By Amalia Theocharidou,
Turning Red has been one of Disney’s latest movies which follows the adventures of the thirteen-year-old Mei. Even though the movie was well anticipated, it still managed to raise backlash not only regarding cultural issues but also about the behaviors it projects and presents as normal “teenager” acts.
The movie starts by introducing to us the lead which is Mei, a Chinese-oriented girl living in Canada, who starts her adventure in junior high school as well as her best friends. We later get to know about her mum, a strict woman arranging tours in their family’s sacred temple. Despite the strict environment, Mei is just an ordinary girl developing a teenage crush on a boy band that she and her friends want desperately to watch live. But of course, her mother would never approve. One day though, Mei notices something different about herself, waking up after having transformed into a huge red panda connected to an ancient family tradition, according to which, every female of the family has to go through a period of transformation.
Up to now, the movie has met no stopping points, following the common Disney plot. But on a second analysis, one can pinpoint many reasons as to why there would be an objection. Mei’s heritage is strongly highlighted throughout the whole movie from clothing to even their house and food, a clear attempt to manage representation. But for the sake of that aim, many stereotypes towards Asians are being used. A typical strict Asian mother caring only about her daughter’s grades and not allowing her to show interest in anything else. Mei’s mother is more than just overprotective, she’s dictatorial, cutting off Mei from her interest in music and also from her friends, as well as characterizing teenage crushes as something ‘inappropriate’. Moreover, Mei’s father is nowhere to be seen, as it seems that the mother leaves him no space in the family, imposing her overbearing lifestyle (Tong, 2022).
Besides the cultural asset, chatter has been raised about behavioral issues. As Mei discovers the popularity of her panda appearance decides to take advantage of her classmates trying to earn money along with her friends to go to her favorite boyband’s concert. After receiving a negative response from her mother, she calls her out for not respecting her age change and decides to rebel against her and go secretly behind her back. The critics have also mentioned the light sexual moments and themes discussed in the movie. As Mei develops a crush on a boy working at a local market she starts having fantasies of him, drawing sketches of him while being all red and flustered. After she’s discovered by her mum, the parent seems disgusted saying, “Have you done all that with him?”. Viewers have started to wonder whether it’s appropriate for young kids to be watching such scenes (Gibson, 2022). Lastly, in the movie, Mei gets her period and has the ‘talk’ with her mother about how important it is for girls to enter womanhood. Psychologists warn about the sensitivity of the subject of menstruation and how it’s not necessarily an inextricable part of the feminine nature, including transgender women and women with gynecological problems.
As the movies are getting more and more up-to-date, should we start to wonder what cost that update taking place and if it is for the best?
- Gibson, K. (2022). What to Know About Pixar’s ‘Turning Red’ Before Watching with Your Kids. Available
- Tong, Q. A. (2022). A “Turning Red” review: Is there a bad way to do representation? Available