Like many kids, I loved animation. I adored following the protagonists through their epic conflicts, thrilling climaxes, and happy resolutions. Their heroic journeys fired my imagination.
Now that I'm older, I pay more attention to the secondary characters. This past Mother's Day, I started thinking about all the moms in these movies. Sure, not every animated film has complex arcs for its moms. But a surprising number delve pretty deep.
Pixar's recent Turning Red is a great example. The relationship between Mei and her mother Ming is loving, fraught, and complicated. Mei loves her mother but is scared of her disapproval, so she hides her interests in boy bands and other modern pop culture from her family. But it turns out that the family has its own secret – a blessing that causes the women of the family to turn into giant red pandas when they experience intense emotions.
Ming urges her daughter to be careful with this new power until it can be suppressed and sealed away, but Mei finds joy in using her newfound abilities to explore her boundaries and question the taboos of her family's traditions. By the movie's end, the two come to a closer understanding. Mei finds a more precise balance between the traditions of her family and her own desires, and Ming accepts that her daughter will approach issues differently than she did. Giving each other the space to be themselves allows the relationship between the two to grow.
2012's Brave also sees a mother clashing with her daughter. Brash and independent Merida is frustrated by her mother, Queen Elinor's determination to make her the perfect princess. So much so that she turns to a spell that can 'change her mother'. The problem is it changes her into a bear. If Merida can't break the spell within two days, her mother will stay a bear forever. Throughout the movie, Merida turns the world upside down to find a cure, showing how even rebellious kids can love their mothers intensely. The arc also allows Merida to understand her mother's perspective as a woman raised in a society with certain ideas and expectations.
Then, of course, who could forget Mrs Incredible, aka Elastigirl or, better yet, supermom Helen Parr. The woman who can save the world, make it home in time to teach her son math, keep tabs on her daughter's romantic struggles, and handle a super-powered toddler. While the first movie largely follows her husband's struggles with giving up his hero lifestyle, the second focuses more on Helen and how she embraces her supermom identity and shows how we never needed men to save the world.
But many other animated moms have their own stories, abilities, and achievements. Duchess from The Aristocats looks after her children and remains loyal to her mistress despite being thrust into an unfamiliar world. Julieta Madrigal from Encanto heals people with her cooking. Sina from Moana always supports her daughter's plans.
And let's not forget Aunt Cass from Big Hero 6 and Kala from Tarzan, who take in young boys who have nowhere else to turn and raise them with love and care.
It's often only on Mother's Day that we celebrate our mothers and their priceless contributions to our lives. But sometimes, it is essential to realise that our mothers are their own complex, multi-faceted people who exist beyond their relationships with us. They have their strengths and their flaws.
None of the moms discussed in this article are perfect. As someone who recently became an adult, I can tell you that we don't have it all figured out. Despite this, the moms in these movies care for their kids and try to ensure they have good lives. And, when they are confronted with their mistakes, they are willing to learn and change. So here's to the moms out there – real and animated – who are doing their best. Never stop trying to make the world a better place.
This article is part of Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.