Mar 24, 2022 4 min read

#336: Turning Red

Happy Thursday, loyal readers. Thank you very much for being here. If you’re new(ish), welcome! The Highlighter is all about reading the best articles on race, education, and culture. I hope you like what you read. Last weekend, I watched “ Turning Red ” and found the movie delightful. So I was surp

Happy Thursday, loyal readers. Thank you very much for being here. If you’re new(ish), welcome! The Highlighter is all about reading the best articles on race, education, and culture. I hope you like what you read.

Last weekend, I watched “Turning Red” and found the movie delightful. So I was surprised that the Pixar and Disney film has received only a 73 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. The reason? Maybe nothing nowadays – not even a cute coming-of-age movie – can escape the scrutiny of the culture war. While critics claim that kids should not learn about menstruation in a feature film, I’m wondering if the race and the gender of the protagonist have something to do with the negative reviews. After all, some American adults may not appreciate watching a brash Asian girl who unabashedly likes boys and boy bands.

Today’s issue begins with a review of “Turning Red,” then follows with an article exploring the hubbub about the movie. Then after the break, we expand our view to consider the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes: increasing 73 percent in 2020 and then another 339 percent in 2021. If you have time to read just one article this week, make it “How The Atlanta Spa Shootings Tell A Story Of America,” by May Jeong. The last piece, “Asian Americans Have Always Lived With Fear,” is also very worth your time. I hope that this week’s selections resonate with you.

+ Have you seen the movie? If so, what did you think? Leave me a voicemail or hit reply to share your thoughts.

Turning Red Made Me Feel Understood As A Chinese-American Teen

Representation matters, writes 14-year-old Tabitha Yuen in this review of “Turning Red.” Like Mei, the film’s main character, Tabitha feels overwhelmed with the “awkward stage” of puberty and its “huge hormonal changes,” wishing she could transform into an adorable red panda when she gets “mega-emotional.” She loves Blackpink and Olivia Rodrigo like Mei likes 4*Town. Most important, Tabitha is afraid of disappointing her parents, but appreciates “wrapping baos and dumplings” and doing #VeryAsian things with her mother. (4 min)

Pixar’s Turning Red Is An Unlikely Culture War Battleground

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with Tabitha Yuen’s assessment of “Turning Red.” It’s not relatable, writes a middle-aged white male critic. It’s uncomfortable to watch a movie about a teenage girl experiencing puberty, writes another. Mei is “willful,” “annoying,” and “loud” – negative character traits, especially for (Asian) girls. Worst of all, the film teaches young people to disobey their parents, a terrible sin. Culture reporter Aja Romano   summarizes the hullabaloo. (10 min)

How The Atlanta Spa Shootings Tell A Story Of America

May Jeong: “Before the immigrant becomes an immigrant, before this single act comes to define her, she is preoccupied with what lies ahead. She knows that this leaving will take her away from home. But what she often does not know is that folded into the decision to go away is also the decision to potentially never see her family or homeland again. On one side of the scale, she has put the sum of her life thus far. On the other is America and some vague yet hopeful feeling that life will be better there. And because she has to, or because she wants to, she chooses that one vague and hopeful feeling over everything else—an act that speaks to the vast and violent inequalities that exist in the world.” (34 min)

+ Eight people, including six Asian women, were killed in the Atlanta spa shootings last year.

Asian Americans Have Always Lived With Fear

Min Jin Lee: “Asians and Asian Americans pay the price of nativist fear. Ordinary nativists and the disenfranchised attack people who look like me and far too many others. The assailants may also believe that we are weak physically and politically, unwilling to organize, react or speak up. For some, deep down, my ordinary Korean face — small, shallow-set eyes, round nose, high cheekbones, straight dark hair — reminds them of lost wars, prostitutes, spies, refugees, poverty, disease, cheap labor, academic competition, cheaters, sexual competition, oligarchs, toxic parenting, industrialization or a sex or pornography addiction. What feelings do such reminders arouse? Distrust, defeat, uncleanness, humiliation, sickness, death, terror, envy, anxiety and contempt.” (11 min)

+ Reader Annotations: Several of you shared your appreciation for last week’s issue focusing on education in the Bay Area. A former middle school principal in Oakland, VIP Jamie wrote, “Good collection of local ed stuff, Mark!” That’s kind of you, Jamie. VIP Clare was inspired by Prof. Scott Galloway’s piece on the conflict in Berkeley, writing that she’ll be adding “Life finds a way.” to her list of most useful phrases. “The rest of the articles,” Clare added, “made me sad and angry and also committed to doing what I do and always learning to do it better.” Thank you for your contributions, loyal readers. Please keep them coming.

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