and you don’t understand why it’s a taboo. Boys voices crack and they get hair in strange places. Basically, thirteen year olds are hot messes. They are walking disasters. In their minds they consider themselves a “young adult” but you know, most of them still have their baby fat. Thirteen is that awkward strange of not being a kid but not quite being a teenager yet either. You want to be taken seriously but you aren’t even sure who the hell you are.
Who was I at thirteen? Fuck, if I knew. I was trying to figure that out. I had braces, so you know I got called “Brace Face.” (I know, I know, so original.) I also had glasses so you know “Four Eyes” as well. I believe I was in 7th grade. That’s when I really started to figure out who I was. Who I wanted to be. I used to wear whatever my mother wanted me to wear, which was pink and girly and just not me. In 7th grad I was like, nope. No more. I wore a lot of black and fingerless gloves and probably the first time I dyed my hair red. I wasn’t quite popular but I wasn’t an outcast either. I was something in-between. I made decent grades. I was in choir and art. I hung out with those folks. But also with the skaters and the ones who didn’t quite fit in with the other cliques of middle school. Think like The Breakfast Club.
That was my friends and I, basically. Some hodge-podge, mismatched motley crew of people who probably shouldn’t mesh but we did. I’ve always hung out with people like that.
In 7th grade you want to stand out but not too much. You want to be cool but not a snob. You want to blend in. You want so many different things. And there are lots of shows and movies that show the teenage years. But let me tell you, this movie perfectly captures the sheer awkward, cringeworthy of being a thirteen year old.
Seriously. I got secondhand embarrassment from this movie.
Now I’m not going to tell the whole movie, because well, I want you to watch it. But here are the basic details and my thoughts.
Turning Red is a Pixar film released February 21st, 2022. It follows a Chinese-Canadian girl named Mei who is trying to be the perfect, good daughter while also trying to be herself. This gets a bit more complicated when Mei finds out that in her family, the women turn into giant red pandas once they turn 13 and hit puberty. She can control the panda if she controls her emotions.
This movie talks about the messiness of being a teenager. It’s about school crushes. It’s about puberty. It’s about identity. It’s about how women are told to control themselves. To smile. To be perfect. To not show their anger or their sadness. That’s what the red panda is a metaphor for. Not just a metaphor for puberty, but the repressed emotions women have. That strain that society has put on them. It’s about the pressure that family can put on you (much like Encanto. I discuss intergenerational trauma in my blog post on Encanto too). Like the pressure Mei’s mother, Ming puts on her daughter. That was learned. Ming learned that from her own mother.
But you know what? It’s also about friendship. It’s about the friends you make that sometimes you keep forever. The friends who have your back. The friends who do silly things to try and make you feel better. Mei’s friends accepted her. All of that. And I think that’s beautiful. I know that without my friends in middle and high school, I don’t think I’d be here. My friends saved me, and in a way, Mei’s friends saved her too.
So, check out Turning Red. You’ll cry. You’ll get secondhand embarrassment, but trust me, it’s worth it. It’s a movie that I feel like everyone can relate too.
Here’s some other posts on Turning Red:
And check out this song!