People have all sorts of sides to them and some of them are just plain messy. Those are the sides we desperately try to hide in fear of being judged or labeled. There are also those side that we hide from our parents fearing we will no longer be viewed as their perfect creation and contribution to society.
In Turning Red, Mei Lee (Rosalie Chiang) is a 13-year-old girl torn between being her mother’s (Sandra Oh) obedient daughter and giving into the chaos of her adolescence. As if that weren’t enough, when she gets too stressed out, Mei literally turns into a big red panda making her literally someone who is ‘Turning Red.’
In Chinese culture, a red panda is viewed as a symbol of gentleness, compromise, and patience with spiritual meanings include balance, independence, security, as well as nonchalance. Mei Lee learns to balance of these sides while making the determination to move forward as her authentic self as opposed to being who others want her to be.
Director/Writer Domee Shi, who brought us the emotionally adorable ‘Bao,‘ hits the nail on the head again tapping into teenage girl issues making this film hilariously fun. Complete with boy band hysteria over ‘4 Town,’ sneaking out to attend a concert, leaning into the all too uncomfortable, yet complicated world of mothers and daughters and the food…all of the food!!!
Pixar and Shi totally honor the Chinese culture with images of coy ponds within the Lee temple, how ancestors and traditions are respected is something that as a Black women I loved bearing witness to all of it. Dramatizing the angst and complexity of being a teen girl, along with how friendships ebb and flow is right on point as well. Not to mention dialogue lines full of vitriol and insults like calling someone the “Barack Obama of fungus…” is pure comedy for sure.
Most of all Turning Red is a great lesson in respect, understanding and embracing labels of all kinds, while touting a very catchable soundtrack. I need that 4 Town concert in my life like yesterday. In the meantime, you can stream Turning Red on Disney Plus now