When I was a little girl I was wildly into furry plushies. I often imagined myself to be a wild horse or feral dog. So in many ways, the premise of “Turning Red’ spoke to me. I do adore red pandas, turning into one might be fun. Turning into a large one might be a culture shock for a petite person like myself. The film may present a culture shock to some of its audience.
When I was posting the “Turning Red” posters on Twitter, I got a weird response and I investigated.
I wondered if things would get weird once this film was out. I didn’t have to wait that long. The review embargo lifted on Monday. On Tuesday (8 March 2022), CinemaBlend posted its review and it was pulled before Wednesday due to perceived racism and sexism. CinemaBlend also posted an apology.
The Chinese Canadian director did post a response according to Indiewire:
I did not read the original review but it was available in the Wayback Machine. I have also posted the full review on my blog.
The Pulled Review
Sean O’Connell, managing editor of Cinemablend, began his review by stating that:
The finest Pixar Animation features, in this critics’ opinion, play to a universal audience. We all imagined our adolescent toys coming to life during playtime, and feared the shadows that lingered in our closets or under our beds. By exploring those themes in Toy Story and Monsters, Inc., Pixar’s animators and storytellers constructed comedic yet emotional adventures that virtually everyone could watch and absorb relatable life lessons (some, depending on your upbringing, being more relatable than others).
He found that because “Pixar has turned its reigns [sic] over to fresh voices and given them the freedom to share deeply personal – though less universal – stories.” Here he groups “Onward” and “Luca” with “Turning Red.” He warns that while “Turning Red” comes from the heart, these three films “also risk alienating audience members who can’t find a way into the story, beyond admiring the impressive animation that is the Pixar trademark.”
I am also a fan of Pixar’s “Toy Story” and “Monsters, Inc.” I enjoyed “Onward” and “Luca” to a certain extent although I had reservations on both. “Onward” and “Luca” both draw upon European lore. “Onward” As I recall, it was my experience with actual sheep and herding that made me most critical of “Luca.” “Onward” asked me to relate to two brothers even though I am not and have never been a boy or man and never owned a van.
O’Connell compares “Turning Red” to Michael J. Fox’s “Teen Wolf,” an “under appreciated comedy” as well as “the far superior” “The Mitchells vs. The Machines.”
Further he notes that “by design, ‘Turning Red’ needs to ramp up its nervous system and plug directly into the mindset of a young woman.”
The main problem, however, is:
By rooting Turning Red very specifically in the Asian community of Toronto, the film legitimately feels like it was made for Domee Shi’s friends and immediate family members. Which is fine… but also, a tad limiting in its scope.
O’Connell reiterates his point in his concluding paragraph:
There’s an audience out there for Turning Red. And when that audience finds the movie, I’ve no doubt they will celebrate it for the unique animal that it is. In my opinion, however, that audience is relatively small, and I’m not part of it.
How Universal Were Toy Story and Monsters, Inc
The Toy Story series highlights cultural differences. I would expect a different type of toys in Japan or in Asia. The lead characters, astronaut Buzz Lightyear and pull-string cowboy Woody are more US archetypes. Astronauts are a relatively new occupation outside of the US and Russia. Cowboys, particularly dress like Woody, are a Wild West character. He’s not dressed like a vaquero or gaucho.
In East Asia, you might expect more robots, a transformer-ish action figure, a dragon and a kaiju.
“Monsters, Inc.” is set in a dual world of monsters and humans. The humans have beds. I’ve lived in apartments that didn’t have beds.
But Pixar’s franchises also include “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles” as well as “Cars.” While cars are a common type of transportation, living in the sea is not. “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles” is about family or friends and the growth of their bonds. This is a universal theme in all of Pixar films.
Toy Story was about a toys led by a White astronaut and a White cowboy. Monsters, Inc. is also about two very White characters as if they were regular Joes, but instead they are monsters. Is that significant in why the critic prefers them? The Incredibles has a husband and wife team with a Black buddy and O’Connell didn’t mention that animated feature.
