Turning Red: Why does Mei turn into a red panda? The curse explained

11 March 2022, 12:54 | Updated: 14 March 2022, 17:30

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By Sam Prance

Here's everything that we learn about Meilin Lee's curse in Turning Red.

Mei turns into a red panda in Turning Red whenever she gets too excited or stressed but why does it start happening to her?

Turning Red tells the fictional story of Meilin "Mei" Lee. Mei is your average 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl. She loves her friends, her family and an iconic boyband named 4*Town. However, there's one key difference. Shortly after the film starts, Mei begins turning into a red panda whenever she experiences strong emotions and she has no idea why it happens.

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Thankfully, she finds out and it's all down to a family curse. With that in mind, here's the Turning Red curse explained.

Why does Mei turn into a red panda in Turning Red?

Turning Red: Why does Mei turn into a red panda? The curse explained
Turning Red: Why does Mei turn into a red panda? The curse explained. Picture: Disney+

Mei starts turning into a red panda shortly after her mother, Ming Lee, finds drawings Mei made of a boy who she fancies. In response, Ming Lee confronts the boy and Mei is so embarrassed by the incident that she goes to bed mortified. The next morning, Mei wakes up to find that she has transformed into a giant red panda and she hides it from her family.

Eventually, Mei turns back into a human and she goes to school. However, Ming Lee thinks that Mei has started her period and takes period pads to her at school. Once again, Ming Lee embarrasses Mei so much that she turns into a red panda. Ming Lee then takes Mei home and explains why this is all happening to Mei and it's all thanks to a curse.

Ming Lee says: "Our ancestors have a mystical connection with red pandas. This little quirk runs in our family. Any strong emotion will release the panda." Essentially, all of the women in Mei and Ming Lee's family turn into red pandas during puberty. Ming Lee also reveals that there is a ritual you can do to break the curse.

Mei decides to do the ritual. However, it takes place the same day as a 4*Town concert and Mei is torn between both.

Does Mei stop turning into a red panda in Turning Red?

Does Mei stop turning into a red panda in Turning Red?
Does Mei stop turning into a red panda in Turning Red? Picture: Disney+

Throughout the film, Mei begins to accept and control her red panda curse. Her friends assure her that they love her both as a red panda and as a human being. Mei also becomes so popular at school that she and her friends start doing meet and greets with Mei as a red panda to raise money to go to the 4*Town concert. They even start selling red panda merch.

It all gets too much though. Mei accidentally hurts her classmate Tyler as a red panda and her family convince her to do the ritual to put a stop to it. However, during the ritual, Mei decides to run and go to the 4*Town concert with her friends. It all results in a dramatic showdown between Mei and her mother at the concert.

Nevertheless, Mei and Ming Lee reconcile and Mei decides not to put a stop to the curse. She embraces both parts of herself and Ming Lee accepts Mei's decision and finally begins to love and support Mei exactly as she is.

The whole film acts as a beautiful metaphor for experiencing puberty and accepting your children for who they are, as opposed to who you want them to be.

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