I’ve just rewatched Disney/Pixar’s brave from 2012. It’s a great movie for a lot of reasons, and it brought into focus some of the problems with this year’s Pixar release, Turning Red.
Great scott I hate that stupid movie so much, and the more I think about it the worse it gets.
In short, they are both movies about a young girl who is at odds with her mother because they want different things. The mother, well meaning as she is, has focused on what she wants from her daughter (some ideal sense of perfection) without learning to listen to the girl so as to get to know her. Because of this, the girl feels trapped by her mother’s plans for her future, and this leads her to feel justified to not only conflict with her mother, and defy her, but even use deception to get what she wants.
That’s the clear foundation of the story in both of these films- what a girl wants vs what her mother wants. It’s the direction that each story takes after this is established which illustrates the immoral dumpster fire that is Turning Red.
In Brave, the heroine, Merida, is a head strong, confident girl who doesn’t want to be the perfect princess that her mother keeps trying to make her into. In Turning Red, the conflict is the same, only Mei’s mother isn’t trying to make her a princess, but rather a good student and a proper Asian girl like the women in her family. Merida’s father is strong and involved, and her mother teaches her lessons of things she thinks Merida needs to know. Mei’s father is a background character with no strength or importance, and her mother seems to just impart expectations and control over her.
So Merida’s parents seem like really good parents, with a good relationship, where as Mei’s parents are a weak idiot and an over controlling idiot, who seem to have a terrible relationship. So, there’s more than one lesson to be learned here.
Merida is very confident and strong willed, but she is also a strong, skillful girl, capable of archery, horseback riding, climbing, and other skills primarily taught to her by her father. While the film establishes that she does not enjoy her mother’s princess lessons, it also shows that she endures it enough to learn those lessons as well, and before the story is over she has used those skills too. She is smart and, as frustrating as it is to her mother, honest about how she feels. Merida is honest, even if it means conflict. She’s not a coward, even when she is being selfish.
Unlike in Brave, the heroine of Turning Red, Mei, is overconfident, but without cause. Mei is a selfish, annoying 13 year old girl with little self awareness or self control. While she apparently gets good grades until the film starts, she isn’t portrayed as having the kind of actual skills that would justify her confidence. She seems simply arrogant even though there’s nothing special about her, like she has a shelf full of participation trophies in her room. Like she’s a YouTuber, or has an Instagram account.
And unlike Merida’s honesty, Mei begins with an already established wall between what she is thinking and what she reveals to her parents. The first major sequences of plot have Mei intentionally hiding things from her mother, and when her mother over reacts, trying to be helpful (as awkward as her attempts to help are), Mei refuses to simply come out with the truth. She sinks into silence or lies. Each scenario is worse because Mei fails to simply communicate with her mother. She hides and lies and ultimately, that makes things worse for Mei.
While she becomes very emotional when she doesn’t get what she wants, Mei is also fearful of conflict. She uses her fear as justification for her decision to be dishonest instead of confrontational. When the movie finally has her embracing honesty and conflict, she breaks into crudeness and violence, shaking her butt at her mother for an uncomfortably long time and literally punching her mother in the head and knocking her unconscious.
The way the stories end are polar opposites. Merida learns to set aside her selfishness and see how her choices affect others. She learns merely by looking around her that her selfishness has caused others to suffer, and has decided that she needs to put her desires aside and think about what benefits her family and her kingdom. In the words of the film she learns to “Mend The Bond Torn By Pride.” She recognizes her own pride, sees it for the destructive selfishness it is, and seeks to mend it, to set things right.
In the film’s dramatic conclusion, she remembers that her mother, frustratingly different as she has been in her goals, has always been there for her. Her mother was always loving and caring. And before the end, her mother fights for her daughter at the risk of her own life. When Merida remembers who her mother is, and forgets about the fact that the two of them have wanted different things, she owns up to her own faults and apologizes for the things she has done wrong. She puts aside her selfishness and embraces the love of her family, even though it may mean duty and responsibility. Merida grows up.
Mei, on the other hand, grows more selfish and deceitful. She lies to her parents, she lies about her friends, and she physically assaults a classmate twice. The climatic conclusion to Turning Red has Mei abandoning her family for her own selfish goal of going to see a boy band with her friends.
