Turning Red is a woman written and directed (Domee Shi) Pixar animated film about what puberty and coming of age are like for girls. The main character, Meilin (Rosalie Chiang), turns 13 in eighth grade and discovers a monster inside herself.
Turning Red imagines this monster called puberty and growing up as a very large red panda. Meilin morphs into the red panda whenever her emotions get too strong for her. As everyone knows, this happens ALL THE TIME to girls going through puberty.
When Meilin notices boys, out comes the panda. When she gets upset with her strict mother (Sandra Oh), out comes the panda. When she is teased at school, out comes the panda.
Priya (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), Miriam (Ava Morse), and Abby (Hyein Park) were Meilin’s friends. They loved the big red panda as much as they’d always loved Meilin. Knowing that she was still lovable helped her calm down and return to her human form. A thirteen year old girl’s friends are so important to her.
Also important to Meilin were her parents. When the panda first appeared, Meilin’s mother told her that she herself had turned into a red panda, as had all her aunties and her grandmother. It was a family tradition. The family even had a temple to the red panda.
The women of previous generations had undergone a ritual ceremony to contain the red panda and make them “normal.” They planned such a ritual for Meilin on the night of the red moon.
The problem was, Meilin and her friends really wanted to go to a concert by their favorite boy band that night. They raised money for the tickets by selling photos and merch of Meilin as the panda.
I’ll leave the twists and surprises of the ending of the story for you to discover when you watch it.
Themes of friendship, female bonding, family relationships, and finding your own voice and power predominated in this cute and feminist animated film. It’s streaming on Disney+.