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Some Reviews Think ‘Turning Red’ Is Cringe for Its Depiction of 13-Year-Olds as if We Weren’t All Writing Self-Insert Fic at That Age

And don't get me started on pretending to be a Power Ranger at the playground.

Turning Red

Turning Red is now available to stream on Disney+ and I’ve been enjoying watching everyone’s reactions to a movie that captures so much of my adolescent years that I kinda wonder if they stumbled onto one of my Mead Composition Notebooks. From doodling your crush in your notebook, striking a pose with your friends in the middle of the sidewalk, and having to explain why expensive ass concert tickets are so totally worth it, this movie fully embraces what it means to be 13.

For adults like me, it’s a chance to think back to those early years and get a little bit flustered about how embarrassing you were. That being said, when I think about me at 13 I realize that there’s something so pure and honest about enjoying your life so much that you truly don’t care how silly you look. Of course, there are the parts you don’t want certain people to see—I say as someone who wrote fanfic in her father’s basement—which is why Turning Red‘s unapologetic depiction of teenage friend groups is so wholesome. No one at home knew about my fanfic notebook, but at school with friends? Yeah, that was quite the time to be alive.

This is why it’s so frustrating to see some reviewers say that this movie is, somehow, NOT a true depiction of how beautifully cringe we were at 13.

Gasp, a main character who “draws fanfiction”

This is just one example of the kind of reviews the movie has been getting. That’s not the overall response as many people adore the film, but when a movie dares to star a cast who isn’t white, you can expect some kind of “I can’t relate” rhetoric even if we’ve seen plenty of white leads butt heads with their parents and fill a notebook with numerous AUs about their crush.

I want to address this particular pearl-clutching review that is concerned about a 13-year-old “drawing fanfiction,” because honestly, one of my favorite things about the movie is the fact that it has such ordinary, relatable teenage issues as its driving force. That’s not to say I don’t like it when otherwordly powers are symbolism for puberty and the teenage experience (which, well, this movie is that, too), I just appreciate that the climax in Turning Red is a concert, and the horrifying moment between mother and daughter is “shit she found my notebook!”

The day my father discovered my LiveJournal was the worst day of my life—and I was in college at the time!

This idea of “drawing fanfiction” being some adult taboo and not a thing you’ve been unknowingly doing your whole life is so wild to me. Does fanfiction have adult circles? Oh, yes, absolutely. But is it also a thing we’ve been doing since we inserted ourselves into the fantastical worlds we’d watch and read about? Again, yes! Growing up, I didn’t realize that writing bonkers crossovers where the ladies of Mortal Kombat became champions of love and justice had a name. I didn’t know that drawing Goku a thousand times over had a name. I didn’t know that pretending to be a Power Ranger had a name (Trini, if you’re curious, was my go-to pick). My friends and I just did these things, unaware that it had a label, we just knew that, at the playground, we were Power Rangers or VR Troopers.

So in the spirit of taking hold of your cringiest self, I’m going to reveal the most ridiculous thing I wrote at 13.

Mortal Kombat meets Romeo and Juliet

In eighth grade, we had a class assignment to rewrite a scene from Romeo and Juliet in our own style. At the time, I was VERY into Mortal Kombat, so much so that I even watched the cartoon. So when we were told to rewrite a scene, I used it as an opportunity to insert Mortal Kombat characters in a scene. Now, I can’t quite remember who all the characters ended up being, but I do know that Scorpion and Sub-Zero were bitter enemies and the end game was Liu Kang and Kitana, my number one ship thanks to the 90s film.

I know I mentioned a Mortal Kombat/Sailor Moon crossover, but to me, the Romeo and Juliet take is more cringe because I actually TURNED IT IN TO MY TEACHER. I didn’t get a good grade on it because I hadn’t actually written anything different, I just swapped the character names and rewrote the dialogue as is. Would my grade have been better if I wrote my own dialogue? I don’t know, but what I do know is that at 13 I was a cringy Mortal Kombat fangirl who was in love with Scorpion almost as much as I was in love with Will Smith, whom I loved SO MUCH that I would go on to DEFEND Wild Wild West in 1999.

Be kind, please, I’d been trying to be Mrs. Smith since The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

(Image: Pixar)

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Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)