Disclaimer: I have not seen this film and probably never will.
In the classic vein of Drama I Do Not Have Time For, Turning Red has overtaken my social media stream this week as equally outraged and delighted parents, all women, weigh in with their takes. Were it not for the surprising diversity on display in these strong opinions, I would have gone on my (usually not very) merry way. But I swear, at this point the movie itself simply cannot live up to the hype any way you dice it: the social narratives about the meta-narratives in the movie have already been worth the popcorn investment.
Some people say the movie normalizes grooming teenagers for sexual abuse. Some people say it normalizes much-needed discussions of topics that never should have been taboo. Some people say it promotes “harmful stereotypes” of mother-daughter relationships. Others say it depicts their true-to-life experience of abuse so accurately that it would be triggering to watch!
I can’t verify the accuracy of any of these evaluations without watching the movie, and I’m just not interested in the movie one way or the other, so I’m not going to even try. What I am here to do, however, is to point out that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I love the fact that Pixar has created something that highlights how different our vantage points often are—and how easily we overlook, dismiss, or ignore the perspectives of others in favor of exclusively focusing on our own.
Speaking as a repentant abject Judgy McJudgerson, myself.
Just because someone has a different take on something doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Just because someone thinks I’m wrong doesn’t mean I’m wrong. And… just because I think someone else is wrong doesn’t make them wrong, either… in and of itself.
But it might be wrong of us to write each other off just because we see things differently.
That’s actually the one thing that bothers me in the review linked above: it doesn’t grant that there are other takes on the mother/daughter dynamic in the movie.
I really like and appreciate this mom’s assessment of the movie overall, though. She’s pretty even-keeled. She owns her part in how the media showed up in her home without a trace of either self-shaming or deflecting (SO GOOD!). She can handle talking about puberty with her kids, whether or not she or they were prepared to do so (way to think on her feet and rise to the occasion!). She’s honest and real about what she didn’t like or appreciate about this experience for her family that she legit wishes had gone differently (yes, she is entitled to her own preferences, likes and dislikes!). She doesn’t mud-sling or denigrate Disney/Pixar but clearly communicates the simple facts about her prior expectations for their movies and describes, again very simply and calmly, how those weren’t met, and how, given that experience, she will plan to approach their media differently in future—and clearly describes how she would like them to handle such media of theirs in future, too, in case they would be willing to consider that.
These are all hallmarks of respectful, mature conversation. Brava!
Then, near the end, there’s that part about “harmful stereotypes of relationships with mothers and daughters.”
Well… ok, Redemption Unveiled Podcast. I see why you say that. I totally see how this negative depiction of a parent-child relationship could have scared you and your littles and damaged the sweet, trusting rapport you have worked so hard to cultivate with them. That is truly unfortunate, and I am sorry. Nobody warned you and you got signed up for this ride without your knowing consent and now you’re stuck doing damage control and that’s a shame. It is. I mean that.
But, uh, there’s something you need to know… depictions of negative, destructive, harmful parenting, are not… stereotypes.
They are just truths that you, and especially your children, are very blessed to not have present in your immediate family.
That can’t be said for a lot of people. Particularly… a lot of kids out there.
Kids who do indeed, for very good reason, feel just like this character you’ve quoted from the movie (that part I can legit comment on since you kindly shared it): “I’ve been obsessed with my moms approval my whole life. I couldn’t take losing it, but losing you guys feels even worse.”
Friend, I’d like you to know that I wish somebody, even if it was just some cartoon movie narrative, had presented me with this life lesson as an option when I was a teen.
It might have saved me from another two decades of solid grief, abuse, and arrested development.
Here’s the thing: some kids actually need stories like this to tell them the truth about their parents. Even, maybe especially, when those kids have grown up to be adults and still don’t know any better.
Because their parents sure as heck aren’t going to tell them.
And their parents’ friends sure aren’t going to tell them because, well, they’re the parents’ friends, and we have a society full of grown-ups more willing to look out for the interests of their fellow grown-ups than for the vulnerable children being exploited in their midst.
Sometimes we need stories from people who’ve never met us and never will to speak the truth that we desperately need to hear that not a single person we actually know will ever say.
That is why I am fundamentally grateful Pixar is creating stories like this, even though you may not be.
I am sorry this movie was a waste of your time, and I’m not denying that it was; it clearly was. But it’s not going to be a waste of someone else’s time. In fact, someone else out there really needs to see it.
And you know what? It would not be a waste of your time… for you to sit down with that person, whether a child or an adult… as an engaged and observant and supportive and quiet and listening friend… and watch this movie with them. And talk about it.
Ask them how it spoke to them. Ask them if it resonates at all. Ask them how safe they feel at home, how seen they feel, how respected they feel. Ask them if they just want to talk about any of it.
Maybe start with just that last one first.
And then really, really listen.
Because, friend, if someone had done something like that for me when I was a kid–if that kind of appreciation for different, unfamiliar, even uncomfortable perspectives on stuff like this had existed when I was a kid–maybe you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation today.
Maybe we wouldn’t have to.
Maybe you would still accidentally stumble into the misfortune of having your own kids unnecessarily exposed to this subject matter… but maybe then you would be better equipped to have a conversation about how, sadly, parents like that do exist, and the kids of those parents need love and help, and because your kiddos have good and kind and loving parents… they can grow up to be good parents themselves and maybe even show hurting little kids like that what it is to be truly loved.
P.S. Also can you please not use sarcastic quote marks to discredit the main character whenever she talks about her true self? Because, um, that tells survivors of child abuse (like me) that they don’t actually know themselves and what they’ve gone through… even though nobody else could possibly know everything they’ve gone through as well as they do. Let’s all please keep in mind that God designed each individual human to be literally the best-qualified human on the planet to know who he or she is… because God did not make people to be a hive mind. Nobody gets to know my mind and heart and life like I do, and I don’t get to know that about anybody else. Nobody but God has that insight (Jer. 17:9-10).