Natasha Phanthavong, Staff writer

Transitioning from childhood to teenage years is a different experience for everyone. Through the pubescent changes or sudden rebellious urges, it feels as if no one can pinpoint a feeling to this time. Balancing academic standards and family expectations, Pixar’s newest film, Turning Red allows people to empathize with freshly-13-year-old Meilin Lee.

Throughout the movie, Mei focuses on trying to please the needs of everyone surrounding her, and she cannot seem to keep her own feelings in line. Normally, when our emotions get the best of us, a sheen of red can flush our face unknowingly. But for Mei, the red overwhelms her, and she changes completely into a bright red panda, due to an ancestral trait bestowed upon her. 

This flustering situation is hard to conceal for long, Mei’s emotions constantly linger and fluctuate depending on the situation, building on director Domee Shi’s vision of navigating the changes that come with being a teenager. Shi starts with the normalization of body-related topics and the questions that follow to be taken in a helpful and serious manner.

Many different representations of body types are portrayed in this film, like characters wearing a diabetes patch. As an Asian-American myself, I can relate to the strict parent regime that many students feel. This burden is hard to ease when applied at such a young age and can lead to an ingrained system where disapproval can deflate you completely. Mei sheds light onto this internal struggle of self blame, and communication can help in rekindling the distance in parental figures and children relationships.

The constant push and pull of having to take into consideration the approval of her mother before making a choice, seems to be both mentally and physically straining on Mei. Nevertheless she brings a strong hope for individuality in herself that can inspire others. By taking her red panda trait, which can be normally seen as a generational curse, she embraces it as a part of her. 

From the unspoken issues like individuality, to the main characters including Meilin Lee and her friend group, this movie allows viewers to find enjoyment in an animated film that highlights a prime depiction of teenagers today. Moving this light-hearted animation on middle school years into the deeper struggles of coming of age.