Turning Red shifts taboo to discussion


Eddie Burgin, Entertainment Editor

Turning Red, one of Pixar’s newest animated features, has become a point of controversy since its online-only release in late February. 

The film follows one Meilin Lee, a Chinese-Canadian teen, through her struggles with the ever present problem of turning into a red panda due to her emotions. 

The movie takes place in 2002, and takes that setting to its extreme with constant, subtle references to properly immerse its audience with tamagotchis, boy bands, and flip phones. It allows for a nostalgic feeling even in those yet to be born, as the central metaphor is about childhood at large.

Through the relatable experience of puberty and maturing, director Domee Shi connects many different ideas. While some are culturally rooted in Mei’s identity as Chinese-Canadian, everyone can get something from a movie as delightful and emotionally provoking as this one.

The focus on womanhood, though, has caused some difficulty when it comes to the film’s popularity.

Critics have claimed the movie is overly specific in its demographic;  it can only be enjoyed by teenage girls. However, the message is applicable to far more.

Turning Red is about so much more than girlishness, despite the majority-woman cast and the expectations around teenage girls. It’s about puberty and the changes in behavior, relationships within family, and being true to yourself. There is an undeniable femininity involved which society still needs in coming of age movies and discussions about puberty.

A masucline puberty is seen as human, while young girls are told to be quiet, periods are as taboo as murder and the movie only mentions pads in the same comedic tone. Menstruation is as natural, uncomfortable, and normal as body hair and sweat, and for children everywhere it should be treated as such.

Little girls have grown up for generations with primarily men to look up to. Allowing for this generation to have more of a broad demographic to inspire them and relate to is helpful. There’s nothing wrong with relating to women even through metaphor.

Using these universal themes, Mei shows that we all have a messy, angry, emotional side of ourselves we feel ashamed of. Turning Red attempts to end this shame because we all have a panda inside of us. We all feel strange growing up. We all do things that make us cringe.

Shi’s film proves this side of us isn’t bad. She encourages us to embrace the panda, take care of it, and help it grow with us.