You may already have seen the newest offering from Pixar. Like almost all Pixar movies it’s really well done and the media loves it. There are some good reasons for that. It’s colorful, fun and funny. There’s great voice acting and casting. (I’m a big fan both Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling.) It appeals both to little ones and to parents. But more than that, it’s central message is about the importance of acknowledging all of our emotions, not only the ‘good’ ones.
Inside Out takes place mostly inside the brain of a girl named Riley and centers around the personification of 5 emotions: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Fear (pictured above). For all of Riley’s 11 years, Joy has been used to being the centrally experienced emotion, but as Riley goes through a big move, other emotions come into play. Suddenly there’s a shift in which emotions are at the helm, and which emotions are coloring Riley’s memories. The feelings need to re-establish a balance and they learn how important each of them is.
I love all of this about Inside Out. When our SMC children were doing the Circle of Grace curriculum, they learned that our emotions are signals from the Spirit. Paying attention to what we’re feeling is an important way of hearing God speaking to us about what we’re experiencing. It helps us understand how to respond to others and to situations. Tiffany and Kyle have always begun their Sunday school lessons asking the children in their K-2 class which ‘color’ (feelings fit into several color categories) best fit them that morning. This helps the children find their place with each other and with their teachers. God has given us feelings to help us experience the world and be in relationship with each other. Finally, as the parent of a school-aged daughter I loved that there is a girl (who is not a princess) at the center of this movie. God made us male and female, but boys are over-represented in popular media.
The questions I had for this movie come arise out of having the emotions placed literally at the helm of Riley’s brain. They control her responses. It makes for some great comedy but seems to take away both awareness and autonomy from Riley or other characters whose ‘control centers’ we see glimpses of. Maybe that’s the reality for and 11-year-old – a non-awareness of emotional responses – but I’d like to think that as persons we have the choice, even though we’re burning up with anger, to respond with gentleness, if not joy. It also seemed to me that even though the characters discover a new kind of balance, it comes down to Joy being the centrally important character and our goal should be to be happy in the end.
I don’t think my reservations would get in the way of this being a worthwhile movie to see – especially if you’re looking for an air conditioned way to spend a few hours with kids. It’s fun and it does help to talk with kids about the feelings that their experiencing. It gave me the opportunity to ask questions like, “So when X happened, which character do you think was pressing the buttons in your brain?” I also wondered in conversation what other emotions might be there or how other emotions might look.
I have heard from parents of pre-school children that they don’t ‘get’ this movie the way older children might, but it’s still enjoyable strictly from an interesting-stuff-is-happening level. So go see it and when you do, tell me what you think!