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Understanding Pixar’s ‘Bao’

Published on July 5th, 2018 | Updated on July 6th, 2018 | By FanFest

Bao is Pixar’s newest short. It’s playing before each airing of Incredibles 2, and it’s getting some very mixed reactions from viewers. It personally had me doubled over laughing, and also got me pretty emotional. I recognized that I understood the general moral of the story, but overall I still had a few dots to connect.

Here is some background that may clear it up a bit if you were one of the people scratching your head in the theater!

It is directed by Domee Shi, and for the short she was inspired by her childhood as the daughter of a Chinese immigrant in Canada. The film’s main character is a Chinese-canadian mother, who is recently left with an empty home. She has empty-nest syndrome, but when one of her tiny dumplings comes alive, she gets to be a parent again. Yes, we said her dumpling. Her tiny, meat filled piece of dough. Aside from that little fact, it’s the most adorable creature I’ve ever laid eyes on.

The ending of the short film has been very controversial, especially considering the sweet history of Pixar animated shorts. The mother nurtures the baby dumpling as it grows up and at first, they have a harmonious relationship. It strains as the dumpling grows up, goes through puberty, begins to resent its mother for smothering it, and eventually leaves the house.

Their arguing culminates in a moment where the mom becomes so frustrated that she abruptly eats the dumpling. This was the part that had me doubled over laughing. To me, that represented a mother who snaps past her own limits, and then immediately regrets her actions because although she thought she was wanting what’s best for her child, she was being selfish. This is something that many parents can probably relate to.

In Asian communities, children are expected to stay with their families until marriage, a lifestyle which conflicts with the westernized notion of leaving your family home at 18. It’s a film which shows the struggles of children of immigrants from different backgrounds as they battle between two different cultural norms.

Polygon’s Petrana Radulovic writes:

“It’s jarring to be moved to quiet tears in a theater when the people around you are laughing, to see comments on social media posts about how “dumb” the short was when all you want to do is share it with your mother. There is comfort, however, in seeing the reactions of those who did relate to it — whether by sharing their own experiences or coming to the defense of the film in a comment thread. It is especially nice to see those who might not have been directly impacted by the experiences in the short, but can still understand what it meant.”

People all over social media shared their experiences while watching it and how the short film relates to them. However, the reactions on social media vary from tearing up, to confusion. The culturally sensitive film may have led to bewildered judgment instead of curiosity, but we are glad that the film could evoke emotions of laughter, confusion, appreciation, nostalgia from all who watch it.

 

Hopefully we shed a little more light on this Pixar short for you!

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as seen on promo graphic