In “Turning Red”, the 4*Town fandom releases Mei

For Mei, 13, protagonist of Pixar’s latest film turn redreaching adulthood is a major headache.

She wonders if her well-meaning mother, Ming, might actually be on a mission to destroy her life, after humiliating her in front of her classmates – and her crush Devon, the upper-class dreamer and Daisy employee. Mart – repeatedly. If she’s not showing the world Mei’s steamy mermaid fan art, then she’s following Mei to school and frantically waving period pads at her through a classroom window. It’s all a bit mortifying. And it doesn’t help that Mei has just discovered that, thanks to an ancestral connection to red pandas, she transforms into a giant version of it when she gets emotional.

When Mei’s friends Miriam, Priya, and Abby knock on her bedroom window before school one morning, they are unaware of Mei’s predicament when it comes to pandas. They just want to make sure she’s not “shamed to death”. More importantly, they want to be the first to tell him that their favorite boy band, 4*Town, is coming to Toronto.


The film’s director, Domee Shi, calls 4*Town “the glue” that keeps Mei’s “dork team” together, bringing them together amid teenage anarchy. In a documentary about the movie, Shi thanks the fandoms for dragging her deeper into an anime obsession and recently said Slate that as a teenager, “my 4* city was Harry Potter.” A personal blog she updated from 2007 to 2013 with fan art of everything from Bad the musical at The hunger Games franchise to Tony Stark, who she says “is full of awesome sauce.” A beginning animation of a hamster dancing to K-Pop group Shinee’s “Ring Ding Dong” was a birthday present for two friends in 2010.

Believer Billie Eilish, who co-wrote songs for the fictional band with her brother Finneas O’Connell, knows firsthand that fandom is a bond for friendship. “Mei and her friends’ passion for 4*Town, it really resonated with me because I was the same,” Eilish said in recent maintenance. “It’s so right [to] how it feels to be that kind of fan. There’s like that connection when you have people who feel the same way.”

For Mei, this bond turns fandom into freedom.

The dork team in a freeze frame of 4 Townie.
Credit: Disney/Pixar

When we first meet Mei, she cleverly balances two identities: a lovable, free friend and a devoted daughter. At school, she is loud and brash. At home, she does her homework in a room as perfect and immaculate as her mother expects of her.

For Mei, this bond turns fandom into freedom.

Mei adores her friends, but the tomboyish Miriam, in particular, represents “everything contrary to Ming’s pride, beliefs, taste, and hopes for Mei”. said turn red story supervisor Rosana Sullivan. “She’s disheveled, natural – she just is.” 4*Town is also menacing. Ming doesn’t want her daughter to have anything to do with these “glittering delinquents with their gyrations” and considers their harmless pop music to be “dirt”. ”

When Mei’s panda growing pains throw her balance into chaos and her mother into a frenzy, it’s Mei’s team and their shared identity as “4*Townies” that helps her feel grounded. . Today we are practically tied to our best friends 24/7, but turn red takes place in 2002. In the drudgery of remote access, Mei and her friends bond through past notes and burned 4* Town CDs. Fandom becomes their unique care language.

For example, when Mei curls up into a furry, sobbing ball after transforming into a panda for the first time in front of her friends, the girls beat a 4*Town hit to attract her. “I’ve never met anyone like you!” Miriam sings into an imaginary microphone. Successfully distracted from her misery, Mei comes up with the following lyrics, and soon the quartet begins singing in unison: “I’m never by your side! I’m never gonna let you cry! I’ll never be your car, or die, okay!”

4* Town members Jesse, Tae Young, Robaire, Aaron T, and Aaron Z.

4*City members Jesse (art school graduate!), Tae young (favors injured doves!), Robaire (speaks French!), Aaron T and Aaron Z (they are also very talented!)
Credit: Disney/Pixar

It is then, towering over her friends like a giant, smelly panda, that Mei realizes that they understand her in a way that her family cannot. “Something about you guys, like, incapacitating the panda,” she told them, transforming into a human with a loud pop. It’s a moment that many of us can relate to. Sometimes the fandom is just fun, and sometimes it brings you back to your newfound family.

Fandom becomes their unique care language.

While her mother’s love may seem conditional, Mei’s friends “accept her no matter what,” Shi says, “red panda or no panda.” As Ming encourages Mei to stay inside and not be seen until the panda is gone for good, the team of dorks embrace the beast inside, literally and figuratively.

They conspire to buy 4Town tickets by monetizing their classmate’s obsessions with Mei’s poofy panda. It’s an unfortunate plan that ultimately puts Mei in a position to choose between her friends and family obligations. In the moment, consumed by her love for 4Town and her friends, Mei puts her own happiness first. “It’s not just our first gig, it’s our first step into being female, and we have to do it together,” Mei told Miriam, Abby and Priya. The effort becomes the center of their friendship. And while 4Town’s charms are undeniable, you could replace the band with games or crochet or Olivia Rodrigo. The group can get the dork team together, but the girls stay for each other. The goal is not to see 4Town, it is to share this experience with each other.


“Turning Red’s portrayal of rules is a turning point for coming-of-age movies

On the night of the concert, in her final act of rebellion, Mei chooses to embrace the disordered vibration of her panda’s spirit. It’s a choice that breaks with family tradition while rejecting a cultural narrative of shame that has plagued young women — and their obsessions — for decades. At just 13 years old, Mei pledges to celebrate the most emotional and wildest parts of herself for the rest of her life. Joyfully freed from self-doubt, she leaps across the rooftops of downtown Toronto, in and out of her panda.

Her mother, now a Godzilla-sized panda with a temper to match, follows Mei to the stadium and tears down the stage as her final act of control. “All I wanted was to go to a concert! Mei yells at him. “I’ve never been to the concert!” her mother resentfully roared, “I put my family first, tried to be a good girl.”

But Mei’s trip to the 4*Town concert has already redefined what it means to her to be a good girl. and good friend. Just before the show starts, his team spots school bully Tyler in the crowd, decked out in 4Town merchandise, and welcomes him with open arms. As 4Town takes the stage, the teens sob together in a huddled hormonal mass — Mei and Miriam’s previous fight forgotten by the opening chords of “U Know What’s Up.” There’s nothing fangirling over your favorite band with your favorite people can’t fix.

“4Town forever?” Mei asks. Miriam’s face softens with forgiveness, as Priya and Abby look on. “4Town forever!”

Christy J. Olson