May 22, 2022
Domee Shi, director of Turning Red. Photo from Boungawa, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Spoiler warning: Article may contain spoilers for the film Turning Red.

What is red, white, and furry all over? The adorable red panda Meilin “Mei” Lee in Disney Pixar’s latest movie Turning Red.

The coming-of-age film, set in Toronto in 2002, follows the story of 13-year-old Lee, a Chinese-Canadian girl who discovers that she turns into a giant red panda when she experiences intense emotions. 

Turning Red is Pixar’s first feature-length film to be directed by an Asian woman.

Director Domee Shi used her experience as a young Chinese-Canadian girl growing up in Toronto to help inspire the movie. Throughout the film, Shi included many Easter eggs that fellow Canadians will easily recognize.

From the CN tower’s countless appearances in the film’s backdrop to a sign for bagged milk appearing in a shop window, the shout-outs to the Great White North are endless. 

The child in me, who grew up watching the streets of countless iconic cities from my TV, was thrilled to see my own home get the chance to grace the silver screen.

Turning Red Screen capture from Disney+ by Lily Sherry.
Comments on Rotten Tomatoes criticizing Turning Red.

But while the film has received praise for its adorable depiction of Toronto, it has also received criticism for being inappropriate and narrow. 

Sean O’Connell, CinemaBlend managing director, said in a now-deleted tweet

“some Pixar films are made for universal audiences. ‘Turning Red’ is not. The target audience for this one feels very specific and very narrow. If you are in it, this might work very well for you. I am not in it. This was exhausting.”

O’Connell’s review of Turning Red received immense backlash, with some people even calling it racist and sexist. 

Regardless of the intentions of the reviewer, I can’t help but laugh at the idea that this film is any less relatable than Pixar films that have come before. 

If you related to talking cars, fish, and bugs without question, what is it about a young human girl that is so hard to empathize with? 

If anything, I wish more films like this had existed when I was 13. 

Tweet from @orangeinah discussing double standards in the film industry. Screen capture by Lily Sherry.

The entire movie acts as a metaphor for the many changes young girls go through as they grow up. The film does not shy away from these topics either. In one controversial scene, Lee’s mother is even shown offering her daughter pads. 

While some may believe these issues are too adult for a children’s movie, I think it is important we show kids that what they are going through is normal rather than cater to those uncomfortable with reality. 

Tweet from @loverlydarling. Screen capture by Lily Sherry.

I know that at 13, I would have appreciated seeing this side of growing up in a more socially acceptable light. 

Turning Red was released on March 11 on Disney+.

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