When Pixar’s Turn red premiering on Disney+ in March, much of the expected response to Y2K’s coming-of-age story about Mei, a Chinese-Canadian teen turns into a red panda as she begins to go through puberty , is the celebration.
But in the weeks after the film’s release, the conversation surrounding it led to championing a step forward in inclusive storytelling – the film marked the first time the studio was directed by a single Canadian woman. Hoa directs and features her first Asian protagonist – and translates into a heated debate. The controversy will ultimately revolve around whether an animated film aimed at children should be allowed, even metaphorically, alluding to menstruation.
In an interview with PolygonDirector and co-writer Domee Shi explains that the Red Panda metaphor doesn’t just refer to puberty but also “what we inherit from our mothers and how we deal with the things we I inherited it from them.”
Producer Lindsey Collins said: “Everybody on the cast is unapologetic in support of having real conversations about the period and about these moments in the girls’ lives.
That decision didn’t sit well with some parents, who went to review centers like Common Sense Media (which focuses on media suitability for kids) to accuse Pixar movies of passing boundaries for younger audiences with “many mentions of the period and as one reviewer noted.
“This is extremely disappointing! We were getting ready to watch it with friends on a snowy day and it is completely unsuitable for any child under the age of 13,” said another adult reviewer, who rated the film as yes. “too much sex,” wrote. “Adolescence, the crazy boy, lying to his parents, sneaking away, and more unhealthy ways of dealing with emotions.”
(According to the Cleveland Clinic, puberty can begin as early as age eight, with menstruation starting around age 12.)
Because Braceface creator Melissa Clarke, the backlash sounds all too familiar. Her animated series, which ran on the Disney-owned ABC Family network for three seasons, tackled menstruation in 2001 during the show’s first season in “The Worst First Date Ever: Period.”
“I got a lot of letters from angry moms,” the writer and creator of the series recalls. “One of them said, ‘My 13-year-old daughter and I think we’re sitting around watching a funny cartoon and then I have to explain to her what menstruation is.” We were like , ‘Oh, that’s a thank you letter, is what you’re saying.’
Written by host Alyse Rosenberg and “welcomed” by studio Nelvana, the story saw its protagonist, “the face” Sharon, on a first date with a love when she got her first period. Ultimately, the episode attempts to provide a look at how teenagers can react – to everything from anxiety to pride – to experiences related to puberty.
Clarke said of her series in general about her series: “It sort of captures taboo subjects, so to speak, life. “I really wanted to Braceface became the television version of Judy Blume’s book, became the landing for the kind of children I needed to tell stories to. “
Lauren Rosewarne, author of Periods in Pop Culture: Menstruation in Film and TVsays the negative reaction to these storylines is an ongoing problem fueled by the perception of menstruation as an “adult” subject.
“There is a tendency for some people – generally conservatives with strong religious beliefs – to think that all sex education should be provided in the home rather than through third parties like schools. school or media,” said Rosewarne CHEAP. “Menstruation is lumped together with other perceived ‘adult’ topics – like intercourse or masturbation – that are considered sensitive, private, and often uncomfortable or embarrassing to discuss.”
One result of that view is historically negative representations of the periods, linking them to “confusion, bad mood, and sometimes even crime,” she says. In addition, both live-action films and cartoons and television depict the existence of menstruation as something used strategically – a convenient excuse to leave exercise class or overeat.
But not all shows adopt these approaches, including sitcoms Roseannethis sees Darlene’s first period as “something positive” that made it possible for her to become a parent, says Rosewarne CHEAP. The representational treatment of periods in TV and film can also depend on genre, with comedies leaning more towards allusion while teen-oriented media more likely to focus. into education, prediction, and even activism.
“I think animation aimed at younger audiences would be more likely to avoid its inclusion unless it is consciously intended to function as sex education,” says Rosewarne.
Such was the case with a 1946 Disney short, Menstruation story, manufactured in partnership with International Cellucotton Products Company, the marketing arm of Kimberly-Clark, the manufacturer of Kotex products. As one of the first branded films to be used in schools and eventually shown to 100 million students, The Walt Disney Company oversaw the first drafts of the script and the conceptualization of the material. intuitive, with the manufacturers inviting a consultant gynecologist to ensure scientific accuracy.
The script’s emphasis “on biological themes”, guided by KC, helped to make its tone objective and non-emotional, according to Kotex, Kleenex, Huggies: Kimberly-Clark and the Consumer Revolution in American Business. Along with the brief, the ICPC has released a supplemental teaching guide that recommends educators informally address menstruation in fourth grade before focusing on a more “systematic” into seventh grade.
This safer approach, shaped in part by screen testing leading to major edits, is by design Bob Batc started, Kotex, Kleenex, Huggies co-author, told CHEAP. “There were many cultural factors that KC and Disney had to consider when making Menstruation story, like how to represent sex organs and depict blood,” he explains. “They have to be tactful and sensitive, especially if they want to gain widespread approval. And as it is now, much of the country was too conservative in its views on sex and sex education, so the film had to overcome potential barriers. “
Rosewarne notes that in the past, the U.S. television and film industry operated under production rules that made it difficult to get periods. Male dominance in media production, as well as network and classification concerns, also influenced the representation of the period. “In general, producers want their material to be viewed by as many people as possible, so they generally avoid including content that restricts who can see it,” she says.
Released decades apart, The story of menstruation, turning red and Braceface ended up grappling with the same threat of backlash. But unlike its more modern counterparts, the short menstrual teaching and its supplement materials are accepted as age-appropriate for those under the age of 13. Batc started said. One student even describes it as something that can be enjoyed “instead of being silenced.”
“Schools have a more direct role in preparing teenagers for life rather than focusing on college, so health and sexuality are extremely important,” says Batcelor. Computing is more central in the education system than it is today.
Despite the mixed reception surrounding menstrual animation, Rosewarne says that the stigma about screen time has “diminished over time,” thanks to the Internet, social media, cable TV and now digital media. streaming service. She concluded: “They simply don’t care about the taste or classification that has hindered cinema and television broadcasts.
For Clarke, change is as important as a creator who wants to help people who are looking for answers.
“Looking back as a kid, I feel so ashamed and everything feels bad and weird. I guess because my parents weren’t comfortable with any of that. So I really get the shame out of it, and I feel like it’s completely unnecessary,” Clarke said. “Why is it so overwhelming for some people when it’s just a part of life?”
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