From the moment I saw the incredible poster and read the premise for Turning Red, I was in. As a huge fan of Bao, Domee Shi’s Academy Award-winning animated short from 2018, I knew that we were in the right hands. And I can confidently say that the film delivers on every front.
Growing up in Latin America, it was hard to feel connected to my Asian heritage and even harder to see myself represented in the movies and shows I consumed. Especially for Asian kids growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s, we had a very small pool of Asian characters to pick from.
From Mulan to American Dragon: Jake Long, a few characters here and there were supposed to encapsulate the totality of the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) experience. This is why it has come as such a refreshing turn that we’re starting to get more diverse stories within the AAPI umbrella.
Turning Red is the latest film to showcase diverse Asian characters as the lead characters.
I was excited to finally see a quirky and “marching at the beat of her own drum” girl be the center of attention as she struggled to figure out her place in the world. Shi built such a vibrant world, full of recognizable and unique characters that reflect who I am as part of the Asian community while feeling equally similar to the parts of me that are Latine.
From an overbearing mother who only wants to protect and do what’s best for her daughter, to the group of Aunties that love to gossip and pamper you, to the group of friends that stand by you no matter what, and lift you up when you’re down. It was so refreshing to see my family and myself in every character and get to connect with them on such a deep level.
The film also touches heavily on the “duty” we have to our family, most importantly our parents, and the backlash that may occur from detaching ourselves from the person our parents think we should become. Much like Disney’s Encanto, Turning Red dives deep into the topic of generational trauma and how it is up to us to break those curses in order to heal ourselves and our families.
Personally, I related deeply with the film’s theme, especially as a third-generation immigrant child that suffers from anxiety raised in a family where, to quote Frozen, it was encouraged to “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.” Turning Red not only encourages healing by confronting your fears but also by talking openly about our feelings and taking a strong stand against pretending to be someone we’re not.
When we talk about representation, this is the film that I wish I would’ve gotten when I was 13 and growing up in Latin America. A film for young Asian girls who get made fun of for being outspoken, excited about life, and “too much” to see themselves and be celebrated for who they are. Ultimately, this is the film that finally connects all parts of my heritage and my life experience, and has allowed me to heal my inner child at the same time.