Yup. Where Brave has a young girl upset that she is being married off to a total stranger she doesn’t get to choose as part of a political treaty, Turning Red’s major conflict is, “No, you can’t go to that concert, that’s the night we have to cast a demon out of you.” I’m not even making that up. Like, had the concert been the next night, it seems like they would have let her go. But even if not… a boy band concert.
In the films climactic conclusion, Mei runs away from her family, with no regard for them or what they want, or even the fact that they are trying to do what they believe to be the best for her. She is controlled by her immature selfishness and abandons them for… sigh, roll my eyes… a boy band concert.
Mei doesn’t learn to see her mother for the love and support she has shown, despite her flaws. Instead, Mei continues to see her mother as an obstacle to overcome. The conflict at the end doesn’t involve the two of them joining sides, but literally fighting each other. Where Brave has mother and daughter fighting together against a beast, each willing to risk her own life to save the other, Turning Red has both literally turning into beasts and fighting each other in public, screaming at each other the whole time, and putting an arena of teens in danger as the building is destroyed around them.
Even after knocking her mother out cold, Mei is given a sense of smug superiority over her mother, even taking the adult role in their relationship in the final sequence as she leads her mother’s child spirit crying through the spirit woods. Mei’s last lines to her mother are not words of love and acceptance, but petty selfish defiance. Mei hasn’t learned to humbly accept her place in her family like Merida does, but rather arrogantly establishes herself as some sort of peer to her mother, throwing off the shackles of her mother’s authority so she can sneer, “My panda, my choice, MOM.”
Merida ends her movie as a young woman who learns to grow up and be less of a child. Mei ends her movie more of a baby, and a selfish cry baby as well. Merida learns to mend the bond torn by pride, but Mei learns to embrace her PRIDE. It’s a disgusting reminder of the total lack of moral compass which the Leftists at Pixar have. The old guard is gone and more are leaving all the time. The new kids have taken over Pixar and instead of telling great stories for all people, like Wall-E, or Monsters Inc, or Finding Nemo, this trash comes out so that one person can make a 90 minute selfie, exposing herself as still a teen age dirtbag with no character. They used to make movies for the audience. Now they make movies about themselves for themselves, and they seem to lack the maturity to even realize that they are showing how selfish, smug, violent and emotional they are.
Either the House of Mouse will turn around and go back to telling good stories worth telling, or they will go Woke and go broke. As long as China has a controlling interest in the company and everything they do, I don’t expect the next Pixar movie to be Brave. I expect it to be selfish as they increasingly Turn RED.
As someone who’s done extensive behind the scenes research on this movie, your understanding is profoundly shallow.
Also what in the world is with the entire last paragraph? You don’t know Domee Shi personally. Vile stuff bro.
As someone who can write more than one sentence at a time, I find your lack of context confusing.
Like, what makes my understanding shallow? What makes my evaluation inaccurate? You wanna say enough to have said something?
I had to put TWO of your posts together just to have this much to read.
Also, I don’t say anything about Domee Shi personally in the last paragraph. I’m contrasting the way the old Pixar Movies told stories and the way the new kids only tell their own. It’s not personal. It’s generational.
So… Maybe you should read it again and then try saying something of substance about what I actually said.
Go ahead. Give it a try. I’ll be here.
Well, I’m not gonig to just sit here waiting. I’ll check back later.
Apologies for my posts but the issue is that you are interpreting the film through a framework that the director has stated they actively tried to avoid i.e. Ming being a villain (She stated she wanted to make Ming someone you could empathize with and not an obstacle/villain) and simplifying the conflict down to “kid=repressed, parent=bad”. I think some of the message is being lost in translation here.
“this trash comes out so that one person can make a 90 minute selfie, exposing herself as still a teen age dirtbag with no character. ” This sounds like you’re referring to the director here if I’m not mistaken. It’s alright to compare new and old filmmaking but name-calling people you don’t know as “selfish, smug, violent, and emotional” isn’t.
I have no idea what order you posted in, so forgive me if this goes backwards. But I’m reading this one first.
