Turning Red, a charming Pixar film, has been accused of sexism and racism. How did this happen?
As part of the world’s newest effort to kill all fun, Turning Red has become one of 2022’s most contentious films. A little girl is afflicted with the ability to morph into a panda in Domee Shi’s latest coming-of-age picture, Lady Bird, which combines Lady Bird’s curious delight with Pixar’s flawlessness (and family-friendly image). This is yet another instance of us having to wade into a sea of debate in order to save Meilin Lee (Rosalie Chiang) from people who can’t seem to enjoy themselves or even comprehend the goal of the film.
Many issues have been raised about the recently released animated film. In the same way that Twilight or Justin Bieber fans had to justify their love for the films, supporters of Turning Red have to justify their love for it to furious parents and puzzled guys on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s exactly what Turning Red demonstrates is unhealthy: condemning enthusiastic teenage girls for their interests.
Simply put, Turning Red is an almost flawless film.
Mei is a delightfully cheery middle school girl with perfect grades, loyalty to her family, and an infatuation with gyrating boy bands, who is controlled by her mother (Sandra Oh) and beloved by her trio of friends. She turns into a gigantic red panda when her need for boys becomes too much to manage. A family tradition the Lees have faced for generations means that Mei will only need to control the beast until she can conduct the rite that will allow it to be expelled.
It’s hard not to be cheered up by Mei’s sunny disposition and the fast-paced, clever plot that’s chock full of throwbacks to the early 2000s, as well as the steaming bowls of wonderful food that appear in nearly every scene and the film’s great attention to detail. It avoids cliches and sticks to its own agenda. Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell lend their talents to the film’s fictitious boy band, 4Town, which features upbeat tracks from Billie herself.
How did this enchantment find itself in such a predicament? First and foremost, Disney’s choice to webcast Turning Red was a big stumbling block. As for Soul and Luca, they’ve succumbed to this strategy as well, which has sparked outrage among the Pixar staff. Theaters should be packed with excited children—this is a family film that adults will enjoy—with sweets in hand, eager to have the time of their lives. Not that the film didn’t deserve a simultaneous streaming release, given that children under five are still not allowed to receive vaccinations.)
Things seemed to change when the first reviews started coming in for the film. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a perfect score of “fresh,” with a score of 95%. Critics lauded the film for its innovative take on puberty, as well as its excellent voice acting and trademark Pixar inventiveness. Although other commentators criticized the film for being “exhausting,” producing a character who was “irritatingly obnoxious,” and having sequences with periods, which, god forbid, may raise queries from confused children.
CinemaBlend was the source of a now-deleted, appallingly critical review. A reviewer noted that the film “legitimately feels like it was made for Domee Shi’s friends and immediate family members, which is nice,” but “also, a tad limited in its scope.” For his rude, racist words, the reviewer was hauled all over social media and the piece was ultimately deleted. According to another evaluation, children may have “issues” about Turning Red’s discussion of puberty, which was left up by the Chicago Sun-Times. That’s the point, isn’t it? As a parent, it’s important to prepare your child for the possibility that they will become a giant panda or through any other bodily transformation.
Some Pixar films are intended for all ages, according to the CinemaBlend review. “Turning Red is not.” ” There are other films about family (The Incredibles, Finding Nemo), coming-of-age (Inside Out, Toy Story 3), and friendship (though not Turning Red) that aren’t universal (Monsters Inc.). In Soul, Luca, and now Turning Red, Pixar has presented a plot in which a human is transformed into an animal, which does not feel universal in the least. It’s absurd that someone would put down Turning Red because of this. If so, have you ever had to cook for a drug dealer in Paris?
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Seeing a character who looks like themselves in a film like Turning Red is a huge deal for young girls who have never had that experience before. An unimaginative, generous, and unfeeling person, whose demographic was the only one represented for so long, might see such a moment as a liability to the film’s appeal.
This is made worse by the fact that turning red is universal, apart from the fact that you become a red panda. It’s normal to go through puberty at some point in life. Mei relies on her best friends to help her get through her adolescence and her family’s ups and downs. People who aren’t fans of the film may have a new perspective on friendship.
On top of all that, the film has an unimpressive audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has received criticism from parents online over Mei’s lust for guys and her mother’s suggestion that she use menstruation pads as a means of self-expression. An unflattering review claims that “adult issues like puberty and menstruation” are omitted from the film. The picture “glorifies disobedience,” according to another critic, thus it’s “not a movie for kids.” Helicopter parenting is exactly the kind that pushes children to rebel—for crying out loud, this is straight out of Turning Red.
Turning Red appears to be no stranger to the stigma attached to adolescent girls who indulge in their feminine fantasies. It is sexual when a young woman’s desire is not infantile or corny. Even if she and her pals are smitten with 4Town, Mei’s true feelings are forbidden and sexual in character when she falls in love with men. Mei is one of Pixar’s best characters ever, because of her vivid swagger and overall cleverness. Those who pass her off as a “harmless” teen girl are missing the point. They’re only losing out on the fun because they’re not there.
Sexist and misogynistic outrage to the film’s recognition of a reality of life: girls have periods. Don’t even get us started on that. It’s immature that individuals are so enraged about Turning Red that they resort to “review bombing,” in which they flood websites with bad evaluations and ratings. Tampons are still banned in the year 2022? Please.
The critical acclaim for Turning Red is on par with that of Finding Nemo. If Shi’s masterpiece had been released, it would have made a fortune at the box office, sold millions of enormous red pandas to small girls like Mei, and sparked a whole 4Town album. For some reason (racism, sexism, etc.), people are trapped in their red panda state over this film.” Guys, take a cue from Mei and keep things cool!