'Turning Red' Criticism: What's the Controversy About?

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Mar. 15 2022, Published 2:02 p.m. ET

Domee Shi's feature directorial debut, Turning Red — now streaming on Disney Plus — tells the heartwarming tale of Meilin (Rosalie Chiang), a brazenly confident girl who turns into a red panda once she reaches puberty.

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The discovery slightly derails Meilin's plans — to have the best time ever, see her favorite boy band (4*Town) play live, and hang out with her friends — until she, her mom, and other female family members come up with a solution to the red panda situation.

Turning Red attracted raving reviews for the most part, but there was one review that recently sparked a lot of attention. What's with the criticism?

'Turning Red' criticism: Did the Pixar film attract bad reviews?

The immaculately storyboarded movie was quick to obtain positive reviews thanks to its unmistakable aesthetic, brilliantly written characters, and core message about acceptance.

Similarly to Encanto, Turning Red explores the transformative effect of intergenerational trauma and follows the characters as they grow from it. Revolutionary concept notwithstanding, a reviewer named Sean O'Connell had a few qualms — and he wrote them down.

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"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," Sean wrote in his review for Cinema Blend.

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"OK, white dude who's annoyed this movie isn't about white people. Did Sean O'Connell write a review that talked about Tyler Perry's movies being 'very specific' and 'very narrow'? No? Didn't wanna be labeled racist? Then why's it OK to talk about #TurningRed  like this? WTF," tweeted @PinYoungActress in response.

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"I’ve always liked Roger Ebert’s take on film: a movie is not what it’s about, but how it’s about it. The issue with Sean O’Connell’s review of Turning Red is not that he has to like the film. Of course, he can dislike it. But rather, he engaged with it at the most shallow level," tweeted @jsparkblog.

Sean's review has since then been taken down from Cinema Blend. He apologized for the text and the tweet he posted about Turning Red. Regardless, the whole shebang went viral, slightly overshadowing the premiere of the brilliant movie.

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'Turning Red' casts new light on the complicated social landscape teenagers have to navigate.

Turning Red brings up important questions about intergenerational trauma, parental expectations, misogyny, and other topics by portraying Meilin's attempts to navigate the red panda situation. By using a relatively simple concept, the movie casts new light on how relationships can shift once a person starts to carve out a life for themselves.

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And, as it turns out, a teenage girl who can turn into a red panda resonates with a lot of people.

"Abby's Gremlin energy is the best thing ever #TurningRed," tweeted @iHrtDolores.

"If Turning Red took place in 2012 instead of 2002, these girls would run Tumblr like the f---ing Navy," tweeted @samiamrosenberg.

"This movie has some of the funniest looking expressions/reactions ever in a Pixar film #TurningRed," tweeted @JohnnyViews.

Turning Red is available on Disney Plus now.

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