Turning Red Parent Guide
An enormously fun movie, Turning Red is original, heartfelt, comic, and completely relatable.
Parent Movie Review
“We’ve all got an inner beast, a messy, loud part of ourselves hidden away.” So says Meilin (known as MeiMei and voiced by Rosalie Chiang). MeiMei is 13 years old and her statement aptly sums up the emotional turbulence of early adolescence. But MeiMei’s inner beast is scarier than most – when she feels intense emotion, the young girl transforms into a giant red panda.
MeiMei’s transformation alerts her to a hidden part of her family history. This gift is apparently a legacy from a brave ancestor who used her powers to protect her village in wartime, but, as MeiMie’s mother, Ming (Sandra Oh), points out, in a new country, the “blessing” is now an “inconvenience”. Fortunately, there is a ritual that will trap MeiMei’s panda inside an object, allowing her to live a normal life.
Frankly, a “normal” life would be a refreshing change for MeiMei. She is the stereotypically perfect Asian student, achieving high grades and twisting herself into a pretzel to please her supercharged helicopter mother. The cracks are starting to show. MeiMei still wants to make her mother happy, but she also wants to have fun with her friends. And now that she’s aware of boys – and obsessed with a boy band – the seeds of rebellion are sprouting. Having a giant red panda in the mix isn’t going to make this adolescent upheaval any easier…
Turning Red is an enormously fun movie. It’s original, heartfelt, comic, and completely relatable. If you experienced adolescent conflict with your parents – or are on the other side of the coin – you know what it’s like to both love and hate the same person with guilty intensity. The messy relationship between MeiMei and Ming is the movie’s great strength, bringing it bone-deep authenticity. Unfortunately, it’s also the film’s weak spot because the movie explicitly endorses MeiMei’s rebellion, even when that includes lying to her mother and sneaking out of the house at night. We might sympathize with her, but most parents aren’t going to want their kids to assume that MeiMei’s behavior is an appropriate response to conflict with a parent, however unreasonable that parent might be.
Parents will also want to consider the level of violence in the film. It isn’t excessive or gory and is sometimes funny, but the panda battles will certainly scare preschoolers. Another factor to keep in mind is that menstruation is an ongoing subject in the film, and it’s always played for laughs. A miscommunication between mother and daughter has Ming believing that her daughter is hiding in the bathroom because she has started her period. Hilarious conversations ensue, as do plenty of jokes involving feminine hygiene products. They aren’t tasteless, and I laughed out loud, but unless you want the movie to trigger a facts-of-life discussion with your little one, this movie is best suited to kids who already know the basics of the birds and the bees.
Minor negative content aside, Turning Red can serve as a useful catalyst for discussions with tweens about the challenges they face with puberty, friendships, setting goals, and managing volatile emotions. It’s also a celebration of racial diversity. The movie is set in Toronto – for a change it’s not Toronto pretending to be another city as it is in so many films. This is the real Toronto, a bustling multicultural city, with a “majority minority” population, which is fully represented in the movie. Parents of any race who want their kids to see a world they identify with will find this movie helpful. And Canadians will have a ton of fun finding all the national easter eggs that director Domee Shi has hidden in plain sight.
Best of all, Turning Red is a reassuring story for young viewers who feel like they don’t fit in. MeiMei’s struggle to accept herself and to claim her place in her family and peer group will resonate with viewers of any age. That these valuable messages are delivered with such warmth, empathy, and humor, is a bonus for family audiences.Directed by Domee Shi. Starring Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, James Hong. Running time: 99 minutes. Theatrical release March 11, 2022. Updated March 13, 2022
Watch the trailer for Turning Red
Rating & Content Info
Why is Turning Red rated PG? Turning Red is rated PG by the MPAA for thematic material, suggestive content and language.
Violence: A character has a disturbing dream sequence. There are supernatural scenes. A character kicks a school security guard. A character unintentionally causes a car accident; no injuries are seen. A student tries to throw a ball at a boy’s head but it breaks a window instead. A boy is attacked by an angry panda. A giant panda stomps through a stadium and battle with other panda bears.
Sexual Content: There is coded mention of menstrual periods in a comedic context. In discussing menstruation, a mother tells her daughter to “protect her delicate petals”. Maxi pads are also mentioned and packages are seen. A girl draws idealized, romantic pictures of herself with a boy.
Profanity: On a few occasions, characters say “OMG” but do not extend the phrase.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated March 13, 2022
Turning Red Parents' Guide
MeiMei rebels against her mother’s unreasonable expectations by lying and sneaking out of the house. How else do you think she could have dealt with her frustrations? To what extent do Ming’s parenting strategies arise out of her own problems and her experiences with her own mother? What do you think MeiMei and Ming could do to improve their relationship and communication?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
It can be hard to feel different from your peers. For kids who want to feel understood despite their differences, there are plenty of books that can help.
In Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Rafael Lopez share the challenges faced by a variety of children – and the powers those challenges give them.
Born without a right hand, Trace Wilson wrote Uniquely Me to help kids accept their differences. The book is illustrated by Ana Poeyo.
A Korean girl struggles to fit into an American school and accept her cultural background at the same time. Her attempts to find an “American” name and the reaction of her classmates is the story behind The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi.
Magical creatures fill Chinese folklore in Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.
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There are some other films featuring Asian protagonists who are born with unusual abilities. In Kubo and the Two Strings, a young boy with a magical musical instrument and a storytelling gift must go on the run lest his power-mad grandfather find him. NeZhafeatures a young boy who was possessed by a demon prior to birth. Now he struggles to control his own destiny.
Another young woman seeks assistance from unearthly powers in Over the Moon.Grieving for her mother, Fei-Fei builds a rocket to the moon in hopes that the Moon Goddess can confirm her faith in undying love.
With her kingdom all but destroyed and her father turned to stone, Raya seeks a magical being’s help in righting the world. Her adventures are retold in Raya and the Last Dragon.