Set in 2002, Turning Red is an animated comedy from Pixar on Disney+ about a 13-year-old girl in Toronto, Canada who magically transforms into a giant red panda and causes mischief in her Chinese family and school, for the displeasure of his stern mother. turning red has a lively, fun plot and colorful animation, with a great ending, strong characters, and some pro-family themes, but the film is tainted by false theology, including references to ancestor worship, Zen Buddhism, magical transformations and polytheism.
narrated from time to time by the young heroine, the film opens with 13-year-old meilin (“my-lin”) saying how happy she is for the upcoming school year. Mei also celebrates her independence and mentions her four friends. mei and her friends are big fans of the new boy band, 4*town. At the end of the first day of the school year, Mei’s friends invite her to come with them to a listening party, but Mei refuses, saying that she should go home and do a job for her mother.
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work turns out to be sweeping and preparing for people to visit the small family temple. It turns out that the temple houses an altar to her mother’s ancestors, especially her great matriarch who loved red pandas. mei explains to the viewers that her family does not worship any god, but her ancestors.
mei and her friends are big fans of the new boy band 4*town. They find out that the band’s tour will soon be playing in Toronto. Mei asks her mother if she can go to the concert, but Mei’s mother is totally opposed to boy bands and Mei goes out anywhere with her friends. mei walks away furious towards her room.
the next morning, mei has turned into a big red panda. her mother calls her to breakfast. Mei panics and tries to hide, but she keeps throwing things in her room. her mother bursts into the room and calms her down. she explains to me that becoming a big red panda runs in her family among women. she says that the red panda appears whenever the girls have a strong emotion, especially anger. the mother explains that her original ancestor asked the gods to transform her into a big red panda to protect her family and her village during the war. the only way to get rid of the “curse” is for the eldest man in the family, mei’s grandfather, to perform a ritual on the next red moon.
At school, mei tries to hide her red panda, but her friends find out. So, mei has a brilliant idea. they can charge their classmates to see the red panda. The money they get from that will help pay for Mei’s way to the boy band concert, against her mother’s wishes. Soon, Mei has a thriving red panda business. she and her friends even make red panda hats and t-shirts to sell.
However, things don’t go as planned. mei must overcome some big and comical obstacles, one of which is her nosy and overprotective mother. Will mei be able to attend the concert? Will mei be able to banish the red panda from her life?
turning red has a lively and fun plot and colorful animation. furthermore, the characters are well drawn, both psychologically and visually. That said, Disney clearly pulled this Pixar movie from theatrical release because it doesn’t meet the standards of Pixar’s best efforts, like the Toy Story movies, Finding Nemo, Up, and The Incredibles. however, it’s a solid piece of entertainment that flows smoothly and leads to a somewhat spectacular ending. so, it could have had a perfectly respectable theatrical run at the box office. disney will never know.
Thematically and dramatically, the strongest parts of the film are the relationships between mei and her mother and mei and her friends. Ultimately, wearing red is a celebration of female empowerment, but not in an annoyingly radical feminist way. As such, it is an engaging coming-of-age comedy where the heroine, Mei, learns to function as an independent person, strengthens her ties with her close friends, and reconciles with her strict mother. Despite the conflict between mei and her mother, the resolution of that conflict is not a rejection of the family but, ultimately, an affirmation of the family ties that bind mother and daughter and bond fathers and sons. furthermore, the film teaches its target audience, mostly teenage girls, to tame the bestial parts of themselves that lurk within their psyche. this can be a valuable lesson, even for children, but it needs Christian and biblical reference points and application.
Within this complex dynamic, turning red sadly includes references to Chinese ancestor worship. At one point, for example, in Mei’s narration, Mei says that his family does not worship any gods, but worships his ancestors, especially the great matriarch of the family. Also, at another point, Mei says that the great matriarch of the family prayed to “the gods” during a time of war for the gods to imbue her with the power of the red panda so that she could defend the family from it. it was then that she received the ability to transform into a large red panda. Mei’s mother and grandmother have come to view this ability as a curse. Therefore, the premise of the film implies whether Mei herself will see the Red Panda’s power as a curse or a blessing.
Ultimately, therefore, getting red has a mixed worldview with pro-family elements and false religion. turning red also has two overt references to being zen to help keep her cool and control the red panda within her. These moments are references to the Buddhist sect of Zen Buddhism, where the practitioner seeks to clear the mind, pacify the mind, unite mind and body, and realize the interconnectedness of all things. As with all major Buddhist sixths, the ultimate goal of Zen Buddhism is to recognize “impurities” such as greed, anger, and ignorance, let them go, and achieve “enlightenment,” which implies a kind of emptiness, purity of desire and action, calm. of the mind, perfect discernment of what is true and false and what is harmful and non-harmful, and emotional “balance.” As the most recent of many rimboches put it in terms of another sect of Buddhism: “Life is a cesspool, so let it go.” As I responded to one of his Harvard disciples, who came to Jesus Christ, “It is a fallen world, but Jesus is reaching out to you to pull you out of the cesspool so that you may have a more abundant eternal life.”
of course, jesus christ and his apostles in the new testament teach that purity of desire and action and discernment of truth and goodness are only obtained through repentance, through faith and trust in jesus christ and his gospel, through an ongoing personal relationship with jesus, through reading and living according to the word of god, which is found in the holy bible, and by the power of the holy spirit.
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