Turning Red: A Hopeful Vision For the Future of Entertainment
Turning Red explores the life of a thirteen-year-old Chinese Canadian girl named Mei and her friends as they tackle one of the most daunting but exciting tasks in their lives — growing up. The film follows Mei as she maneuvers through complex subjects such as intergenerational trauma, community, family relations, perfectionism, and puberty — including periods.
Growing up, I now notice the lack of mention of menstruation in the media. I always wondered what the characters in a movie did when they got their periods. How did all of these Disney characters venture out into the wilderness for months on end and survive without a single menstrual product in sight? Impossible! It was as if this crucial, natural bodily function that is a part of so many people's lives had been hidden, and everyone else pretended as if it did not exist.
Moreover, it's not only children's media that is structured in this way; so many shows for older audiences miss the perspective of menstruators. Even though adult media is supposed to be consumable for a more adult audience (although periods are not at all an "adult" subject), no one really pays any attention to it. And, for the most part, even when periods are talked about, it is done in a negative light. For example, one of the first movie scenes that comes to my mind is when the young teen in Carrie starts her period and is then surrounded by her peers who throw tampons at her while yelling, "Plug it up!".
For so long, entertainment outlets have aligned with the social perceptions of periods that promote the idea of concealment and shame. When periods are shown, it is depicted as embarrassing, distressing, or even comedic. These representations have power since if it is the only narrative mainstream audiences see, negative social attitudes toward menstruation only continue to further validate a cycle of period stigma. Almost every menstruator I know has had some sort of menstrual mishap, so why does the entertainment world warp these common occurrences into something that is traumatizing for the main character. Essentially, the media shapes social interactions for those who menstruate, so such pessimistic views may burden impressionable audiences with the urge to fit the mould of being the "normal" menstruator — which does not exist at all.
With these experiences in mind, you may have already guessed why I was so excited to see Mei's mother casually talk about periods and wave around pads on the big screen. Mei nor her mother shy away from conversations about menstruation and challenge the normalized uncomfortableness that comes with period talks, which is a lesson I hope younger viewers, older audiences, and, especially, media firms can learn from the movie. Turning Red sets the stage for a new relationship that people can have with menstruation and the expectation we should have for future films that include a "coming of age" storyline.
Abrahams, Mia. “From Carrie to Superbad: What Do Periods Look like on the Scarlet Screen?” Thinx, Thinx Inc, 4 Jan. 2018, https://www.shethinx.com/blogs/thinx-piece/from-carrie-to-superbad-what-do-periods-look-like-on-the-scarlet-screen.