REVIEW: Turning Red – 2000s Nostalgia
Turning Red is about the Asian struggle for balance: the struggle between individual and familial needs. While we are encouraged to spend time with our families and at home, as we age, we feel the urge to go out and live our lives without any connection to our families. Meilin (Rosaliechiang) is thirteen years old. All her life she has put her mom Ming’s (Sandra Oh), needs before her own. Because of her obligations to the temple she manages, her friends ask her to sing karaoke after school.
Ming considers Meilin an innocent, unblemished child. She plans to keep it that way for as much time as she can. Ming is always there, lecturing Meilin on her friendship choices and pointing out her desire to date boys. My mom was horrified to learn that I was reading Elizabeth’s First Kiss by Sweet Valley. This is something your Asian parents should not be aware of.
Meilin wakes up the next morning to find that her mother has made Meilin a humiliating encounter. This metaphor is obvious because it occurs after Meilin shows some interest in a cute guy. This is further supported by the fact that the red panda transformation can only be passed down from one generation to another. The metaphor is a little confusing, however, as most of her female relatives have exiled the panda. This doesn’t make sense if the panda was meant to symbolize womanhood.
Meilin discovers the ritual that she must perform to rid herself of the panda. She must learn to accept it while she works out a solution. There are initially some issues with the panda, but she eventually learns to manage it with the help of her friends. The hilarious and outrageous moments Meilin has with her friends Miriam (Ava Morse), Priya, and Abby (Hyein Park), are just too funny to be true. The film’s most memorable moments are their extreme posing and fangirling over the 4-Town boyband, as well as the many shenanigans Meilin gets into when she rebels against her mother.
Rebellion is the first step to agency and a sense of self. Meilin wants to share an experience with her friends. But her mom doesn’t see the dangers and lack of value that come from being a screaming fangirl in a concert. Ming’s mother returns to the scene and realizes that her daughter is creating a similar dynamic with Meilin. Although she doesn’t want her daughter to be repressed, it is difficult to let go. It is important to not see growing up as a separation but as an expansion.
Turning Red is not for everyone due to its subject matter. Meilin’s story is not as universally relatable as Pixar movies Soul. Soul offered commentary on life, purpose, and meaning. The film stirs up a sense of nostalgia for those who grew up during the age of boyband mania and Tamagotchi. It speaks to me as a past version, not my current self. Turning Red is a lot of fun to watch. It has humour, heart, and the incredible vocals of Jordan Fisher. It just feels like something from another time.