ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

(Warning - If you haven't yet seen Disney/Pixar's Inside Out, then plot SPOILERS are very much to be found below. Proceed with whatever level of caution your natural SPOILER-averseness dictates...)

So, Inside Out.

On the surface, it may well seem to be just another in a long line of joyful, beautifully animated Disney/Pixar movies. Which, of course, it absolutely is. It'd take a hard heart to not be touched by the film's sweet take on adolescence, or by its heart-rendingly human conclusion (I dare you not to well up during that hug).

The movie is also, however, a whole lot more - as we've long since come to expect from Pixar's consistently awesome output. So much so, in fact, that:

Inside Out Doubles Up as 'The Pixar Guide to Happiness'

Yup, that's right. The movie isn't just here to make you laugh, cry, gasp and generally emote all over the place. Look just under the surface, and there's a veritable guide to emotional and psychological well-being hiding under there...

And, since this is Disney/Pixar we're talking about, it's actually darned good advice. Here are twelve of the most important points:

1. You Can't Have Joy Without Sadness

After all, as the movie points out - there's only 33 seconds between the arrival of Joy in Riley's mind, and the subsequent arrival of Sadness.

Without one, the film seems to be arguing, you can't have the other - which is very much reflected in both the film's main narrative, and its conclusion.

2. Sadness Is an Essential Part of Who We Are

As the movie goes to great lengths to point out, we can't function without a healthy amount of sadness - since there are times where it's very much an appropriate (and emotionally healthy) thing to feel.

That being said, though:

3. We Aren't Defined By One Single Emotion

A fairly obvious one, this, but one of the key differences between the beginning of Inside Out, its danger-filled middle, and its conclusion, is the changing nature of the major Emotions' ability to work together.

If one is too dominant, things go wrong. If one (or more) is absent, things go wrong. It's only when all of our emotions work together, in some kind of balance, that we gain stability.


4. We Have Multiple Ideas of Who We're Supposed to Be

Or, at least, there are competing visions within ourselves over how we should deal with any given situation. Which makes sense, when you think about it. Who hasn't felt torn between eating something unhealthy, or having a salad instead, or between going out to do something in the park, or staying in and watching TV?

We have multiple drives, and urges, and they don't always line up. Which ones we choose to follow, though, is a big part of what makes us, 'us.'

Even so, though:

5. One Bad Day Can Make Us Lose Part of Who We Are

As Riley proved in the movie, it sometimes just takes one bad day to tear apart years of happiness. The challenge, as the movie shows, is in not allowing Anger, Fear and Disgust to overrule your other emotions, and allow that bad day to fundamentally tear apart who we truly are.

Speaking of which:

6. Uncontrolled Anger Can Destroy Friendship

As the movie makes ever-so-clear, letting Anger deal with tough situations by itself can completely destroy a friendship. It may come from a place of jealousy, or irritation, or simply loneliness, but when we lash out at our friends, we can lose them forever.

Especially if it's over Skype...

7. Locking Away Your Darkest Fears Is a Dangerous Thing

As the movie's brief trip into Riley's locked away fears demonstrates, there's one main thing that locking them away does: It makes them bigger, and even more terrifying.

And no-one wants that (especially if it leads to a giant, monstrous clown chasing you).


8. Fear, Disgust and Anger Can't Be Trusted by Themselves

After all, leaving that particular trio on their own leads to them imitating Joy, without them actually being able to replicate its effects. In the end, Riley ends up being driven further towards not actually being able to feel anything at all, since the alternative is just a whole lot of anger, fear and disgust.

As part of a team, though, the three can help keep us sane, safer and poison free - so it's all, once again, a matter of balance.

Of course:

9. Giving in to Sadness Can Cause Us to Give Up

On its own, y'see, Sadness can just lead to us seeing the worst in every situation, and ultimately giving up.

Similarly, for all that its a key part of who we are, we can't let it take over our emotional controls for too long (or by itself) without it taking us down a dark and lonely road.

That being said, though:

10. Joy Can Be Short-Sighted, Gullible - and Selfish

For all she's the main character of the movie, Joy is also frequently very short-sighted in her goals, endlessly gullible, and - crucially - completely selfish.

The message, it seems, being that it's not until Joy is able to look outside of its short term goals, and embrace our greater, wider needs, that it can truly bring sustainable happiness.

Speaking of which:

11. We Need All of Our Emotions to Work Together to Create a Functional Whole

It isn't, after all, until all of Riley's emotions are working together that she's able to find a way to be OK with her new life in San Francisco.

By working together, though (and through the installing of a larger control panel that gives all the emotions the ability to exist at once) Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust are able to provide Riley with a balanced and sustainable happiness that wasn't possible before.

Most important of all, though:

12. Joy and Sadness Need to Come Together to Bring Emotional Balance

That is, after all, the main narrative thread - and character development arc - of the movie. On their own, y'see, Joy and Sadness can lead to chaos, and emotional breakdown. Together, though - by finding a way to see both the Joy and the Sadness in key moments - they are able to provide Riley with something incredibly precious: the first steps towards emotional maturity.

Or, in other words, you can't have Joy without Sadness, and vice versa - but that leads to a richer, more rewarding emotional state in the end.

The big question, though?

What do you think?


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