By Navpreet Singh
Disney’s newest film, “Turning Red” is about a 13-year-old Chinese Canadian named Meilin Lee and the struggles she faces in her adolescent years. Lee, who is just trying to fit in amongst her three best friends, ends up getting the ancient gift of the “Red Panda,” which, when having an onslaught of emotions, turns her into a ginormous, red-furred panda.
Lee’s family owns one of the oldest Chinese temples in Chinatown, Toronto, where she continuously helps both her parents with advertising, sharing her family’s story with tourists. Throughout the movie, you see parts of her Chinese culture such as when Lee and her mother pray to their ancestors and when she is learning Cantonese, her native language.
“Overall, I think the movie is an accurate Chinese Canadian representation, including certain family dynamics that can be commonly found in many Asian families, and portraying the message of how weird kids can be growing up, and it is okay,” freshman Crystal Wu said.
Lee is not the only character representing their heritage. Her best friend, Miriam Mendelsohn, is a Jewish Canadian tomboy that has braces and loves skateboards. Priya Mangal is an Indian Canadian who wears a nose ring and is first seen reading "Nightfall," an ode to the book "Twilight." Abby Park is of Korean descent, and she’s known for being extremely hyper and often giving out hugs.
Throughout the movie, the girls are seen obsessing over the fictional boy band 4-Town, which is a nod to the many boy bands of the early 2000s. They all want to attend the 4-Town concert, despite the disapproval from their parents. They decide to use Lee’s power of turning into the red panda to get money for the concert tickets, since their parents won't willingly pay for them.
Source by Ashwathi Chemban
With songs written by Billie Eilish and Finneas, it is no surprise the 4 Town songs are so popular.
As the girls raise money for the concert tickets, the audience gets to see more of the student body and the different representation that is shown. In one scene where Lee turns into the Red Panda, a girl wearing a Dexcom walks in. A Dexcom is a device that tracks the wearer's glucose levels continuously throughout the day. The writer of the movie, Domee Shi, confirmed that her name is Stacey, a homage to the character of the same name in 1990 novel, "The Babysitters Club," who is also diabetic.
Another secondary character that broadens the diversity is a Muslim girl with a hijab. She is seen talking to her classmates, one of whom is of African descent. Even among the adults of the school, there is a diverse selection of characters. There is a Sikh Punjabi security guard, and he is seen wearing a turban and a Kara, a traditional Sikh bracelet.
“It was a great representation of not only culture but the struggles of puberty, showing how Mei had to control her emotions or she would turn into a giant red panda,” sophomore Ysabel Valverde said.
Overall, “Turning Red” is a movie made for everyone. With the help of a beloved boyband, the power to turn into a red panda, friendships among the girls and prominent themes of family and culture, this movie breaks down barriers and represents those who might not always see themselves on screen.