Horniest Movie in Pixar History?
O’Connell also wrote that “Without question, ‘Turning Red’ is the horniest movie in Pixar history, which parents no doubt will find surprising.” This animated feature is about 13-year-old girls. They are definitely attracted to boys but I thought it was more like puppy love or infatuation as opposed to “desiring sexual gratification” or “excited sexually” as Merriam-Webster defines “horny.”
To me, there’s a difference between junior high crushes and high school crushes, so I find it particularly troubling that two films that O’Connell compares “Turning Red” to are films about high school students: “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” and “Teen Wolf.”
O’Connell writes, that the Netflix flick was “another film that focused on a female character experiencing a major life change (but one that also remembered that a broader audience will be checking the film out, so it bothered to include plot elements everyone could find engaging.” Can one really relate to sentient robots taking over the world because an app felt jilted by its creator? In any case, the female character in question, Katie Mitchell (voiced by Abbi Jacobson), has just graduated from high school and the family is taking a road trip to take her to her college. Katie is a geek who hopes to become a filmmaker and she is White.
Of “Teen Wolf,” O’Connell writes: “Also, when seen from a bird’s eye view, ‘Turning Red’ plays like Pixar’s version of ‘Teen Wolf,’ only with a female protagonist turning into a red panda instead of a wolf. Complete sequences are lifted directly from Michael J. Fox’s underappreciated comedy and translated into animation here.”
In the 1985 “Teen Wolf,” Fox plays high school student who is a werewolf, a genetic problem passed down from his father (James Hampton). While in “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” Katie had no love interest, Fox’s Scott Howard is in lust with Pamela (Lorie Griffin), but pals with Boof (Susan Ursitti). He ends up having sex with Pamela but realizing that Boof is his true friend. The film is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
The attraction the girls in “Turning Red” have toward an older boy and the boy band has no possibility of turning into a carnal embrace. It seems as innocent though much less mature than Woody’s attraction to Bo Peep in the Toy Story series. “The Incredibles” features two married couples. Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is suspected of having an affair by his wife, Elastigirl (Holly Hunter). Mirage (Elizabeth Peña) is the seductive suspect.
White Issue? Binary Black and White Approach Issue?
As a woman, Meilin represents half of the world population. Meilin Lee as someone of Chinese descent, represents about 20 percent of the world population. How representative is she of the population of Canada and Toronto?
As an ethnic group in North America, she represents a people that were the target of exclusion legislation in both Canada (Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 and Chinese Immigration Act, 1923) and the United States (Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882). The legislation passed after the Chinese immigrants had helped build the railroad in both countries. Japanese Canadians, like Japanese Americans, were interned during World War II. People in Canada and the United States of East Asian descent have similar experiences.
- ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ and the Erasure of East Asians and Native American in the Wild West
- ‘The Gilded Age’ and the Shadow of China Trade
- ‘Law & Order’ and the Failure to Address Anti-Asian Hate
- The Text of Sean O’Connell’s Infamous ‘Turning Red’ Review
- ‘Turning Red’ Review: Warm Fuzzy Feelings and Red Curses ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
[…] That is, POC-centered stories should be told as often as we tell white-centered stories. In an analysis of O’Connell’s review, Jana J. Monji mentions that white-centered franchises were not bogged […]
[…] Red tells a familiar (if you’re not a white male that is indignant about the dearth of white males in the story) tale of parental expectations and the need for love from vulnerable children—well, at least if […]
[…] rouge raconte un familier (si vous n’êtes pas un homme blanc qui s’indigne de la pénurie d’hommes blancs da…) histoire des attentes des parents et du besoin d’amour des enfants vulnérables, du moins si […]
[…] werden erzählt ein vertrauter (Wenn Sie kein weißer Mann sind, der sich über den Mangel an weißen Männern in der Geschichte emp…) Geschichte über elterliche Erwartungen und das Bedürfnis nach Liebe von gefährdeten Kindern – […]