In reply, I’m confident that what you say is true, that she wanted to make Ming someone you could empathize with and not an obstacle/villain, but she FAILED HORRIBLY. This is my synopsis for the whole film.
1. Ming is overbearing and dominating, to the point her husband BARELY gets to talk, and almost all of his dialogue happens when she is out of the room. She is a thoughtless control freak who makes her own husband and daughter afraid to talk to her.
2. Thinking her daughter has been sexually assaulted by an older boy, she drags her daughter and her drawings into the quickie mart and yells at the kid instead of calling the cops. So, I guess she’s ok with him doing it to other middle school girls, just not her own daughter.
3. She tries to deliver “feminine products” to the WINDOW OF MEI’S CLASS. Nobody does this. This is insane. I get that its played for laughs, but it crosses a line.
4. She turns into a kaiju and destroys millions in property, probably killing dozens of kids in the process. You can’t tear the roof off of a crowded concert hall without hurting the shoulder to shoulder kids inside.
And then the movie just kinda ends. Like, “I know you just knocked me out cold after lying to me for several weeks and making money through tween prostitution/porn, but I’m SUPER proud of you. For… reasons.” There is LITERALLY no reason for her to be proud of her daughter, or to have this sudden and drastic change of heart. But I guess they were out of time.
And while I get you think the description of the director is unkind, I’m not saying I think of her as a teen age dirtbag with no character. I’m saying that she intended this to be a selfie, and the character of Mei is a teen age dirtbag with no character. Thus, she is telling ME that she is a horrible person. And again I am referring to the whole young, leftist mob who is ruining all kinds of movies and tv shows as selfish, smug, violent and emotional. This director makes a movie about her teen years where she is a violent, selfish, dishonest pervert, and not as part of a story where she learns something or grows up. Her journey goes from low to lower, and the author of the script seems to think that this isn’t a horrible indictment of herself. But it is. Even if this wasn’t about herself, it shows a complete lack of moral compass.
Selfish, smug, violent and emotional is an accurate description of Mei, and as the director intended this to be a selfie with no lessons learned where in she matures, but instead expects us to simply side with Mei the whole movie, then she is telling us that she is herself, selfish, smug, violent and emotional. That’s not my unfair name calling. It’s her own self description. It’s her confession. I’m just taking her word for it. But again, not merely about her, but about the whole worldview of which she seems to be a part.
I hope this clears it up a little. Thanks for your comment.
Again, sorry for the double post but the message of Red, outside of the whole be yourself stuff, is finding the balance between your own expectations and your parents in the context of adolescence and puberty. That doesn’t exactly sound bad to me.
Maybe this message could have been communicated better.
Mei as a character grows not just through learning to not be ashamed of herself, but also through learning to empathize with her mom in the bamboo forest scene. It took Ming being a panda to understand what Mei was going through and it took Mei seeing her mom as a crying 13 year old to understand her. Mei honors her mother by helping her heal and, after finally seeing eye to eye, openly defeat the main “villain” of generational trauma and bad communication by… talking things out. The result is that they’re both happier and healthier and have a deeper love and understanding of each other.
Howdy again Wojtek,
First of all, you can post as often as you like as long as you are polite and try to make some sense. You are welcome here. I don’t mind you telling me I’m wrong. I just want to know WHY I’m wrong. In case I am. And I appreciate you coming back to try and explain it to me.
But this time I still think my position is valid. Let me explain.
You certainly have a more charitable attitude toward this move than I do. But with all due respect, I don’t think this movie has earned it. I feel you are giving credit where credit is NOT due. You are praising what the story WANTED to do, but not what it actually was. I don’t think it succeeded.
I understand perfectly well that what you are saying is what the movie was INTENDED to do, but it fails. Mei doesn’t find the balance between her own expectations and her parents. She learns to lie to them and ignore what they want and what they advise, and then the movie ends. And at the end, she is simply more brazenly disrespectful to her mother to her face, which is NOT an improvement. There is no sense in which she learns to give weight to her parent’s expectations or value them for the good they intended to be.
