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Ming’s Panda Ceremony Warnings To Mei Were All Lies

To ease her anxiety about the panda Ming tells Mei about the ceremony to trap her panda spirit, but Ming’s ritual specifics aren’t wholly true.

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Turning Red.

Mei’s panda in Turning Red is a source of huge anxiety for her mother, Ming, which actually leads the latter to lie to her daughter about the important panda ceremony. Pixar continues to expand on the trend of animated films directly dealing with generational trauma, in a similar vein to the hugely successful Encanto, with Turning Red. The film is a timeless coming of age story about female friendship, and specifically maternal relationships, with Mei and Ming being the catalyst for the topic.

When Mei transforms into the panda, her mother explains that their ancestor asked the gods to turn her into the animal in order to protect her family, due to red pandas’ importance to her. Since then, the female family members have all had a red panda too when they’ve come of age. While it is abundantly clear that Mei and Ming in Turning Red do not have a bad relationship, Ming is nonetheless a product of her own trauma which is then inadvertently pushed onto Mei. As a result, Ming pushes Mei into the ceremony that would see her panda trapped in a talisman, and doesn’t really give her a choice about the process. Though this is clearly not the best parenting strategy, Ming does express a touching apology to her daughter in Turning Red‘s ending. She doesn’t, however, address the fact that she lied about Mei’s panda ceremony.

Related: Turning Red: How Mei Lee’s Costume Reveals The Ending

Ming tells Mei that there is a ritual that can be done on a Red Moon to trap her panda, calling it a ”cure.” Ming then warns her that the more she releases the panda, the more difficult the ritual will be, and also mentions that Mei only has ”one chance to banish it.” These, as it turns out, were actually lies. Ming telling Mei that the ritual is more difficult the more she releases the panda of course may not have been referring to it on a physical and biological level, but more so the emotional. It could have been a warning that Mei could become attached to how freeing it is, which is of course what happens when Mei chooses to keep the red panda, but as for the rest of the warnings they were lies. This is evidenced in how Ming seemingly re-traps her panda’s spirit after her outburst, as well as Mei’s relatives unleashing their panda and then reeling them back in, proving the ritual can be done multiple times and on any Red Moon.

Turning Red Mei’s Red Panda Ceremony

The reasons for Ming’s lies possibly roots from her trauma which has permeated in her parenting of Mei. Her own panda lashing out at her mother when she was young has soured her perception of the panda, and as a result, she doesn’t offer Mei a choice regarding whether she wants to do the ritual. She further drives home this point by making up lies to scare Mei into doing it, just to be sure that the ritual will happen. Her lies don’t come from a malicious place – instead, they stem from fear because of Ming’s own (much bigger) panda. It’s mentioned that Ming and her mother used to be close until the incident drove them apart, and Ming clearly doesn’t want something like that to happen to her and Mei if Mei should decide to keep her panda. Her fear-based discipline of her daughter is of course wrong, but Ming is only looking to protect her daughter and their relationship.

The most important aspect of Turning Red is how clear it is that Mei’s mother isn’t a villain, separating her far away from the villainous mother figures of traditional animated stories. Ming is a character that deserves to be challenged by audiences for some of her parenting choices, but who also deserves sympathy in her own right. It can’t be said that Ming didn’t make decisions that she truly believed were in Mei’s best interests, which only enhances the powerful (and ridiculously criticised,) story told in Turning Red.

Next: Turning Red: The One Thing Disney’s Animated Movies Still Don’t Do As Well As Pixar’s

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