Turns red is a great coming-of-age story, mainly because it is not afraid to dive into the more messy parts of being a young teenager. Periods, peer pressure, and confusing, playful emotions are all fair game, and the film handles them with confidence. It’s a phase of life that is not often celebrated in movies, and it’s a story that has resonated with a number of fans. Since the film’s release, artists of all ages have learned from the protagonist and the occasional red panda Mei to pamper themselves in their work and embrace the turmoil. Many of these artists have also reflected on how the art they created in their younger years inspired their art today.
“I knew there was something wrong the moment my best friend from high school wrote to me and said that Mei ‘reminded her of me’ and that the film had brought back a lot of really good memories of us as impossibly chaotic , confused teenagers. ” said Devon Giehl, a producer and lead writer on Netflix’s The Dragon Prince, in a conversation with Polygon.
Turns red is unapologetically invested in the more messy aspects of his characters’ lives, taking things that are often seen as creepy or best hidden away and dragging them right into the limelight. This includes 13-year-old Meis scribbled by her secret crush, a 17-year-old boy named Devon, who is a sweet clerk at the local Daisy Mart. In one of the film’s early scenes, she draws the two embracing; she also portrays Devon as a sailor and herself as an anime protagonist along with her friends. It all feels very real to a young teenage girl’s notebook. And it has inspired conversations between people who relate deeply to moments like Mei who sweat and scribble out depictions of her teenage desires. People have also celebrated these moments instead of finding them inappropriate or embarrassing.
“I grew up when the Internet was still a wild fandom frontier and we almost came together by chance: my most meaningful hub for Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom was, for example, the Neopets role-playing boards, ”Giehl said. “Like a host of other people from any kind of marginalized background at all, I had a pretty tough start to my creative career and I felt that some of my more heartfelt creative instincts were too easily suffocated by leaders who saw the vulnerability in them . – and seemed to see it as something to be stamped. ‘Kill it, it’s scary!’ ”
For a number of artists, this phase of creation was the key to developing their voice and identity. Scrawling in a notebook was more than just an empty fantasy; it was a way for some creators to discover important parts about themselves.
“When I saw Turns red, I thought Mei’s drawings were cute … and really tame! I definitely drew more exciting things at that age, and within a few more years I was doing full eroticism when I discovered my queerness, ”said Ro Salarian, a comic book artist who publishes comic book projects like Spectacle or NSFW Hexual itself. Fantasy. “I saw the movie and I never imagined anyone could have a problem with it. I really do not understand what it looks like other than innocent to people. Have they met a thirteen year old before? ”
Salarians long history of self-publishing comics online began after they started out as a hobby artist. “I found out I was queer as a young teenager when a very tame girl-meets-girl-cartoon I was drawing took a turn for the erotic.” But the crucial moment culminated in them burning the art and rinsing the ashes. “My parents did not even embarrass me. They did not need to, because I grew up surrounded by messages that sex was wrong and dirty. As an adult, I now know how many of my peers also made similar art at the time. “
Now it feels as if the culture is moving more in the direction of celebrating this kind of young, serious interest in art and fandom. Would like to show Bob’s burgers make room for Tina Belcher’s amazing erotic fanfic and friend fic. This also applies to shows that portray millennial women, with an episode of Tuca and Bertie digs into Bertie’s love of English periodicals. And Turns red is, of course, a very visible example. While Turns red got some negative setbacks, the tense, positive reactions to the film show that many fans learn to love what they love without being ashamed.
For Giehl, learning to embrace this was an important part of her growth as an artist and creative. Now she is unashamedly in love with her fandoms, and easily shares them with friends. “Here,” people say, “it feels like your shit.” They send me pictures of sad boys without shirts and blacksmith women with huge swords. I get up immediately, lovingly fried. ”
Although Giehl and Salarian both work as professional creatives, both emphasized that some forms of art should be made for the artist’s sake, not just as a pursuit of capitalism. Giehl lovingly makes stories in the Warcraft universe and enjoys time with his original characters.
“Are these perfect stories I would pitch professionally? NO!” said Giehl. “Are they full of indulgent, messy, romantic bleeding heart-things that can knock a multitude of people off? ABSOLUTELY! I might make another choice for my professional occupation? HELL YEAH.”
While busy culture and social media may encourage people to focus on posting more polished art, hoping to fund a Patreon or merch store, there is something clean and spotless about sweaty crippling sexy crushes in a lined paper notebook. Turns red captures the innocent, messy joy and treats it as a form of communication and self-discovery that is important for its own sake.
“Not everyone who draws is a Capital A artist who wants to make it their passion and / or job one day. Many children do it because they like it, because they are visual communicators who gain insight. in itself through drawing, “said Salarian.” I’m worried that a lot of kids will see the discourse and think it’s not worth trying, that they will give up something valuable before they ever begin. I’m afraid the shame will seep into their subconscious if we do not make a conscious effort to counter it. And I think that’s the point of the people who bring this up. They do not want their children have a sexuality, let alone explore it. But children do. Children younger than Mei. “
They added: “I hope kids can see people defend all their crazy fantasies. I never got to kiss Tuxedo Mask in earnest, but I’m glad I spent so much time drawing it.”