Consider the comparison with Brave- Merida learns that the lessons her mother has been teaching her HAVE value, even though she always considered them to be dull. She grows as a person because she sees that the thing that is the most important is NOT what simply pleases herself, but those things she can use to serve others. She learns to see her mother’s parenting as for her good as the adult she will become instead of just the child she has been. She didn’t appreciate it before because she wasn’t looking ahead, but her mother was. Merida learns that and comes to appreciate it, and she changes because of it. She grows.
Mei doesn’t learn anything like that, and we’re not given anything to justify her mother’s behavior except the idea that hurt people hurt people, and so we have an explanation for her horrible parenting, but not a justification. At best, we can assume that Mei learns that her mother was abused by her own mother the same way Mei is under Ming and so just learned it. But seeing that a bad mother had a bad mother doesn’t heal the wounds, and it doesn’t fix the problems, and it doesn’t do anything for Mei except possibly helping her to empathize with her mother’s childhood experience. She CAN’T understand her mother, because she doesn’t have kids- she is not a mother. All she learns is that her mother should be able to understand her, having been in her place, but the whole movie tells us that she cannot or will not. Then Ming inexplicably tells Mei that she is PROUD of her, which we’re given no valid reason for her to be. She SHOULD be ashamed of Mei and realize that their relationship has never been worse. But the writers slap a band aide on their relationship and we end with Mei sassing her mother to her face, and her mother just takes it the way her father took it from Ming. It’s not healthy and it’s not better. It’s worse, and Mei is worse.
Ming taking abuse from her own daughter is not a healthy balance. It’s adding disfunction to disfunction. Instead of finding the love under the control, we find that her mother was hurt by the same stifling control that has been hurting Mei, and so we know why Ming behaves badly, but it doesn’t make it better. It makes it worse because the abuse that made her cry as a girl is exactly what she is doing to her own daughter KNOWING HOW IT FEELS. It really makes her a villain because she knows better and she does it anyway.
And when Mei learns to sass her mother to her face, that doesn’t make their relationship better. It just shows that her mother has lost control because Mei REFUSES to be governed, but that is lightyears away from Ming giving up control because she learns to respect her daughter- which again this story has not only given her no reason to do, but rather has proven that Mei CANNOT be trusted, and is going to make horrible, immature, selfish decisions, including acting out in violence. Mei has traded fear for arrogance and so has become a worse person with NO justification for thinking herself more mature or wise. She is an idiot who spends the entire movie doing terrible things, and she ends with more arrogance than ever. This is why I felt it accurate to describe Mei and her writers as “selfish, smug, violent, and emotional”. They are so devoid of a moral compass that they approve of her flaws and expect us to do the same.
But I don’t. I stand by my title. Turning Red isn’t brave- it’s selfish.
I hope this makes sense.
thanks again for your comment.
Another issue to address in this review is that it overlooks how Ming’s behavior directly leads into and feeds Mei’s behavior in the movie. Does that mean I abdicate her of all responsibility for her actions now? No. Mei should have been more open but the movie is aware of how this feeds into the conflict and thus the talking in the bamboo forest. However, Ming’s reaction to and shaming of Mei’s notebook only teaches her secrecy and dishonesty instead of openness, which, as we know, leads into further conflict in the film.
The family doing what they believed to be best for Mei does not justify the fact that it was an actively harmful tradition they were lying about to uphold. To clarify, I don’t think Mei was right for rebelling. That doesn’t necessarily mean what they were doing was right either.
The conflict at the end only came to what it was as a result of all the earlier things I’ve mentioned. Had both parties come to reason earlier, we wouldn’t have a movie. Just a bamboo forest scene.
“My panda, my choice” was indeed cringe, but it’s preceded by Mei working at her mother’s temple and followed by “I’ll be back before dinner”, which goes to show Mei still has her mother’s best interests at heart. Along with this, Ming also invites her friends over for Jin’s cooking, showing she wants to establish a better relationship with her daughter.
As for Jin’s character in the film, calling him weak I think is inaccurate. He did quite a bit to support Mei and even stood up for her against Ming when it came to the concert, along with his whole speech and how he helped in the fight at the end. Considering Ming’s personality in the film, Jin trying to lay the boot down with her likely would have caused even MORE conflict. Not a good thing if you ask me!
Hope this helps fam.
