‘Why does watching the practices of a culture other than your own mean it’s inherently evil?’: Asian-American mom responds to ‘Turning Red’ backlash

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“Unpopular (maybe?) opinion about Disney/Pixar’s new movie Turning Red, mostly because my opinion is not just about the movie, but also about its critics.

I’ve seen posts from a lot of people who are getting up in arms about Turning Red. And yes, it may be best for older kids because it covers themes more relevant to children approaching puberty and the awkwardness of being that age. However, as an Asian-American (aka Asian American Pacific Islander), I found it relatable. Not only does the characters’ family come from the same culture as my own ancestors, but they live in a city where my great aunts, uncles, and cousins live. I’ve also visited there. And even though my kids are 1/4 Chinese, they also found it relatable.

Mixed family Asian-American family standing on a porch
Courtesy of Christan Resz

It’s also set in 2002, not too long after I was a teen. This movie is entrenched with Asian culture many Americans just might not get. But there was a lot to it that just fit my own personal experience. If this movie would have come out when I was younger, I would have been thrilled to watch a movie with a main character who looked like me and with a story that reflected my own personal experience.

Asian American toddler girl playing with toys
Courtesy of Christan Resz

This movie is set in a time before most kids had their own phones, before nerds were considered cool, and before boybands were passé. It reminded me of my friend group in middle school—we were a little nerdy, obsessed with NKOTB, had crushes, and came from a variety of different races/cultures/religions. Watching Turning Red made me a little nostalgic. However, I also related to it as a parent; I recognize areas in my own parenting that are affected by my cultural upbringing, both good and bad.

Asian American mom sitting on the couch with her three kids - one baby and two toddler girls
Courtesy of Christan Resz

While all the negative opinions about this movie has to do with inappropriate content (which I feel is really just inappropriate to a certain subculture), I’ve seen multiple dissenting opinions including dislike regarding the spiritual practices of the characters. There may be some symbolism about getting a period and becoming a ‘woman’ (this wasn’t really my takeaway, but I can see how some people draw this conclusion), but it really is much more about long-standing family trauma-response, becoming your own person, and breaking free from familial expectations of perfection into which you just don’t fit.

Teenage Asian American girl standing in the yard wearing a pink dress
Courtesy of Christan Resz

I’m in groups (from my past days as a Christian homeschooler) where people are up in arms over the content because it does not promote ‘the values we want for our children’. I get it…I used to be one of those Christian parents who was highly discriminating against what my little kids watched. But I am also a Chinese-American who yearly went to my immigrant grandfather’s grave and bowed 3 times in respect.

Asian American teen girl playing the piano next to Asian and American family members
Courtesy of Christan Resz

When I read all these comments (from seemingly, mostly white women), part of me wonders if they realize how their disapproving opinions are lined with undertones of passive racism. Because, why does having to watch the practices of any other culture than your own mean it’s inherently evil? Is a movie that doesn’t align with your own personal viewpoint wrong?

If watching Chinese people pray to their ancestors and perform ritual ceremonies you don’t understand offends you—which is one of the warnings against the movie I keep seeing in these groups—maybe check yourself before you type and find out whether or not it’s because you just don’t understand. Or, own up to how your limited view of life causes you to say/type something racist, whether you realize you’re being racist or not.

So, to sum up: I liked the movie. It was VERY relatable to my personal experience as a half-Chinese/half-ish white person. I even got teary because I very much related to both the main character AND her mother. It does have some tween/teen themes that will either go over little kids’ heads or will need to be explained.

It has very 2002 vibes, which is kind of fun. It might give non-Asians a peek inside our culture and give you more understanding. It MIGHT also give you an opportunity to segue into an important conversation with your child/children about a variety of different topics.”

Portrait of Asian American family - mom, dad and 5 kids
Courtesy of Christan Resz

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