Growing Up, Boy Bands, and Red Pandas: Disney/Pixar’s Turning Red 

Vayda Pascarella '22, Staff

On February 22, 2022, Disney and Pixar released their long awaited film Turning Red on Disney Plus. Turning Red, which focuses on a Chinese-Canadian girl named Meilin Lee and her family, received equal praise and controversy. With the film’s focus on puberty and growing up, many felt the movie’s themes and messages, specifically the movie’s references to periods and menstruation, were “too mature” for young audiences. In addition, the movie has also been criticized for its art and animation style, with some calling it “bland” and referential to the “CalArts” style associated with modern cartoons, such as the Cartoon Network show Steven Universe. Despite the critical backlash the movie has received, the film depicts themes of puberty, parent-child relationships, and the complexities of growing up in a light hearted and relatable way. 

Set in the early 2000s, the movie centers around thirteen-year-old Meilin Lee, (nicknamed Mei and/or Mei-Mei) a Chinese Canadian girl living in Toronto with her mother, Ming, and her father Jin. Meilin strives to be the perfect daughter her mother wants her to be. In school, she becomes known for her overachieving nature, much to the chagrin and criticism of her peers. Despite her peers’ criticism of her, Mei embraces every label and strives to do her own thing even as some of her moves align with her mother’s. Meilin enjoys spending time with her friends, Miriam, Priya, and Abby, who support her throughout her journey and share her same interests, especially the pop band 4*Town. Mei’s mother, Ming, disapproves of her interests, such as 4*Town, and doesn’t like Mei’s friends, specifically Miriam. Ming’s relationship with Mei becomes apparent when she goes through Mei’s sketchbook filled with drawings of a boy and Ming storms off to the store to confront Devon, Mei’s secret crush, about Mei’s secret drawings. Ming’s confrontation with Devon inadvertently causes Mei embarrassment and humiliation when the drawings are revealed and the news of Ming’s confrontation reaches Mei’s school.