Again, I do not credit the movie for it’s intentions. By that standard, Cuties would be a good movie. I credit it for what it DOES because I have interpreted it through the directorial lens and have found it’s intentions to have been communicated well. It’s basic hermeneutics.
Thus comes the crux of my argument: that you are divorcing the context of the movie from it’s subtext and thus arrive at conclusions the movie is not at all communicating. You cannot divorce story from it’s intentions as much as you say you can.
Again, Ming does what she does not because she cannot or will not understand. She DOESN’T know. Mei won’t open up about her feelings which is something you admitted in her article. Mei doesn’t open up about her feelings because the environment she fostered views imperfection as “dangerous” or “something to be feared.” Again, you are divorcing context from subtext and coming to conclusions the movie does not communicate. I don’t want to accuse you of being purposefully disingenuous but it genuinely feels like that at this point.
READ this interview here
“It just comes from wanting to protect your kid and the experiences my mom went through when she was younger in coming to a new country, and having this only child who could be taken away at any moment by the forces of the universe.”
Ming does what she does because it’s the best way she knows how. She doesn’t know any better. When she does come to know better, she changes her ways.
Thanks for sharing that article. It was an interesting read.
My problem is, I don’t think Ming does come to know better. She’s just forced to change because the movie is over. If you an show me where she changes between being knocked out in the fight at the arena and the spirit forest, explain it to me. But to me it seems the writers just gave up and said, “OK, everything’s fine now the end.”
I’m willing to be proven wrong.
But since that article brought it up, I thought Bao was HORRIFYING. The article says, In 2018, she told the Los Angeles Times that Bao’s macabre ending came from “that primal feeling of just wanting to love something so much that you’re willing to destroy it.”
That’s NOT love. That’s a perverse selfishness under the pretense of love. REAL love doesn’t destroy someone rather than lose them. Real love is willing to sacrifice even one’s self for the good of the one you love. If you love someone, you fight for their freedom, not against it.
But I digress. I just think the two films share a fundamental flaw in their worldview, such that central things like love and honor are not understood by the author. But again, if you think I’m wrong, educate me. I’m willing to learn. Maybe you just see something I don’t.
Thanks again for your comments, and remember, Jesus Loves you!
For the record, I think Bao was criticizing that sort of mindset.
Read this analysis here.
You might find this video and Christopher Lee and the occult interesting.
That’s a great bit from a great actor. Thanks for sharing it.
I’m the most genuous person you’ll ever meet. I’m full to the brim with genuousness.
From where I sit, it’s you who is coming to conclusions that the movie does not communicate.
I feel like I already said that. Like, about a bunch of stuff. Am I being redundant?
I agree with your assessment of Mei shutting down because of her mother. Ming creates an environment where the people around her have learned to stay quiet because they don’t want to rile her up, so they would rather hide from her than confront her. Mei is no different than her father in this aspect. But the movie doesn’t RESOLVE these problems. Even as late as the Red moon ceremony, Mei is concealing her thoughts and feelings and being silently obedient. But then she runs off to the concert, fights her mom and knocks her out, and then suddenly her mom is “Proud” of her? And she responds, not with a healthy communication with her mom, but just open sass in front of her peers. Again, tell me what I’m not seeing, because…. I’m not seeing it. Genuously.
I believe the change comes from Ming being a red panda that she’s suppressed for so long and finally understanding Mei’s side a bit more. The bamboo forest scene seemed largely to indicate a start to a conversation that happened largely off screen, which is indicated by the following scene.
We don’t necessarily have to agree with Mei’s sassimg to recognize that the overall change that happened. I think that the “more healthy communication” is something that happens, just the directors might have chosen a bad way to display that.
Her mom is proud of her for finally overcoming her system of self shame. That’s something to be proud of if you ask me.
Her mom is proud of her for overcoming her internalized system of self shame she passed onto her. That’s something to be proud of if you ask me.
It’s really only past the panda ritual that she truly learns to open up about her feelings and stand up to her mom. She’s embraced herself at that point and part of the conflict is solved. Now comes bridging the gap. The writers seemingly chose to do this through mutual understanding.
