After 14 years of waiting since we were left with an exciting cliff-hanger, The Incredibles 2 was finally released this month. My 10-year-old self who waited too long was all too excited to see this film. Although, I found myself rushing to the cinema a few minutes early for something else: Bao. The newest Pixar animated short promised audiences a unique viewing experience since its announcement. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint.
Created by Pixar’s first female director, Domee Shi based the story on her own experiences. As cute as it was touching, it introduces the world to a very hard reality for many Asian families. While it drew some confused reactions, I found it incredibly touching and, most definitely, tear-jerking.
WARNING: Bao spoilers ahead!
The story starts out with a Chinese-Canadian mother whose dumpling comes to life. This awfully adorable dumpling instantly caught my heart, also those of the people in the theatre with me. She cares for and nurtures the dumpling as it grows up. She takes him to the market, to tai chi, and they ride the bus while sharing treats with each other. They truly seem to enjoy each other’s company at first. That is until the dumpling stated wanting to do things the mother deemed too dangerous for her precious dumpling. I particularly recognized the look of true heartbreak when it stopped wanting to do activities with her.
At this point, the short seems to touch on the struggle immigrants have in raising their kids in a country with different cultures from what they know. While I don’t experience this myself, I recognized it from stories from my best friend, as well as from series and movies with similar themes. Usually, both parents and children struggle with the differences in the cultures they grew up in. Asians are universally known to be very conservative and traditional, while Americans and Europeans are more liberal. On one hand, kids struggle to understand why their parents are so strict—while seeing their peers being able to do some things without fuss. On the other hand, parents have a hard time wrapping their heads around many of the norms in a society starkly different from the one they grew up in.
A mother’s quiet devotion
Bao’s turning point occurs when the now-adult dumpling decides to leave home with his new fiancée. Obviously caught off guard and distraught, the mom loudly disapproves and stops her “child” from leaving. In desperation, she eats the dumpling with one swift move. She instantly realizes what she did and sobs after the irreversible act. The mother spends days in bed crying until her actual son comes home. At this point, it was quite clear that it was all a metaphor for empty nest syndrome.
With my own mom holding back tears throughout my brother’s entire wedding day, I saw what that looked like in person. In a culture where living with one’s parents even through adulthood is not only accepted but expected, the mother’s sadness in Bao was understandable and relatable.
However, the most touching part, in my opinion, of the short comes quickly after the son’s arrival. He brings his mom a box of the same pastries they used to share as a peace-offering. Instantly, the mom accepts and sits quietly with him as they enjoyed the treats together. As the scene depicts, a mother’s love is undying no matter how old her children get. Truly, a mother’s quiet devotion to her kids is as noble as it is beautiful.