“Turning Red” cast members spoke up in support of the new Pixar film and its universality following a controversial review for the animated movie that was published by CinemaBlend. The review was pulled offline after being called “sexist,” “racist” and more by members of the press. CinemaBlend managing director Sean O’Connell wrote the review, saying that the film’s appeal was limited because it’s set in the Asian community of Toronto.
“I recognized the humor in the film, but connected with none of it. By rooting ‘Turning Red’ very specifically in the Asian community of Toronto, the film legitimately feels like it was made for [director] Domee Shi’s friends and immediate family members,” O’Connell wrote in the since-pulled review. “Which is fine — but also, a tad limiting in its scope.”
O’Connell doubled down on his opinion of the film in a since-deleted tweet that accompanied his review. The post read: “Some Pixar films are made for universal audiences. ‘Turning Red’ is not. The target audience for this one feels very specific and very narrow. If you are in it, this might work very well for you. I am not in it. This was exhausting.”
“Turning Red” is directed by Domee Shi, who won an Oscar for animated short film with her Pixar offering “Bao.” The film tells the story of Meilin “Mei” Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang), a 13-year-old girl who finds herself turning into a giant red panda anytime she is overcome with emotion.
When asked by the CBC if “Turning Red’s” storyline would limit its appeal as the review suggested, voice actor Chiang responded, “Of course not. This is a coming of age film, everyone goes through this change… I think different people of different cultures are going to go through it differently, but at the end of the day, the core messiness and change is something everyone can relate to.”
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, the breakout star of Netflix’s comedy series “Never Have I ever” who voices Mei’s friend in the film, also called the movie’s story “universal” in reacting to the pulled review. The actor added, “[Many people will be able] to relate to Meilin’s story, regardless of whether you are a young Chinese girl from Canada or not.”
Domee Shi also disagreed with the review and told CBC, “[The film] is a love letter to that time of our lives. It’s a love letter to puberty. It’s a love letter to Toronto.”
CinemaBlend announced Tuesday that the review was pulled from its website. CinemaBlend Editor-In-Chief Mack Rawden issued the following statement: “We failed to properly edit this review, and it never should have gone up. We have unpublished it and assigned to someone else. We have also added new levels of editorial oversight. Thank you to everyone who spoke up.”
O’Connell also issued the following apology on Twitter: “I’m genuinely sorry for my ‘Turning Red’ review. Thank you to everyone who has reached out with criticism, no matter how harsh. It is clear that I didn’t engage nearly enough with the movie, nor did I explain my point of view well, at all. I really appreciate your feedback.”
Despite pulling the review, backlash against O’Connell and CinemaBlend continued. As Entertainment Weekly digital editor Yolanda Machado fired back on Twitter, “This [review] was written by your managing director, not some junior writer. As an editor, there is no amount of editing that would have erased the racism. What are you doing to make sure he is held accountable and this doesn’t happen again?”
“Turning Red” debuts March 11 on Disney Plus.
This was written by your MANAGING DIRECTOR not some junior writer. As an editor, there is no amount of editing that would have erased the racism. What are you doing to make sure he is held accountable and this doesn’t happen again? (has happened before!)
— Yolanda Machado (@SassyMamainLA) March 8, 2022
.@CriticsChoice and @CinemaBlend, the tweet and review may be deleted, but we now all know Sean O’Connell’s racist and sexist opinions because he was given a platform in which to spew his intolerance.
Is this what you stand for? Is this what you’ll tolerate?
Remove him now. pic.twitter.com/3trF8ozIw3
— Lacey “GAY GAY GAY Gaaaaaay” Vorrasi-Banis (@LaceyBanis) March 8, 2022