I watched “Inside Out” for the first time yesterday on Netflix. A computer animated film by Disney’s Pixar, “Inside Out” was fairly well received by the mental health community and viewed as an important film for children as they learned about emotions, how they are affected by their emotions and what happens when we experience too much of one emotion (or none!).
Spoiler alert! This movie came out in June 2015 so I hope no one is broken up about me explaining the plot.
“Inside Out” is about a young girl named Riley and her emotions. The film takes place mostly in Riley’s head with her emotions (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger) as the main characters. Throughout the film, Joy does everything in her power to make and keep Riley happy and this generally leaves the other emotions with not much to do except help Joy achieve her goal of keeping Riley happy. Sadness is especially pushed aside as all the emotions see Sadness as bad. The problem in the film occurs when a series of events take Joy and Sadness out of Headquarters (a part of Riley’s brain) and Anger, Fear and Disgust are left trying to run Riley. Since Riley and her family have just moved the film begins to focus on that as Anger, Fear and Disgust try to fulfill Joy’s role in her absence. The 3 emotions end up creating what I think is portrayed as depression in Riley. Riley begins to act out, loses interested in her family and hockey and eventually decides to run away which eventually leaves Riley unable to feel emotions which is visually portrayed by the emotion control panel turning black and unresponsive. All this time, Joy and Sadness are trying to get back to headquarters with Riley’s core memories to make her happy again. After some events occur, Joy realizes the importance of Sadness. Joy sees that Sadness has helped Riley be happy because when Riley is sad she is able to express herself and get support from others which in the end makes Riley happy. When Joy and Sadness get back to Headquarters it is Sadness that gets Riley to not run away and to tell her parents that she is very homesick. All memory orbs from that moment on are not one colour (each emotion memory has a specific character colour) but two colours as all of the emotions realize that experiences are complex and that all of the emotions need to be felt.
I cried in this movie because I could relate and because I was so overjoyed at what this film was telling people about emotions.
Throughout the film, you see Riley’s personality crumble and fall. Friendship, Hockey, Goofball, Family and Honesty Island all disappear as Riley falls deeper into depression. The visual representation of Riley losing parts of herself, I found to be extremely powerful. I imagined my own personality islands that crumbled when I was at my worst and even wondered what personality islands didn’t even have a chance to form since I experienced such a deep sadness at such a young age. I could relate to the numb feeling of just not caring anymore and having no emotion to help guide me. The image of Riley’s emotion control board blacking out made think about my own brain at the time in my life and how it probably would have looked as unresponsive if it had been scanned. These visual representations are fantastic at showing children and adults what happens in your brain when you are feeling extremely down. I quite like to think that I have these little characters in my brain! It’s a fun visual.
When Joy realizes that good that Sadness has done for Riley I almost lost control of my tears. As the memory orbs started taking on two colours instead of one I was grateful that I would have a film to show my future children that emotions have a place in our lives even if they are unpleasant ones. Seeing the realization that it is good to feel sad, that we cannot always feel joy and shouldn’t always feel joy fits very well with how I view myself and part of the reason why I identify as mad and will not see myself as sick. Experiencing a wide variety of emotions and feeling them all at the same time is beautiful. It is what we are supposed to do. If we were not supposed to feel sadness, disgust, fear or anger then our bodies wouldn’t let us. We need to feel these emotions though because they serve a purpose. Of course, an excess of one is extremely distressing and as “Inside Out” illustrated, potentially damaging and all emotions can exist together and allow us to function at a level we are comfortable out. I found it to be a really important message that we cannot always be joyful. As Riley stated in the above video, people cannot always be happy. People need to be sad, anger, feel fear and disgust.
That is why I cried when I watched “Inside Out”.