“Turning Red” is the newest movie from Disney/Pixar that has some parents turning red … with anger. They say the children in the movie are overtly disobedient and rude, plus there are sexual themes including the main character twerking as a panda in front of her mother while taunting her, plus multiple instances of the girl rebelling against her “overbearing” Chinese-Canadian mother to the point of being disrespectful.
The film is touted as a “coming-of-age sensation where the supernatural and the mundane happily walk hand in hand,” at least according to one critic.
The Rotten Tomatoes synopsis says, “In ‘Turning Red,’ Mei Lee is a confident, dorky thirteen-year-old torn between staying her mother’s dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence. And as if changes to her interests, relationships, and body weren’t enough, whenever she gets too excited (which for a teenager is practically ALWAYS), she ‘poofs’ into a giant red panda!”
It’s true that the movie is rated PG and is intended for slightly older audiences compared to other Pixar films, especially since it deals with the subject matter of puberty specifically. However, even considering the target demographic, some parents and reviewers are insisting this project goes a few steps too far and what’s worse, that it lacks the charm inherent to so many other Disney/Pixar projects.
According to one reviewer on Common Sense Media, “The movie contains repeated storylines and scenes of the kids lying to their parents and sneaking out of the house. All of this is portrayed as cool and ok because the main character’s mom is portrayed as overbearing, way too protective, and ‘psycho.’ … the 13 year old main character talks about how honoring your parents is great, but that sometimes honoring them ‘too much’ means you aren’t honoring yourself.”
Even the reviewer from the Chicago Sun Times was less than enthused. “If you’re a parent watching ‘Turning Red’ with kids who aren’t yet at the age where they should be learning about puberty, fair warning: You’re going to be answering a LOT of questions after this movie,” Richard Roeper wrote.
He went on to describe the scene when the main character, Mei Lee, first turns into a panda. Her mother mistakes her shock on the other side of the bedroom door as her teen getting her period for the first time, prompting her mom to exclaim, “Did the red peony bloom? I have pads … regular, overnight, scented, unscented, thin, ultra-thin, ultra-thin with wings. … You are a woman now, and your body is starting to change. … You are now a beautiful, strong flower who must protect her delicate petals and clean them regularly.”
This scene makes the film squeamish for parents of little ones but possibly instructive for older kids. However, that wasn’t the only issue Roeper had with the movie.
“The problems are mostly with the script, which often requires Meilin to be almost irritatingly obnoxious,” he wrote. “Meanwhile, her mother behaves like a monster for much of the story, which takes on an increasingly supernatural element to the point where there’s a “Ghostbusters” homage.”
Roeper also mentions the much-maligned moment when Meilin’s mom, Ming, tries to stop her daughter from turning into a panda and receives the reply, “My panda, my choice, Mom.” The reviewer said, “it sticks out like a tweet more than an organic moment of expression.”
This line was also another point of contention for conservatives who see this movie as just more propaganda from Disney.
Still, plenty of reviewers loved “Turning Red,” claiming it was quirky and weird yet captured an essential truth about coming of age. The Guardian’s reviewer called it, “a fizzing, squealing adolescent explosion of a movie that nails a fundamental truth about growing up. Puberty may be something that pretty much everyone has to endure, but at the time it feels like a uniquely mortifying and personal experience.”
“The message is one of female friendship, embracing change and cuddling your inner panda, of working through mother-daughter friction,” the reviewer continues.
“Turning Red” is currently streaming on Disney+. It has a 95% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes and 71% audience score.
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