Turning Red, a Film About Expectations for Children and Adults

Turning Red is a Pixar film that helps us reflect on expectations and the weight of family mandates. We'll tell you about its main teachings in the following article.
Turning Red, a Film About Expectations for Children and Adults

Last update: 10 April, 2022

In March of this year, the new Pixar® audiovisual production was released worldwide and has already managed to captivate children and adults. Turning Red is an animated adventure children’s film that narrates one of the most important processes in life: The transition from childhood to adolescence.

With a clear focus on emotional intelligence, this film educates children on values and conveys crucial messages for parents and children.

Surely you, our readers, grew up in a time when animated films didn’t always offer the best examples. Fortunately, helpless princesses and emotional dependency are no longer the center of stories, and today, we have masterpieces that help little ones to understand and take care of themselves. And Turning Red is a good example of this.

Are you ready to take a closer look? Join us!

Turning Red: The red panda of adolescence

If you haven’t seen this fantastic and endearing movie yet, allow us to give you a preview of its main plot.

Turning Red focuses on the life of Meilin Lee, a 13-year-old Canadian girl of Chinese descent. Mei lives in Toronto with her parents and is a model daughter: She gets excellent grades, helps in the family business, and is obedient and responsible.

The girl has an inseparable group of friends and is just another teenager, with her own tastes and hopes for her age. However, her relationship with her mother is somewhat strained and complicated. Ming is a traditional and overprotective woman with a very clear idea of how her daughter should be and with a strong desire to ensure that those mandates are fulfilled.

Mei abides by the rules and doesn’t hesitate to hold back to please and honor her parents. However, with the arrival of her adolescence, everything changes.

She discovers that when she’s overwhelmed by intense negative emotions, she turns into a huge red panda, without being able to help herself. This causes her shame and makes her mother want to keep her locked up and hidden until she can perform the ritual that will free her from this phenomenon.

However, the young woman discovers a safe haven among her friends and a place where she’s accepted and valued for who she is. And so, she also decides to accept herself and learn to deal with that red panda that lives inside her.

Family expectations and mandates

Turning Red educates children on values on many levels, but places special emphasis on the power of expectations. Therefore, we can extract some important main messages.

1. Good girl syndrome

To a certain extent, it could be said that Meilin Lee is an over-adjusted young woman or that she suffers from the good girl syndrome. Without becoming a disorder, this term refers to a set of conditions that lead children (especially girls) to repress themselves and disconnect from themselves in order to conform to what’s expected of them.

As a result, they put aside their tastes, their desires, or their interests in order to please their parents and obtain their approval. When parents place too high or rigid expectations of their children, they can become seemingly perfect but unhappy children.

2. Family patterns that repeat themselves

Turning Red isn’t a film that’s meant to judge, but rather to understand, as it shows that those expectations of perfection that Ming places on her daughter are nothing more than a reflection of the education that she herself received. Finally, that red panda that remained silent, like the shadow of its own wounds and its unresolved issues, is also unleashed within her.

The reality is that, generally, if we don’t do the inner work of introspection and self-reflection, we tend to transmit to our children the same burdens that were first placed on us.

3. Allow yourself to be authentic

Finally, this film teaches both children and adults the importance of allowing ourselves to feel and be true to our emotions. Although others expect us to always be kind and calm and hide our “dark side”, it’s essential to accept and embrace it as a part of us.

Anyone who’s always happy, calm, and composed probably wears a mask, as negative emotions are universal and inescapable. Sadness, anger, disappointment, or confusion are valid and it’s our right to go through them and allow our children to go through them without repressing them.

Mei looking in the mirror as a red panda.
Look in the mirror and recognize yourself in its reflection. The best way to go through a stage of change is to accept yourself as the protagonist of change.

Enjoy the internet with your family

This film has caused controversy because it deals with extremely important topics that are normally excluded from children’s films. For example, the changes that adolescence entails, both on a physical level (such as the arrival of menstruation) and on an emotional level (the intensity with which everything is experienced and the difficulty in managing it).

Even so, Turning Red is an excellent film to share with your family and will help all members reflect. If it’s difficult for children to rediscover themselves as adolescents and learn to handle themselves, it’s also difficult for parents to allow them to grow up in freedom. However, adjusting the expectations we place on our children is one of the best ways to pave the way for them.

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  • Ortigosa López, S. (2002). La educación en valores a través del cine y las artes. Revista iberoamericana de educación.
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