Disney’s Turning Red Review
spoiler alert: Those who prefer not to know much about the film before seeing it are invited to jump straight to the conclusion.
On the surface, turn red is a bright and colorful Disney+ coming-of-age film about a teenage girl who discovers who she wants to be during the ups and downs of adolescence. In this animated feature, 13-year-old Meilin “Mei” Lee wakes up one day to find she transforms into a giant red panda when she gets emotional. As Pixar’s first female film, turn red has positive elements, with a diverse cast of characters and a focus on treasured female friendships.
As we sat down to watch this movie, other than a few quotes of teenage bravado and irreverence, we were a bit surprised to find little objectionable content at first. Although the characters are cheeky and over the top, this is part of the diversity of the characters in the film. In fact, some have praised the film for depicting a wide range of cultures, body types, and even characters with medical conditions such as diabetes. Overachiever protagonist Mei has an equally eccentric group of friends – tomboyish skater Miriam, deadpan goth Priya, and ever-exciting Abby. The four girls bond over their love of boy band 4*Town before Mei rushes home for Chinese temple homework and her overbearing but passionate mother.
Mei’s Chinese-Canadian family practices ancestor worship, and Mei spends much of her time helping her family tidy up their temple. The Lee Family Temple is dedicated to Mei’s ancestor, Sun Yee, and the temple itself is described as both a place of prayer and a tourist destination. This may confuse young viewers, so when watching with children, be sure to explain the difference between Christianity and other religions.
Mei’s mother tells her that according to legend, Sun Yee prayed to become a powerful red panda in order to protect her village. That night, Mei has a nightmare involving the spirits and the temple (which may disturb young viewers), and when she wakes up, she finds herself transformed into a giant red panda. She then discovers that “her panda” is directly linked to her emotions, and that she can become human again by calming down.
Aspects of comfort
The panda itself is a clear metaphor for puberty, perhaps among other aspects of growing up. Mei describes her panda form as hairy and smelly, and she calls herself a “gross, red monster”. In addition, she is very emotional – at one point she accidentally lashes out at her mother, much to the surprise of both of them. Mei’s mother even mentions feminine hygiene products. Since such topics are generally avoided in children’s films, some would appreciate such a humorous and candid treatment of something that needs to be discussed with girls at some point, but others might find the opening on such a subject unnerving.
For all these arguably positive elements, the cute characters and upbeat score hide more insidious messages.
For all of these arguably positive elements, the cute characters and upbeat score hide more insidious messages. Mei’s mother, Ming, is cartoonishly bossy, though the film later fleshes out her character with an explanation of why she is that way. By casting the mother as the “bad guy”, the film clearly urges viewers to support Mei in all her endeavors, even as she repeatedly cheats and disobeys her mother. Although teenage rebellion is a common scenario in real life, this film encourages disobedience and deception, and caricatures the roles and family dynamics to achieve it.
The film continues to derail as Mei’s pace toward “adulthood,” independence, and sexuality steadily increases beyond what it should. There’s a scene where Mei hides under her bed and draws pictures of shirtless boys, which she later describes as “sexy” – a surprising comment to hear from a thirteen-year-old character, especially in a movie. Disney/Pixar. Later, one of Mei’s friends calls her a “pervert” and another character says that her parents call 4*Town’s music “stripper music”. Mei’s friends go to a party where suggestive music plays over the speakers. Mei bumps into the boys and lingers – twice. In the final confrontation between Mei and her mother, Mei talks about how she likes to spin and, in panda form, makes inappropriate moves towards her mother for a long time. Although there is no direct sexual activity in the film, the vector of Mei’s actions and interests is disturbing for her age, and is yet another barometer of our culture of sexual affirmation that indoctrinates children. younger and younger. Most notably, Mei spouts the line, “My panda, my choice.” What a sad decline for Disney/Pixar to have a 13-year-old character who dangles viewers with a “funny joke” that mimics a tragic mantra that encourages the senseless killing of unborn children as a viable choice (pun and oxymoron not wanted).
While some would just say the film is a metaphor for the normal awkwardness of growing up – and it is – there’s a lot more meaning attached to it. As part of Disney’s announced agenda, the film slips in subtle messages of anti-religion1 and rebellion, suggesting to teenagers that estrangement from family and tradition is to be applauded, and that parents who ” love” their children will be proud no matter what. AiG has made it a point to share the truth that love does not mean affirming someone in their lost and rebellious state; on the contrary, true love directs others to the help and hope they need in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Mei’s final quote from the movie sums it up with a clear call to action to unleash your “inner beast”:
“We all have an inner beast. We’ve all hidden a messy, loud, weird part of ourselves, and many of us never let it out. But I did. And you?”
This theme becomes grotesquely common and is clearly subversive.
Even though Mei’s “beast” can be destructive and impulsive, she ends up kissing her – and that’s seen as a positive thing, because that’s who she “really is” – and her family’s beliefs are presented as retaining it. This theme becomes grotesquely common and is clearly subversive. At the start of the film, Ming tells Mei that there is darkness in the panda, and Mei even ends up hurting someone in her enraged panda form. And, as the film progresses, Mei’s path leads her to sexual interest and activity at too young an age. Period.
This film, as well as our culture, is wrong. Our true “inner beast” is sin. As the Word of God tells us in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and hopelessly sick; who can understand it?
And the sacrifice of Jesus frees us from peach and a new heart. We should cast off our inner beast and embrace Christ instead.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit which I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and I will give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)
Jesus answered them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, whoever practices sin is a slave to sin. . . So if the Son sets you free, you will be truly free. (John 8:34, 36)