“All girls have their periods. So let’s normalize them and celebrate them,” says actress Sandra Oh, who plays a character in Pixar’s new movie “Ginger is Growing Up is a Monster,” talking animated shame, high emotion and, yes, menstruation.
Known for her roles in Killing Eve and Grey’s Anatomy, Oh portrays Ming, Mei’s mother, a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl who is the protagonist. The animated film launched on March 11 on the Disney Plus streaming platform.
“I was very happy that a film was made about it. It’s a subject that isn’t talked about much, so it’s important for me to be part of a film about puberty,” says Oh on the BBC.
Mei, the main character, is smart, outgoing, and gets along well with her parents, a happy couple.
Director Domi Shi and playwright Julia Cho, co-writers of the film, drew inspiration from their own childhood to create a recognizable and original character.
May had a very good life in her teenage years until her hormone surge hit her.
From girl to panda
A hormonal surge can throw us off balance at one point or another, but for the children’s film, the writers have created a great metaphor in Mei’s face: whenever she feels down or something makes her uncomfortable, she turns into a giant red panda, a cute version Incredible Hulk.
Mei wakes up one morning and realizes that she has become a panda. Annoyed by this sudden transformation, she hides in the bathroom, disgusted by her new body hair and the smell of her armpits.
This direct metaphor tries to show what young women face when puberty brings great physical and mental changes.
After a while, his mother asks him a subtle question: “Did the red peony bloom?”
The courtesy ends when Ming enters the bathroom with a pile of sanitary napkins and painkillers.
Rosalie Chung, who plays Mei, was 12 when she started recording and is now 16. “Throughout this movie, I went through puberty,” she explains.
“The film makes no apology for its appeal to puberty. He doesn’t try to hide it, he doesn’t try to make a joke, he just speaks straight. It’s really a taboo topic, but everyone goes through it.” Chang said.
The Importance of Talking About Periods
Pixar has already explored the emotions of a young girl in the animated film Ridiculous (2015) and the tension between mother and daughter in Valiant (2012), but Redhead is the first foray into the theme of puberty. a topic that is not often touched upon in family films.
Director Domi Shi explains that the idea of talking about menstruation and the embarrassment girls can experience was in her head “from the very beginning”. The film treats the subject delicately and shows how embarrassed Mei is, in particular, by her mother’s reaction.
Shi, who won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film “Bao” (2018), co-wrote “Red” with Julia Cho.
Producer Lindsey Collins explains that they appreciated the film’s reception during early screenings in front of other Pixar colleagues. “It was a mixture of laughter and shock – the best response we could get,” she said.
Carolyn Dankert, website founder Mighty GearIwhich gives advice to girls and parents about menstruation, tells the BBC that many parents “have a hard time starting a conversation with their kids about things like puberty and menstruation, which is often embarrassing for teenage girls.”
“However, when they watch a movie together, they can draw on the experiences of the characters to approach these issues with some emotional distance, which will help the kids feel more at ease,” she explains.
Emma Thompson O’Dowd, health and wellness expert for worldwide children’s charity Plan International UK, calls the inclusion of menstruation in films “wonderful”.
Her research shows that “when girls start menstruating, more than two-fifths of them experience anxiety and one-third experience shame.”
“All children, but especially girls, should know that menstruation is a healthy and normal part of life. Films like Red help break down taboos and create opportunities for open and honest conversation.”
The film also stands out as the first Pixar film directed exclusively by a woman, with a main crew and an all-female cast.
Pixar, acquired by Disney in 2006, has received several awards, including 18 Oscars.
According to Ms. Collins, the women’s team felt a lot of support from the leaders, who were not intimidated by the theme of the film. She adds that the fact that the team is made up of women “gave them permission to be bold.”
“Red” is also part of the phenomenon of the popularity of films and television series directed by Asians. Beyond popularity, it’s about visibility.
The film’s director, a Chinese-Canadian, talks about the importance of representation. “When I was little, I didn’t feel that there was a lot of talk about me and my family, I didn’t see my reflection in the media,” she says.
Sandra Oh, an Asian Canadian, told the magazine El Canada in 2020, she was “particularly interested in roles that explore a character’s race.”
“This is exactly the kind of project I was looking for,” she says of Red, delighted that there are now “more opportunities to tell stories.” [qu’elle n’a] couldn’t tell before [sa] career”.
mother and daughter relationship
The animation also follows the mothers and daughters of all generations in the Mei family.
Ming wants her daughter to honor her traditions by working at the family temple. She resents May’s desire to be a typical teenager.
Oh describes Ming as a “loving and hyper-vigilant” mother. “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a difficult relationship with their mother. It’s love, but it can be difficult,” she says.
Shea adds that many members of the team, whether Asian or immigrant, have “similar stories of feeling pressure and tension with their mothers and fathers.”
“It was very important for us to tell this story, full of nuances. Mei really loves her mother and wants to be a good girl, but she grows up in a completely different world than her parents,” she explains.