“Turning Red” is a perfect preteen movie

From puberty struggles to cultural expectations, the film explores it all

Rebecca Vanderkooi | Demo 64

“Turning Red” is Pixar’s latest straight-to-streaming film. The film was released to Disney+ on March 11. The movie follows 13-year-old Meilin Lee as she struggles to balance her mother’s expectations of her, her social life and her emotions. For these basic reasons and more, “Turning Red” is the perfect preteen movie.

This article will go into detail about some of the plot points of the movie and why it makes “Turning Red” the perfect preteen movie. For that reason, there are spoilers ahead.

“Turning Red” excellently captures the struggle many preteens and early teens go through. Meilin is obsessed with the boyband 4 Town, believes that she is basically an adult and is trying as hard as she can to please her mother, while also doing what she wants. She is an excellent portrayal of a preteen girl going through puberty.

One Facebook post that circulated soon after the release of the film argued that the movie encouraged rebellious behaviors and was inappropriate for kids. The post had criticisms such as “The word ‘crap’ was used” and “the girl stands up to her mom and says she likes boys, music, and gyrating.”

However, I don’t think that the movie was encouraging rebellious behaviors, rather, I believe the movie was empathizing with the many preteens who go through the rebellious phase. As kids transition from child to preteen to teenager, they tend to obsess over the idea of being a mature adult. Exploring boy bands and “gyrating” are part of this transition.

Other Disney and Pixar films have had rebellious main characters that are not criticized. Mulan, Riley from “Inside Out,” Nemo and many others all disobey their parents and do what they want.

The Facebook post also argues that some of the language used was inappropriate. For example, one of Meilin’s friends’ mom is said to have called the music the girls listened to “stripper music.” While I can understand how it would be inappropriate for younger audiences, I think it’s acceptable for a preteen movie.

An argument was also made that the film was unrelatable, due to the fact that the movie focused on a Chinese family living in Toronto, Canada. Meilin and her mother are seen cleaning their temple, giving tours and praying to their ancestors.

Despite not relating to some of the cultural aspects of the movie, I still found it very relatable. I sympathized with Meilin’s struggle to fulfill her mother’s wishes and also do what she thought was right. Many people who had to balance their own wants with the wants of their parents can relate to Meilin’s struggle.

In one scene, Meilin’s mother discovers Meilin’s drawings of a boy she and her friends thought was cute. Meilin’s mother confronted the boy, thinking the drawings were things the boy did to Meilin. Meilin then got frustrated for allowing herself to get distracted and potentially  disappoint her mother. For me, this was an extremely relatable scene. Growing up, I never wanted to do anything to affect my mother’s opinions of me. Seeing Meilin go through the same struggle made me feel seen.

There was another scene early in the movie in which Meilin first turns into a red panda. Her mother mistakes Meilin’s screams as Meilin discovering her first period and brings in a bunch of pads for Meilin to use. This is one of the first examples of pads being mentioned in a children’s movie that I have seen, and I think it’s done amazingly. It’s used as a plot point and made to seem embarrassing for Meilin to go through, but also helps to normalize menstrual products for young girls.

“Turning Red” is an amazing movie for preteens to watch. It explores boy band obsessions, the beginnings of puberty, the struggles of fitting in and the balancing of parents’ expectations.