“Turning Red” Turns Hearts
Maura Mahmood | Writer
Pixar Animation Studios recently released a new children’s movie called “Turning Red”, a film about Asian culture and growing up.
The film’s prevalent theme of culture and family has fostered an ongoing discussion about representation and diversity in children’s media.
Protagonist Meilin Lee is a Chinese-Canadian teenage girl living unashamedly so in 2002.
The movie focuses on how Meilin navigates being a teenager, pleasing her mother, and discovering an ancient family gift.
“There’s an audience out there for Turning Red. And when that audience finds the movie, I’ve no doubt they will celebrate it for the unique animal that it is,” tweeted Sean O’Connell, a critic for the film site Critic Blend. “In my opinion, however, that audience is relatively small, and I’m not part of it.”
As O’Connell pointed out, this movie does not cater to the experiences of middle-aged white men, as a vast amount of media does.
Many people, including Asians and women from many generations, have felt represented by this film and have been able to see themselves and their experiences in some way on the screen.
“Not many movies made for kids talk about things like puberty and periods,” said Ella Su, a local Asian teenager with interest in the film. “I think it’ll break down barriers for a lot of little girls. It shows them that kids can be kids.”
The plot paid homage to very important Chinese cultural aspects such as honoring family heritage as well as their belief in legends and rituals.
“Disney has been very willing to explore the telling of more diverse stories in recent movies,” said Marlowe Dong, a Chinese teenager who expressed an affinity with Meilin. “The Lee’s family dynamics are similar to my own, it was refreshing seeing us portrayed on screen.”