As stated earlier, Mings change I think primarily is from being a panda. The actual repentance itself though I think primarily happens when she’s asleep. Emotions were running high up until that point.
I think this is an issue with screenwriting rather than one of morality with the film, I digress.
What you’re not seeing is the entire rest of the scene in which Mei is clearly shown wanting to respect and honor her mother’s wishes.
First, I am getting some of your comments twice for some reason, so if by deleting the duplicates it also gets rid of the original, I apologize. Sometimes WordPress is weird.
But over all, I don’t think I disagree with what you think the movie wanted us to think, I just think I disagree that it successfully showed it.
So, as a point of contention, the two main characters go from a LITERAL fistfight, to the panda spirit forest, and then Ming says she is PROUD of her daughter. What I want you to show me is where the movie SHOWS US whatever transformation allows this to happen.
I think your explanations of what we are supposed to imagine happen in the forest are reasonable, but I think it forces us as the audience to put into the story what the movie doesn’t give justification for. This was my complaint of there being lazy writing. I don’t need to be spoon fed, but the changes need to be justified and I don’t see how they were. I see how we are expected to understand Mei seeing her mother as being in the position she has been in with her own mother, and so I get why Mei would change her attitude toward her own mother there (even though she literally just knocked her out cold) but what happens to make that bridge a two way street? Did I miss or forget some dialogue that explains this? And what is her mother proud OF? She just got done screaming at her for being a disobedient little liar, and suddenly her next line of dialogue to her is to tell her she is PROUD OF HER. How is that justified?
But even if that is settled, you have to admit that the very end of the movie is Mei being as selfish and immature as she started, but now flaunting her lack of fear of her mother’s authority. There is LESS respect for her mother, not more. At least previously she respected her mother’s authority, albeit in an unhealthy manner. At the end, she’s just rude to her mother’s face, in public, and her mother smiles like it’s cool that she’s being sassed.
Again, I am not being stubborn or disingenuous, I simply don’t see what you think I should see. If you want to add into the story the things that make it make sense, I have no problem with that (I’ve had to do that with a lot of Star Wars media I enjoy), but I will also still think my original criticisms to be valid based on what is actually in the script. That’s all I am saying.
I hope you are well, and thanks as always for your comments.
This might really just be a difference of upbringing at this point.
I liked your comments on calvinism, though.
Which is almost ironic because that’s a message the movie is trying to make that two different generations can find something in common.
Hopefully we can move on and be better from this.
By moving on and being better, I mean having more understanding and perspective.
I don’t mean that in an “ok boomer” sort of way. I say that because I’ve seen this exact same conversation play out elsewhere and that’s exactly what it came down to.
Like I said earlier, I think the change comes primarily from Ming letting out her panda. Considering the whole theme of mutual understanding here, it makes sense.
Turning into a crying child spirit may also have something to do with it… While I do think the change is at least somewhat understandable, you’re likely right that the writers didn’t do enough to justify it. That comes down to sacrificing story for themes, which is an issue in this movie.
I disagree with your assessment of Mei being selfish. The aim of the first few minutes seemed to be to establish that Mei did know selflessness but was taking it to an unhealthy degree. She was sacrificing quite a bit to please her mom.
I think I tend to look at the overall status quo change underlying the final scene rather than the specific instance the writers chose to show part of that change. That change, to me seems to be
1. Mei has more autonomy now
2. Ming is more inclusive and respsectful of Mei and her life.
3. Mei still honors her parents wishes by helping out at the temple.
Script and text are underlied by subtext and themes. You can’t necessarily divorce the two.
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Ultimately, I think this could be a difference in hermeneutic that can’t exactly be reconciled.
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Director Domee Shi didn’t have a clear answer on balance so that might explain why its offscreen
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Hey orange, hope everything is going alright.
I mean that sincerely.
Yeah! I’ve just been working 12 hour days on a project I JUST finished this evening. So, sorry for the radio silence. I am not going to read and reply to my many fans and critics.
Twelve hours sounds tough lol.
Also Lightyear was surprisingly good.
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Outside of the gay kiss, at least.
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4th of july was nice over the weekend.
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Again, hope you’re doing alright mr. orange.
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do do dooooo.
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