‘Turning Red’ Tells a Story of Culture, Relationships and Coming of Age

By John Mineses

News Editor

‘Turning Red’ released on Disney+ on Feb. 21, 2022 and has sparked laughs, smiles and a bit of controversy with its coming-of-age story of a teenage girl that magically turns into a big red panda.

The story revolves around Mei Lee, a 13-year-old girl living in Toronto who has done everything by the book. She is a high achieving student with a good group of friends, balancing school work with helping her family’s business. 

But the cultural expectations of ultimate obedience to elders weighs her down. Her frustration comes to a head when Mei’s mother embarrasses her in front of her classmates, exposing her crush on a boy.

Her hidden frustrations and not telling her mother her true feelings accelerates into the next morning when she wakes up as a big red panda. Eventually, she learns the panda transformation is a family rite of passage. 

The juxtaposition of the innocence of the cute and fluffy red panda and the concept of anger and emotion being the reason for the transformation gives a great comedic irony to the story.

It is the pure realism of how Mei’s panda was a symbol of a crucial aspect for a teenage girl’s coming-of-age story. A bit of controversy has stemmed from the film’s references to the puberty of a teenage girl, begging the question as to if this film was appropriate enough for a PG rating. 

However, supporters of the movie have banded together in support of the realism and how the film brought the conversation into the picture.

The film gives great examples for coming-of-age conflicts when it comes to dealing with insecurity, anger, friendships and more, making for a very interesting and heartfelt plot.

The main conflict stems from a power struggle of Mei trying to find a compromise between making her own decisions and getting her mother’s approval. The movie tells a very relatable story for young teens and young adults that have the same issues.

The story of ‘Turning Red’ holds a great message for parents and children that have similar cultural and relationship struggles. Everything from the little to big details of the movie makes this Disney Pixar’s latest animated hit of the decade.

‘Turning Red’ is also a great cultural exposure of Asian and Chinese origins, another step into the expansion of representation of color in big budget films.

If anyone is looking for a very funny, realistic and heart-warming coming-of-age tale, then ‘Turning Red’ is a great watch.

‘Turning Red’ is currently streaming on Disney+.

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‘Turning Red’ released exclusively on Disney+ on Feb 21, 2022

Photo Courtesy of Disney+