Inside out

Image from here
Image from here

I do not regret not writing about the movie back in June when I first saw it because wanting to write about it now, close to the end of the year, was a good excuse to watch it again. I loved “Inside out” the second time around as much as I loved it when I saw it last summer. I did not see many animated movies this year. If I remember clearly I saw approximately five. “Inside out” is one of my favorites, no doubt about it, coming really close to “Song of the sea”, which is another amazing animation, but for different reasons. You can go read about it here.

“Inside out” is about an 11 year old girl named Riley who struggles to cope with the major turn her life has taken: she and her family had to move to a whole new town, for her dad’s work, and start life again. You can imagine how stressful it is for an adult to leave friends and other family members behind and having to adapt to a new environment, let alone for a kid. Thus, we see how Riley reacts and interacts with her parents and new people in her life, we see her going to a new school and having to make new friends. We witness all that, but with a twist: we have close, inside access to what happens in Riley’s head. Specifically how her mind and emotions work.

We go on to meet the five emotions that reside in Riley’s mind and their roles:

   Joy – seems to be the one in charge;

   Sadness – not very clear what her role is, but we do see Joy doesn’t want her to intervene in Riley’s life;

   Disgust – the one that keeps Riley from being poisoned;

   Fear – the one that keeps Riley safe;

   Anger – the one that cares about things being fair;

Then we see how important moments from Riley’s life are stored as “core” memories and that these are the ones that “power” aspects of her personality, the Islands: of family, honesty, friendship, hockey and goofball.

In terms of what happens in Riley’s mind we also see pictured elements like: the train of thought, dreams, imagination, abstract thought and also the subconscious.

Having studied psychology for several years, you can imagine how excited I was to see how the brilliant minds at Disney-Pixar made all the elements above accessible to not only kids but also for adults who get an insight into their kids’ minds and a bit into theirs at the same time.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and how they represented, visual-wise, notions that can be pretty abstract. Mostly, I liked how they imagined the emotions, each being so likeable and funny and so well represented by specific colors: red for anger, green for disgust, blue for sadness. What I also noticed the second time around seeing the movie, was how Joy and Sadness have the same blue colored hair (styled differently), maybe hinting at the connection between them. Towards the end, though, we see the evolution of Joy and Sadness’ relationship towards a very true and important conclusion. This I want to discuss more at large.

·         Joy and Sadness’ relationship

Image from here
Image from here

In the beginning we see Sadness as being the second emotion to make her mark at “Headquarters” and after that we hear the baby crying for the first time. Joy cannot grasp what exactly is Sadness’ true role there so her obvious interference in Riley’s life becomes annoying for Joy as she seems to be in charge over the other 3 emotions (Fear, Disgust, Anger) present in Riley’s mind, at Headquarters.

Joy tries to keep Sadness away from Riley’s mind’s console and also away from her memories: if Sadness tries to “taint” one of Riley’s memories, Joy is there to stop her every time and wants to keep Riley happy throughout the big changes she goes through. But then Joy and Sadness find themselves together out of Headquarters.

They both are stranded in Riley’s mind paths wanting to get back to Headquarters and reestablish balance as they watch from the outside how her Islands of personality crumble one after the other: she argues with her best friends, lies to her parents, stops being silly and goofy, stops playing hockey and runs away from home.

The road back to Headquarters is not just a rush to rebuild the Islands, it’s also a bonding experience for Joy and Sadness and the way by which Joy starts to understand Sadness’ role and importance for Riley. The “Aha!” moment happens towards the end when Joy accidentally watches a core memory that was stored as a happy one, but it only turned happy because of Sadness: Riley’s hockey team lost because she missed the winning shot, so Riley was feeling the disappointment, but her parents came to comfort her and also the team came to cheer her nonetheless. That was when Joy realized Sadness’ role as she later says to her “Riley needs you.”, to the other emotions’ surprise.

Throughout the story Joy wants to constantly keep Riley happy, but that is not realistic. Sadness needs to be felt, not repressed, in order to better cope with certain events: it also signals to the people around you that you need help, comforting and support, leading towards bonding and strengthening relationships.

·         It’s OK to feel sad

Image from here
Image from here

One of the many insights I had while studying psychology was when discussing therapy with our teacher and more specifically discussing about functional negative emotions like sadness is. The realistic purpose isn’t to erase someone’s sadness and replace it with happiness, but to lessen its intensity if needed: if you lose someone or something important to you, it’s normal to feel sad, the point isn’t to feel happy about it, but to ultimately decrease the feeling of sadness. It is necessary to be sad and work through it rather than repressing it.

The bottom line is I love that the movie normalizes the feeling of being sad by basically saying “You need it. And that’s OK.”. It is actually what is required of you in certain situations like loss for example. “Inside out” teaches kids and adults alike that you don’t always have to put on a happy face and pretend everything is fine when it is actually not: It’s normal and OK to feel sad. And also makes it nice, if I may say so myself, because of how the character of Sadness was created. You grow fond of her and see that the true hero of the movie is really her.

Disney-Pixar nailed it with “Inside out” putting many genuine smiles on our faces throughout the movie, but also managing to makes us all cry and feel “them feels” at one specific scene I’m not going to spoil right now. Get the movie and watch it this Christmas with your family and loved ones. I will surely watch it a third time. You won’t regret the choice of seeing “Inside out”, meeting with five of your basic emotions and finding out what else is happening up there in your head. 

Did you see “Inside out” already? What did you think about it?

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